Alrighty...well its that time of year again! Some obligatory predictions for 2009:
1. Data portability (and Data Portability) will be hot topic #1...and marketers even start taking notice (and making Power Points about it)...
2. Facebook Connect becomes BUZZWORD OF THE YEAR for 2009
3. The year that Facebook Connect EATS THE INTERNET: FBC will outpace open standards and the likes of MySpaceID in terms of awareness and adoption...creating an AOL-like view of the social web through a distributed Facebook Network of sites
4. Facebook backs an ad-network into FBC and finally starts to make some money
5. Self-editorialization becomes a high priority (and Rex Sorgatz will coin an uber-awesome phrase for it that starts getting mentioned everywhere around the blogosphere) as data portability (well, FBC) creates even more visibility into our lives than we have now
6. The battle between Open vs. Closed in the Identity 2.0 (data portability) war heats up majorly
7. But open standards will continue making strides to eventually overpower Facebook's Walled Internet Garden and AOL-like attempt to BE THE INTERNET (not in 2009...but eventually)
And since we're future-telling, thought this oldie but goodie was most appropriate...enjoy the view from 2015! (note, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson made it in 2003)
Alrighty...well its that time of year again! Some obligatory predictions for 2009:
So Facebook Connect is finally making some strides with Silicon Alley Insider posting today that Gawker's new user sign-ups and comments have increased due to their Facebook Connect implementation.
Now, this has been a frequent topic of mine as of late...and lets for a minute suppose a world in which user graph data was readily accessible across any Web touch point, to the point that one's user experience became completely intuitive and socially contextual based on said graph data. Think, the Amazon model on steroids (using your actual data, not cookies or anonymized data). Awesome or creepy?
I'm not a designer, I only wish I was :). But recently, a question was posed to me that those who ever happen to read this blog could probably guess my answer to:
What three emerging technologies will have the greatest impact on your design practice in the next five years? What types of skills and techniques will you have to master to grow a successful design practice across multiple channels? What steps are you taking now to move in that direction?
Can you guess what my answer is? Data portability! How did you know? Ok, so I didn't actually answer the question...but here were my thoughts around at least one portion:
Data portability will be a hugely complex and major issue to tackle for designers and UX folks. With baby steps towards DP evidenced by initiatives like Facebook Connect, MySpaceID and Google Friend Connect (true, they're not true dp, but I said baby steps) allowing personal and friend data from these networks to be fed through third-party sites, and with major strides in open standards around social graph markup and the Data Portability Workgroup, we can almost taste the social context now.
What does it mean for design? The ability to incorporate actual user graph data into a digital experience means being able to provide socially contextual and relevant brand experiences— ones that leverage and integrate a user’s existing social connections and content from other sites, networks and applications into the brand experience. Persona's become antiquated, and the notion of user-specific, dynamic content takes on a whole new meaning. "Designing for the network" itself takes on a whole new rationale within this context, and will be one that comes to the forefront in the next few years. That is, of course, if data portability gains adoption from average users and not just tech geeks and overly-connected social mediaphiles...
In honor of Friday, not talking about Facebook Connect, and my love for all things Eames
So I've obviously been following Facebook Connect for a while, mostly out of my obsession with the idea of data portability and a decentralized, socially contextual Web experience (Note: FBC is NOT really data portability...its really more "data accessability"). There's been a lot of hype over FBC since it just launched a few days ago (although it was announced back in May). Now, I've been thinking about this so much from a non-user perspective, and even wrote a post for Mashable on how Facebook could build a business model around FBC. I've also been so preoccupied with the whole Open vs. Closed debate and my own optimisitic view of what true data portability could mean-- that I fear I have swung too far out from the perspective of the average user. For Web geeks the idea of dp causes near salivation, but what about the average user? What do you think about being able to access your social graph just about anywhere? Imagine, graph data (friend data) layered into your e-shopping experiences (hey, Jenny purchased this t-shirt, or Bob recommends this album), or into your search experience (Ted visited this link) or how about being able to see what music your Facebook Friends downloaded from iTunes? Would you be into it? Or is this all a little too Minority Report? Let me know what you think...
PS: For a list of sites who are currently FBC-enabled click here
Full list of launch partners is here, and yes, Vimeo is FBC-enabled too.
Part 1: Understanding What the Social Graph and Data Portability Means for Marketing
Part 2: Razorfish Imagines Hypothetical Implementations of Facebook Connect (Data Portability Lite)
I appreciate Razorfish's insights and thought into potential uses of Facebook Connect, and hope that we see implementations such as these soon. The potential for socially contextual Web experiences have far reaching benefits for both user and brand/publisher. If nothing else, the potential for data mining would be incredible-- imagine being able to optimize your site based not on hypothetical personas, but actual ones (granted, this predicated on visibility into the graph data exchanged)?
