Hey Agency, the Web is Social

The Web: Connectivity & Utility

The current state of the web, beyond pages, is an ecosystem of services/applications that promote connectivity and utility. This follows the evolution of social computing-- moving from singular, contained activity to shared (collaborative) and portable activity (portable= the ability to access data from any device, not just from the device on which the data file was created and in turn the ability to access data from any app, not just the app in which the file was created).

The key elements of this connectivity are the content we create and the personal data we store and share via social technologies. This elevates the internet economy from "eyeballs and clicks" on pages to the buzz-concept of "consumer engagement"-- the user journey within applications and across the Web. As so precisely explained by Forrester, this shift has occurred due to:

"Easy connections brought about by cheap devices, modular content, and shared computing resources are having a profound impact on our global economy and social structure. Individuals increasingly take cues from one another rather than from institutional sources like corporations, media outlets, religions, and political bodies. To thrive in an era of Social Computing, companies must abandon top-down management and communication tactics, weave communities into their products and services, use employees and partners as marketers, and become part of a living fabric of brand loyalists."

All sounds like a big "duh," right? But it is surprisingly difficult for digital agencies to understand the technology trends that are and will fundamentally impact their business. As the idea that "the Web is social" permeates the digital agency world, digital strategy will have a complete new approach. "Social media" won't be an al a carte offering or afterthought, but rather central to digital strategy. Social media isn't social media...it is the Web. What then happens to all of the social media strategists? It becomes a question perhaps of agency organization-- some will continue as horizontal strategists, others depending on expertise may filter down into other areas-- be it analytics, web dev, etc.

The bottom line is that as the Web continues to evolve, all digital strategy will be inherently "social"-- there will not be a distinction between a digital marketing strategy and a "social media" strategy as the latter term is absorbed into the mindset of digital agencies as simply being "digital strategy."

Of course this puts more pressure on teams who are currently working on tangible engagement metrics and delivering what ROI means within the social web.

Think that "engagement" metrics are just marketing hogwash and that it just affect agencies?

For online publishers this is a huge issue-- getting agencies to spend their client's dollars on your site is going to rely heavily on delivering against these new engagement metrics. Recently a friend with a prominent music blog mentioned how some advertisers were complaining about a lack of click-though rates on the site, nevermind that their advertising content on said site is completely widgetized and that millions of readers/users interact with that ad-laden widget everyday (both on and off the site itself). The point isn't click-throughs, its about that interaction/involvement/intimacy-- ie "engagement" with the brand via the widgets. Both the agency handling the ad buy and the advertiser themselves need to be educated on engagement ROI. That the conversation is still about click-through rates is evidence that we have a long way to go in educating both the industry at large and our clients. To start, we might do well to start looking at ourselves in the mirror and repeating..."the Web is social, the Web is social..."

Am I wrong? Lets have at it...


Data Wars

Me: "I promise you, the Giant Global Graph will NOT be housed under Microsoft's wing.....!"

Rex: "Oh look, Microsoft is trying to make themselves relevant again! By being a monopoly again! Yay!"

Here's what it is: By making a play for Facebook Microsoft would have access to one of the world's largest open consumer databases; couple this with a Yahoo! search buy and their obsessive research into future digital advertising solutions like their Visual Product Browsing (algorithm that categorizes images by the data in the image itself vs. manual tags or filenames)....and you've got a software giant making a huge play for Web ownership.

No doubt Microsoft would intend to keep Facebook a closed data silo from which to leverage its search (Goog can't spider much Facebook data but perhaps a Micro-owned Yahoo would, now that would be smart).

Ok, so lets review some issues: The Data Portability Workgroup and Google both have been working on creating new standards for accessing and sharing (porting) data; recently MySpace, Facebook, and Google announced their own data portability initiatives, all while maintaining the central control of where that personal data is actually stored (none of the initiatives allow third party sites to cache or store the data). The issue is that until there is a universal, decentralized data silo from which to access and leverage our personal digital data, this tug-n-pull for data control will continue, and precisely why Microsoft is possibly looking at Facebook. FB, as of now, is the leader in sheer volume of valuable personal user (read: consumer) data.

Unfortunately for Microsoft they underestimate (as they have so many times before) the open web movement:

"They are a company trying to cling to the status quo- control, power, etc...when there is a mobile, educated, armed mass of consumers who can create what was once only proprietary to MSFT"

And while I hate quoting Scobel (his take on the possible Microhoobook deal is near idiotic with his claim that FriendFeed would be the savior of open web), He does make a point as to why a possible Microhoobook would be a big freaking deal:

"Don’t think this matters? It sure does. Relevancy on Yahoo search will go through the roof when it has access to Facebook data and Google doesn’t. People will see that Yahoo has people search (something I’ve asked Google for for years) and Google doesn’t. That’ll turn the tide in advertising, and all that."

And frankly, until the social graph becomes truly decentralized, I'd rather have Google as the intermediary, but then again as a friend of mine pointed out via chat the other day, I suppose Microsoft was once held with a similar esteem we give Google today. But hey, with a motto like "Don't Be Evil," we can trust them, right?


"Data Portability"....Sigh

So after the hub-bub of the original 3 announcements by MySpace, Facebook, and Google on the various "data portability" initiatives I've had time to investigate little deeper into each initiative.

I will state first, that while all three implementations of so-called data portability are lacking-- in some cases more than others, and while some barely qualify as actually porting one's data and accessing it wherever they please, I do think there is still one important thing to be said for all of it: at least we're starting on the road to get there.

Yes, Goog's Friend Connect is nothing more than a bunch of iframes and their agenda is to push their Open Social apps; yes MySpace's Data Availability doesn't actually allow sites to cache any information (and thus not