RWW has a great post on winning the identity 2.0 war: OpenID vs. Facebook Connect. And while I champion open standards and do think that eventually open will win, I think adoption of this idea of social context on every site will first come through FBC. Just as people were first comfortable surfing the Web from the comfort of the walled AOL garden, I think Facebook's familiarity will give it an edge (initially) in this battle. However, that said, I think open will win the war over time. Just as internet users discovered the big wide world of the Web beyond the boarders of AOL, so too will users become comfortable with the idea of social context outside of Facebook Connect-enabled sites. And with the DP Workgroup working diligently on creating open standards around identity and relationship markup, the idea of a decentralized, socially contextual Web experience isn't too far off:
"Open Source vs. Proprietary technology isn't just about desktop software anymore - now it's about our identities and social connections, all around the web. We've published a mind map below displaying our understanding of the contrasts between these two identity systems. If you'd like to add our thoughts to that map, you can.
This battle isn't about "single sign-on" - it's about the payload that comes with it (friend networks, personal data, maybe more), it's about the developer communities, usability and ownership. It's very important to the future of our user experience online and it's a fascinating study in contrasts." [via RWW]
[click to view]
Reading over at WinExtra, a post which quotes from Chris Brogan's blog:
"At this point in the gestation of social media we are still being led to believe that bigger is the way to go. We are being told that we should be joining not only the biggest and hottest of the services but also the newest. We need to make the services the drawing card for businesses and the conversations are secondary. It is like social media is WalMart and the services are just the different departments in the store that we shuttle between."
If this is indeed what you have been hearing-- fire your agency (or Web strategist or so-called Social Media consultant/guru).
No "social media", just Web. Just conversation. Web strategy begins with listening, understanding your networks, and planning how to be useful to them. Conversation first, research first--Technologies come at the end of this process, not the beginning. You don't decide to set up shop in Facebook without first understanding WHY (and when I hear this request to do so, my first reaction is to always pull the reigns waaaaaay back, and usually nix it all together).
At iCrossing we have created a robust process for mining and understanding Conversations, understanding those networks and planning how to be useful to them. "Social media" is not a silo, its swallowed up in overall strategy and therefore is intrinsic to service lines across the board-- conversations become the center point of marketing, with strategy and engagement falling out of this point of view.
I love the work of the SF-based Stamen group...and their latest proj is something all you Tumblrs might appreciate. Reblog is like your feed reader-- only more useful because it allows you to not only consolidate your attention, but allows you to easily publish, or reblog (as familiar to Tumblrs or Twitterers with the "Retweet") with one-click to your blog. Love this..Can we say streams?. As Stamen describes:
"Reblog makes the process of filtering and republishing content from many RSS feeds easy, and fast. Rebloggers subscribe to their favorite feeds, preview the content, and select their favorite posts. These posts are automatically published through their favorite blogging software, creating an attention funnel. Reblog's “River of News” view, showing most recent entries from all subscribed feeds.
Instead of visiting dozens of websites, each with new stories and updates published in local formats, RSS syndication places all that information in a simplified, standard format, allowing users to hand off the grunt work of looking for information to the computer, where it belongs.
Consumers of information are then free to interpret this information how they wish. Reblog short-circuits the gap between “This is cool!” and “I just told the world,” by making publishing to your own curated feed or another blog a one-click process.
Reblog is an open-source collaborative project with Eyebeam, an interactive research and development group based in New York City."
Go get one of your own / Discuss Reblog.
David Deal, VP of Marketing at Razorfish was kind enough to clarify Razorfish's involvement in the JC Penney-Facebook Connect initiative that I so roundly trashed yesterday. (Note: yes, I'm aware at how supremely contrarian and bratty I can be, my apologies...somedays are more so than others).
In a comment on that same post David notes:
To clarify: although Razorfish executed the media buy for the project, the social media idea and creative execution did not come from Razorfish -- David Deal, vice president of marketing, Razorfish.
And again, my main lament about this JCP-FBC initiative is that I believe the implementation of FBC is missing its full potential. I just hope to see some more innovative uses of FBC in the future that don't pigeon hole it into specific campaigns...I'm interested in what impact FBC can have on a brand's overall digital strategy.
"You know what a palantir is, right? It’s the crystal ball thingy from Lord of the Rings - Saruman and Sauron’s favorite toy. Well, now it’s also a real-time visual representation of the actions happening on Facebook, and boy it looks pretty! It uses geo data to show where on Earth things are happening; you can see stuff like users making new friends, or just overall actions and interactions on the site. What warms our geeky hearts the most is the fact that they even included our Sun which is visible as you zoom out and scroll around the globe."
[via arnsteinblogg 2.0]
Sooooo....looks like douche baggery is still alive and well in the land of digi marketing, hooray! Looks like the kids over at Razorfish had this super neat idea about creating a "doghouse" that women could put their significant others in unless they buy them...diamonds! Oh, Raz, you know us women oh so well (blah). The recently launched "Beware of the Doghouse" campaign for JC Penney is, according to the press release:
"A viral marketing campaign that allows women to put their significant other in the "Doghouse" for bad gift choices this holiday season. This new site and the marketing campaign behind it provide a fun, interactive way for women to encourage the men they love to get out of the “Doghouse,” by purchasing affordable diamond gifts from The Jewelry Store inside JCPenney. Launching today, the campaign is one of the first marketing sites to use the new Facebook Connect application, allowing visitors to easily put their Facebook Friends in the "Doghouse."
Not only is the premise of the campaign utterly ridiculous and condescending--but at its center is what else...a microsite! A microsite, oh why didn't we think of that before?! Ah, but wait, it gets better. They implemented Facebook Connect. Now, you'd think I'd be pretty excited about it as I've been covering FBC since it was first announced back in May of this year...ah, but marketers never fail me. So did they do something useful with the FBC implementation? No! They created this lame microsite and a game by which chicks can put their dudes in a doghouse and do so via Facebook Connect. So, you chose to use FBC to let girls pick Facebook friends/bf's into some lame doghouse? Because that is super useful and makes much more sense than say, integrating FBC into the JC Penney online shopping experience and thereby including friend data (purchases, wishlists, etc) into the product merchandising model. No, that just makes too much sense. We'll just stick with this awesome Doghouse thing...sweet!
What a wasted opportunity to really do something compelling with FBC, and to explore the potential of data portability and its impact on user experience, and in the retail case, impact on sales (well, in the case of FBC, data portability on training wheels, but whatever). I'm afraid of FBC becoming yet another poorly handled FB initative. FAIL!
Wrote a post for Mashable today:
With speculation around how you should monetize mostly a topic of conversation within the tech community, it always surprises me that a marketing perspective isn’t thrown into the mix. After all, it’s marketing dollars that you (and just about every other online entity) are relying on. So, taking a digital marketing perspective, I thought I’d throw a few thoughts into the discussion.
Note: this is not intended to be a “how to use Facebook to develop a social marketing strategy” discussion, but rather the intent is to explore how you could build a business model around your rich user data given what marketers desire in terms of effective marketing and what they’ll pay for (effective marketing= happy marketers who spend more $ on what works).
YOUR FOCUS IS FLAWED
So, you have one thing right: marketers pay to reach consumers, and the more targeting a platform can offer, the more marketers are willing to spend because of the promise of greater ROI. There is one flaw in your approach, however: you have been entirely focused on monetizing Facebook.com itself.
Now, while it may seem counter-intuitive, you ought to focus on monetizing your rich user data, and not necessarily the site itself. Wait–isn’t that the same thing? What is she saying? Just hear me out: You are not a content platform. You’re a communications utility, and while you’re a platform for UGC, you don’t provide a rich content experience. Users aren’t on your network to experience any kind of particular content–they are there to connect with friends and to essentially store personal data (whether they consciously know this or not).
Although some could argue that explicit and implicit user outputs (all that stuff you see in your newsfeed) IS the new “content,” we still have yet to see that this kind of UGC can be successfully monetized through advertising (translation, ROI for ad spend around UGC tends to be low).
Now, marketers have deployed lots of successful marketing initiatives within Facebook, but a majority of these involve leveraging your free Business Pages to drive conversation and engagement (read: free marketing). You’ve had it in your heads that if you let marketers set up free Business Pages, and draw in communities of brand enthusiasts who “Fan” these Pages, you can then upsell these brands into media buys. But the problem is that while great for engagement initiatives and fostering conversation around a brand (great for marketers!), Facebook is still not an optimal place for ad-spend, no matter how much attention is aggregated there. ROI from your ad spends tend to be relatively low for marketers. Again, it goes back to user intent and behavior.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Essentially, Facebook is this giant data storage silo. It contains consumer data nearly as valuable as the credit card companies have (the kind of data marketers would pay nearly through the nose to have). It’s user data, not the dot com itself that you should consider your golden ticket.
Now, before anyone starts jumping up and down about the notion of “monetizing user data”– I’m not advocating that private user data be mass-harvested and sold ad hoc to marketers. Rather, what I am suggesting is that with the dawn of Facebook Connect, there may be a viable, ethical way to leverage this user data.
With Facebook Connect, you can essentially create a content network (and note the launch partners, major media companies) that could also support an ad-network. So now, with a Facebook Connect-enabled content/ad network, you have the holy grail of targeted advertising: contextually relevant content experience AND the kind of granular targetability based on user graph data that made the initial promise of social networks so huge for marketers. Basically, participating FBC sites could not only sell targeted ad inventory based on their content, but based on Facebook’s (opt-in) user data as well. This would not only give marketers what they want in terms of targeting, but you would get a cut of the ad revenue for being the arbiters of that valuable graph data.
Of course, even without a potential FBC ad-network, Facebook Connect helps brands and publishers provide a socially enhanced experience for their customers with a lower barrier to adoption than current one-off branded social networks. Not to mention, FBC enables the potential to drive a lot of new traffic to their site as a result of opt-in user actions (including purchases) being broadcast through the Facebook network.
There is also the opportunity for e-tailers to capitalize on social graph data as part of their merchandising model. The benefit of graph data to the e-tailer includes the implicit endorsement of products by your users whose purchases are broadcast to their Facebook friends (again, only if the user opts-in to have their actions published), driving significant traffic, tapping into the power of consumer advocacy, and providing a more socially enhanced and user-friendly experience. Given the significant value this kind of data offers, you could leverage some kind of rev-share program for supplying this graph data to e-tailers (but again, users would have to opt-in!).
CREATE A VALUE EXCHANGE!
Now, this brings me to one last point that my dear friend and brilliant colleague Ben Bose has suggested be baked into all of this– a value exchange for the end user. If it’s consumers’ graph data that is benefiting both supplier/marketer and Facebook, then it should also work for the benefit of the consumer. Perhaps users may be assigned “influence” scores based on their network, and the degree of influence they have over that network. These influence scores could earn them rewards– not unlike our credit card rewards. Of course, some services already have types of user rewards, including ThisNext and imeem, but this is something that could be propagated to a much larger degree with initiatives like Facebook Connect.
Yes, there are many counterpoints to these ideas, including the argument that open Web enthusiasts (myself included) would pose around the idea of Facebook (or MySpace) being proprietors of graph data versus users themselves. But rather than examining the differences between FBC and true data portability, this was a look at possibilities for Facebook Connect as a means to increase Facebook revenue. Everyone's weigh-in?
Granted, its (VRM) not a new idea...but 2 key things have changed to make it feasible: consumer culture and online behavior have shifted and 2) the technology is (getting) there...its exciting especially with all of the open standards work that that Brad Fitzpatick and crew are working on (and of course the VRM project of Doc Searls that focuses on creating VRM based on an open framework).
What it is interesting with FB is what they're up to with Facebook Connect...on the surface it seems fine and dandy and great...great for users and great for participating 3rd party sites. But i can't help but feel like FB has some sinister long term plan to be a VRM system of sorts...not adopting open standards and the ethos of VRM, but rather attempting to be a closed data storage hub that feeds sites and services within the FB universe via FB Connect...you could have a seemingly "data ubiquitous" experience (and thereby create a POTENTIALLY VRM-like system using FB data and the entire Connect network of sites and services whereby there could be a value exchange between consumers and suppliers) under an AOL-like FB Connect world, but in reality it would just be a massive, closed system which maintains its proprieter status of user data, rather than that data being owned by the users themselves (hence a bastardized version of VRM).
Its no secret I'm a bonafide Cluetrain drunk. I didn't just sip that Kool Aid, I killed it. And really, any foray into social strategy is Cluetrain-light on training wheels. The concept of VRM ought really to resonate with most of those already espousing the open, social Web. My first introduction to the concept of VRM was several years ago when I ran into Fred Davis in San Francisco who, among other topics, discussed his dot com-era venture, The Lumeria Project (and well, I suppose before that it really began after reading The Cluetrain Manifesto in college--it came out my junior year of high school). The LP was essentially a VRM platform that for obvious reasons never made it past the first few rounds of financing. Not only was user behavior online not ready for such a venture (and really, the general culture at large), but the Web was not ready. Now, we're getting there. Of course, Doc Searls has been heading up ProjectVRM, headquartered at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, where he is a fellow, for quite some time now.
So, an intro to VRM as put together by the VRM Hub group headed by Adriana Lukas in the UK:
Imagine being able to take charge of your information and data, notes and records about past transactions, your purchase history, future plans and ideas, preferences and knowledge about areas of your life. At the moment you are the last person to be able to benefit from all this accessible only via various platforms. Your ‘digital detritus’ is not yours, it is information that others harvest and use for their own purposes. Imagine to be able to do that with the same ease as checking email, posting to a blog, adding a bookmark to del.icio.us, searching Google, commenting on an article, uploading a photo to Flickr, managing your google or ical calendar, leaving a review on Amazon, adding an application on Facebook. All this whilst protecting your privacy to the degree you find comfortable, sharing your activity or data as you wish, not as mandated by the platform providing some functionality in exchange for your data (Facebook, Amazon etc).
Imagine having your customers share with you what they like, want and think of you. At the moment, you are dependent on market research, which is like looking through a keyhole at the rich ‘user-generated’ world. Imagine being able to relate to your customers, consistently and persistently, where they contribute directly to your supply chain where it makes sense - whether it is R&D, product design, distribution and marketing. Interaction with them is modular, intuitive and user-driven freeing much of your resources spent on marketing and transaction cost.
The above is part of the vision of the Project VRM. The name stands for Vendor Relationship Management and it originates from ‘flipping’ CRM - customer relationship management. Project VRM is a community-driven effort to support the creation and building of VRM tools. The project is headquartered at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and headed by Doc Searls, a fellow with the center. The project is building a framework that sets standards and protocols for a category of tools that enable individuals and organizations to relate and transact on more equivalent terms. By minimizing the leverage and control one party has over another in a (typically commercial) relationship, individuals and organizations can instead focus on creating and sharing value. The VRM opportunity is not rooted in us vs. them emotionally-driven arguments but in creating a more efficient and balance relationship between business and their customers, markets and companies, demand and supply.
What’s in it for the individual?
The ability to manage and analyze your data will give you better knowledge about yourself, the kind of knowledge that is the holy grail of most companies’ customer data management. The awareness of your preferences, understanding of your needs will help you to articulate them easier and strengthen your position with vendors.
What’s in it for businesses?
We live in an increasingly decentralized world with more customer choice, yet vendors continue to fiercely collect and control customer data and exploit the opportunities therein. The ultimate goal of VRM is better relationships between customers and vendors, by considering and constructing tools that put the customer in control of their data and ultimately their relationships with other individuals, companies and institutions.
Benefits of ‘letting go’ of customer data:
1. Customers share the burden of storing and protecting the data - eases compliance, privacy & security concerns
2. Increased access to information about customers - direct benefits to the customer to share more data rather than less.
3. New services from previously unavailable access to customer data
With FB Connect set to "officially" launch November 30th, 24 out of the 26 original launch partners have still yet to integrate FB Connect. Whats the hold up? According to sources at TechCrunch, they're apparently waiting to see how it all flys (as was to be exepcted, I'm sure). With buggy implementation and a fear of policy changes, most of the launch partners have opted to take the approach Japan has taken with GMOs...watch the guinea pigs and wait it out a while. Alas, but in the meantime you can get your fix tinkering around with logging into 3rd party sites with your FB credentials here (be sure to take the quick CNN survey about FB Connect) and here and here (after you've logged in with new credentials on mybarackobama.com, you can then connect with FB). Cheers.
In regards to your questions around the deck:
The deck has a lot of voice over that goes with it...but i wanted to strike a balance between clarity and brevity as its going on slideshare and needs to function as a stand alone (a lot of the data portability geeks will know what the cloud and the mircoformats are so i didn't want to be redundant). FOAF and XFN are microformats for expressing relationships between people online (vs. proprietary markup that say FB or MySpace uses). The "Cloud" can be described as distributed, interlinked virtual servers where data can be stored instead of within proprietary, dedicated hardware, thus decentralizing where personal data is stored. this is the vision of the likes of Brad Fitzpatrick (invented the FOAF and XFN microformats) and the Data Portability Workgroup and the likes of Doc Searls in creating a silo-less, open, semantic Web that functions like a VRM (vendor relationship management).
You could almost think of the Cloud as the "meta-web"...if the internet freed documents from device, the Cloud frees data from device and it becomes permanently cached on the internet (rather than any one server). Right now our data on FB is stored on FB servers. For all intense and purposes, they maintain control over our data. So right now, the "data portability" initiatives like FB Connect, while a step, are still lacking. Its still FACEBOOK granting permission to access OUR data to third parties rather than the end user accessing and granting permissions....
Anyway, this is a favorite topic of mine, and one that has been around since the birth of the net (and there have been a few failed attempts at creating this VRM such as the Lumeria Project back in '96)...anyway, if you want to read about it, there are of course super smart peeps (the ones actually making it happen) to turn to: http://www.vrmlabs.net/vrm-in-a-nutshell/
So, the point of the deck was that while a lot of this geeky stuff is still a ways off, marketers are usually 2 years behind developments in the Web and technology. I wanted to float some of what has been a discussion within the tech community for the past few years. That we are seeing open strategies from the major networks is only indicative of the momentum this movement is gaining and that the realization of a silo-less, open and fully semantic Web is not just a pipe dream after all....
Also, this is not a "the future is VRM" deck...its much more basic and simpler than that (and mainly sticks to talking specifically about FB Connect as an example).
hence too this picto-post i did: http://www.thewebissocial.com/2008/10/on-future-of-data-portability.html
Right now the big social net players are making a bid to be the silos of our data. Oh, they're playing nice, adopting some "open" strategies for identity "portability"... But essentially Facebook wants to be the centralized storage locker for your identity data (which you may access from third party sites,which really isn't open). Enter Brad Fitzpatrick and his dreams of microformats and a decentralized graph that lives in the Cloud. And then there's VRM... Let the claims for Identity 2.0 begin...
OpenID has gotten a lot of buzz this week with both Google and Microsoft announcing support of the protocol. In light of this, and in conjunction with the continuing swirl of activity around data portability (a pet topic of mine) initiatives I thought I'd take a minute to share a video from 08's Social Graph Foo Camp where Leslie Chicoine shares some insights from a a designer's (and user's) perspective on OpenID:
"OpenID will be successful when nobody knows what it is".... Exactly.
A response to Dan Hoy's "The Virtual Dependency of the Post-Avant..." by someone who wishes to remain anonymous:
"It is with great interest that I read the work of Mr Hoy, a true aesthete, and artisan of semiotic deconstruction. I have little to say other than outright praise of a piece that, in its sheer length, criticises the triskaidekaphobia of the modern web, but I might add a few minor addendums to the paradigm presented.
Firstly, while Google's existance as icon and action places it out of the realms of the mundane, and it is a truism that there is much of the spirit of the age about it - simply because, within its bounds lies a goodly portion of the sum of our written, visual and audio constructions of our experiences - the argument around sponteneity is one that has another aspect to it. Google is ultimately a tool bounded by our use of it; that that use is massively distributed, and open to rich interpretation, does not render irrelevent the fact that deliberate activity lies at its root. With that as a base, we find our tapestry is built on a basis of actions, that in turn lie rooted in the mimir of our needs; the necessary entropy for spontaneous generation cannot arise.
I might also take some time to consider as to whether the brand can be truly considered benign in its semantics; mostly harmless, perhaps, but that, as we have learned to our cost, can be no protection against reinterpretation. The similarities between Google and goggle are eerie, and perhaps apt; the notion of filtering perceptions of the world and its works, as well as wide-eyed awe, is one that might, in retrospect, have formed our subject's initial, faltering, steps more than any number of zeroes, or places in perdition. Perhaps, rather than focussing or the potential for aggression, we should move in-step with the people - them again - underlying the word, and watch their behavior, creating an aspirational element that endures, despite the passionate criticism that only those who once loved can generate.
Indeed, in this, the concluding point of the opening paragraph of this opus comes into a new light. Wikipedia, in its flawed and politically riven splendor, is very much part of the sorority of icons in our new, dichotimous and paradox-sticken age, and its association with Google apt to the point of irony. That these groups stand clear of the more prosaic companies that still bestride our shared experiences is a common consensus, but they are driven at heart by a vision, one formed by the individual(s), and, in that, novelty cannot disguise the inherent underlying order. The icons we stand before now are more personal than ever before, and they speak to us, but it is in the interpretation of their output that we create meaning.
There is far more in the deep woods of Mr. Hoy's essay than this commentator could possibly encapsulate; indeed, even this brief foray into the first paragraph is in dire danger of descending into diaspora. Suffice to say that it is a worthy read for any seeker of knowledge, and a worthy point of origin for much fascinating discourse."
For anyone who has ever had the displeasure to read this blog or hear me personally pontificate about the state of the Web, this post will come as no surprise to you, I'm quite sure. Oh, the title you ask? How can I, a social media strategist, claim there is no social media? I'm sure you can gather from the URL of this blog my answer: "the Web IS social." However, I'm changing my stance slightly to perhaps make it more clear: "Social is the Web." Or maybe "social media is the Web"? but then I don't want to continue to peddle the phrase "social media." You get the idea. Differentiating between the "Web" and "social media" is like trying to differentiate between a hot dog and all the animal-product gook that makes it up.
"Social media" is not a "space" or "there" or "channel." There is simply the Web which has evolved and which has intrinsic social qualities to it. Yes, there are what we would call "social media tools" or "social technologies" that have enabled and continue to expand the socialization of the Web, but these are more or less what now comprise the Web, rather than being some sort of separate add-on to it.
Users expect a participatory Web experience. Think about this, this is really the crux of what we mean by "the Web is social." It is that there is an expectation for participation. The corollary to this, and no less important, is the expectation of users (or consumers, if you prefer) to be able to tailor these participatory experiences based on attention preferences and streaming habits.
WHOT, pray tell, you ask, does this have to do with anything? Well, for (digital) marketing agencies, it means a lot. If the Web is generally central to any digital agency's service lines, the evolved state of the Web (and user/consumer behavior!) demands a shift in approach to the methodologies and service lines themselves.
"Social media" is (will be) a short-lived service line unto itself as "social media" (will) impact overall marketing strategy and everything from creative, web development & UX, paid, search, display, etc etc. Not to mention that the social Web and its many utilities also impact much of enterprise that is not marketing-related, but you already knew that.
And you underestimated the power of Facebook! Little old Rob Bliss, of Grand Rapids, MI invited 100 of his friends (through creating a Facebook event) to meet him in Rosa Park Circle for a pillow fight. Over 1,000 people ended up showing up! Note: Kudos to CNN for taking out the pre-roll when bloggers embed the videos!
I want to share with everyone a project I am working on closely with internet-provider, Embarq-- their recently launched YouTube "48 seconds" video contest. Embarq High-Speed Internet is 48 seconds faster than dial up--which begs the question, what would you do with 48 seconds? And they're looking for people to submit funny/amazing/creative videos of what they can do in just 48 seconds. Users will vote to pick the winning video, and the grand prize winner will receive $5,000 and a year of free Embarq High-Speed Internet.
We're just getting started but already there are some great submissions (you may have already caught one over at AdRants where Steve Hall baited out of work creatives to submit) and I wanted to share some of my faves so far (you'll even see a familiar face in there...)
48 Seconds to Vote! (Kudos to Julia Roy for being so timely and pimpin the Vote with this submission!)
Also important to note is that after this contest, this is not the end of the Embarq YouTube Channel! In creating this Channel Embarq is really taking a long-view approach to actively listening to and participating with consumers and engaging in active dialogue within an innovative format. Zena Weist, Embarq Interactive Brand Strategy Manager sums up, "In order to truly build community, we know EMBARQ has to get out and start interactive dialogue with our customers where they are online."
...Stay tuned for updates on submissions and when voting begins!
I'll be moderating the "Social Swirl" panel on Thursday at OMMA Global's two-day expo, "Platform Wars." I'll have Twitter up in case anyone wants to @ a question during...
Check out the deets:
Social Swirl: Using Social Media to Distribute Content
11:15am - 12:00pm
Distributing content online used to be a matter of striking partnership deals with major portals and other established sites who could potentially drive traffic, but social media gives content a new, if somewhat unruly, way to push their programs out to those who might be interested, creators. From Twitter to Friendfeed, MySpace to Meebo, how are major content providers using the burgeoning number of social media channels as distribution networks? Does social media provide content providers with more engaged users? And, of course, how does social media compare with other channels as a traffic generator?
...Also attending this sesh beforehand which I think (hope) will be great...streams!
PANEL: What is Content? Westside Ballroom - North
Forces such as social networking, instant messaging and data portability are reshaping the notions of content, communication and distribution. Content has always been an organizing principle around which advertising revolves, but now that users are generating content, becoming content themselves and demanding that they be able to take content with them wherever they go, media companies are left with monetization and distribution puzzles that are as confounding as today's digital consumption patterns. Is there a financially rewarding business for a content owner or creator in a post Web 2.0 world? How can they navigate an environment where the strategy isn't necessarily about establishing a destination, but also fostering content distribution?
Diane Mermigas, Editor-at-large, MediaPost's MediaDailyNews
Jason Kilar, CEO, Hulu
Jeff Berman, President of Sales & Marketing, MySpace
Albert Cheng, Executive Vice President of Digital Media, ABC Television Group
Mark Goldman, Chief Operating Officer, Current Media
Douglas Scott, President, OgilvyEntertainment
Re-visiting a question that was posed by David Carr of the NYT, asking about the growth and adoption of Facebook...I think one thing sums it up:
The single most important factor to Facebook's adoption? The Newsfeed. Streams. The network was more useful because it captures and reports back to users all of the actions taking place within their network. Solid gold utility.
Some people have been asking me to explain a bit more about what I mean when I say the web is now a "paradigm of streams", as noted earlier in a previous conversation I had with a colleague. Brevity and clarity are not two of my strong suits, so both are what I will attempt to achieve with the following explanation.
To begin, we know that the web has gone from a paradigm of sites, or pages, to a paradigm of applications. I would offer one step further in this abstraction-- that it is, or is becoming, a paradigm of action and interaction with these applications, thus resulting in "streams" of behavioral data. We are now in, or approaching, a paradigm of streams.
This "paradigm of streams" essentially contends that 1) "content" by definition has evolved to include both explicit and implicit user output and 2) that this new content is channel-agnostic, ever-expanding, and yes, entirely portable.
This an entirely user-centric view of the Web (so for marketers out there, take note).
We can understand our streaming web experience in perhaps two ways: Aggregated Streams and Distributed Streams, or, "in and out flows."
Aggregated Streams: It is no longer necessary to visit a site or page to access its content, nor is it necessary interact with the actual UI of an application in order to leverage it. I can access content, or aggregate streams of content, to me wherever I choose via widgets and RSS feeds (such as on a homepage mashup like Netvibes or my Goog reader). I can also aggregate my interactions, and the content I produce, with applications such as FriendFeed. In this way, my web experience is highly customized, comprised of the actions of others which produce "content."
Distributed Streams: My distributed streams are those actions and/or interactions that create output or content in various (social) spaces. In turn, friends and online associates may choose to aggregate my distributed "streams", thus my actions become the content that makes up their online experience. Again, we can call on FriendFeed to provide an example of what all of this activity looks like. Note: I don't intend to say that FriendFeed is what the web is turning into, but rather it is an example of a very early iteration of what our network of streams may look like.
In reality, my web experience is really comprised of these micro-interactions (to borrow from Armano), the input and output of which are ever-expanding streams of activity. Scientists are apparently calling this "ambient awareness", this awareness being the result of streaming data (which streaming data = the new "content"?).
My distributed streams, and the streams I choose to cull, create a highly personalized, highly active web experience-- a paradigm of streams.
I often chat with my UK colleauge, Ben Bose-- who happens to be one of our most brilliant, and we often get to chatting. I thought I'd share:
me: when i say 'the web is social' people look at me strangely
i think marketing people dont like it
well, digital agencies
will nod and say yes!
but if they REALLY accepted it
it has much broader, fundamental impacts on the BUSINESS of digital agency
than the industry is willing to admit or change at the moment
Ben: You should see the looks we get here! Absolutely!
It's all about products, and business.
The web is social.
The web is not an add-on.
me: right, well and the current approach to the web is fairly siloed...especially if you consider that 'social media' is considered a channel and not the state of the web itself (by most marketers)
me: there's still a lack of adoption industry-wide of the paradigm shift from a web of pages to a web of applications
Ben: We had a deck flying around recently from another company.
It dealt with their web strategy.
Drove me up the wall - a spokes diagram with words like "social media" and "synergy".
Mark H. over here has a nice paradigm of the web.
He doesn't believe in sites, just pages.
So the web is constructed per individual, based on their experiences.
I doubt I'm explaining it well.
me: no i know what he is saying
i don't believe in a 'sites' paradigm either, but would not necessarily a 'pages' one either
i would offer a web paradigm of streams
rather than pages
me: my personlized web experience is really one of streams
both fragmented and aggregated
not in pages themselves....but in the actions i take on the web
it is those actions that live beyond pages and can live simultaneously was well
this becomes apparent with examples like FriendFeed
but even beyond that
i think we will begin to see our 'life streams', if you will, in browser functionality perhaps
Ben: With things like Ubiquity?
and perhaps Chrome
Goog's play into the browser is more than a browser war,
its an-access-to-data war
Ben: What do you think of Chrome?
me: or rather,
i haven't used it yet...i have a mac
I'm suffering from jargon fall-out and and 'thought leadership' overload and I think I may just scream. Or blog. I'm sick of all the jargon and would-be "social media consultants" and oh god, the THOUGHT LEADERSHIP. I suppose its a way for overly articulate, exceedingly verbal people to actually matter...but how many actually DO anything? Social media is about doing-- not pontificating (and yes, I know I'm guilty and may even be so right this minute in this very ill-conceived blog post). I wonder how many "social media strategists" who say, believe in blogging actually BLOG? ("Blogging? thats just a little too 'tactical'...I'm a stategist!"). Or, how many "conversation" pundits actualy participate in the 'conversations' online through various enabling social technologies? And brands...BRAND? Can I say no one gives a crap about your BRAND, don't be so myopic. Wake up. Think (or blog) like a human.
And another thing..."social media" is the Web. Or rather, the current iteration of the Web as a platform-- its evolved as it will continue to do so. The surface is just being scratched. Also, there will probably be a backlash against social within the myopic marketing industry, but lo and behold people will keep chugging along, changing the face of communication and media and hopefulyl then, THEN there will be a shift in thinking-- and doing.
And one more thing that may or may not have any consequence-- I love Macs. I've only ever had Apple computers from my wee infancy (dad was a quasi-geek who first taught me the thrills of computing on our Apple IIe). I will only ever buy Apples as my BRAND LOYALTY (or, what humans call "preference") is well, off the charts skewed to Apple. You know who doesn't have engage in the "conversation" or have a "social media" strategy/presence/whateveryouwanttocallit? You guessed it, APPLE.
Mozilla wants to make simple web computing tasks easier, and bring the power of mashups to the end user via the browser: enter Ubiquity. The focus is of this experiment is to "connect the Web with language in an attempt to find new user interfaces that could make it possible for everyone to do common Web tasks more quickly and easily."
The overall goals of Ubiquity are to explore how best to:
* Empower users to control the web browser with language-based instructions. (With search, users type what they want to find. With Ubiquity, they type what they want to do.)
* Enable on-demand, user-generated mashups with existing open Web APIs. (In other words, allowing everyone–not just Web developers–to remix the Web so it fits their needs, no matter what page they are on, or what they are doing.)
* Use Trust networks and social constructs to balance security with ease of extensibility.
* Extend the browser functionality easily.
Want to give it a try? Download Ubiquity 0.1 here
I've been blogging for a while about the disconnect between technology and start-ups' understanding of the market and marketing--but Jackie Peters of HeavyBag Media has perfectly articulated what this disconnect is and means in a guest post on Mashable in which she explains the situation she refers to as the early-adopter, startup entrepreneur, private-beta-junkie echo chamber.
But my favorite part is when she expounds on the future of "social media" (again, DEAD ON)
Social media in another year or two will be non-existent, it will just be the Web, same as it’s always been, just the next evolution. We don’t need to confuse the masses by getting over their heads with all of the technological mumbo jumbo. We just need to integrate the functionality into our products and services and make sure that there’s a good enough reason for doing so - that it adds value and fulfills the needs and desires of a market, the rest will fall into place. So rather than focusing on the technology, why not focus on how the product makes the user’s experience better.
Sound familiar? It should.....remember "social media" is not a silo!
"The social media stuff is probably the most important we do today, from a marketing stand point. The other elements of marketing mix has sort of become more and more transactional and more and more tactical in nature. Social media stuff is much more strategic... Use social media to power the fundamental of the business. That's what we're focused on".
The Web is a mass medium comprised of niches, formed around psychographic preferences and affinities
Just because you build it, doesn't mean they'll come (or stay)...a few things to consider:
Your brand is probably not something people will want to form a long-lasting community around. What's the bigger idea?
Note: Consider the concepts or values related to your brand and the psychographic preferences they feed into
Define clear objectives for your community.
Note: "so people can upload pictures and share their stories and stuff" is NOT an objective....it may be a result of an objective.
Consider the value-proposition for users.
Note: again, "so they can post pictures and share their stories" is NOT enough of a value-prop. Why? because attention is scarce, they can do that anywhere and data portability is not yet a complete reality (yet).
Plan how to be useful (and compelling).
Note: your technology platform is not the first thing that should come to mind here. Your users' needs are.
Note: You don't just make friends and drop them after you've gotten all you want out of them (or maybe you do, in which case you should get off the internet and take a long, hard look in the mirror), you build relationships. Assess the human resources you'll need to be there for the community-- to support and invigorate it.
....I know I said don't focus on the technology first...but once you have the strategic approach down, "design for community" points to consider: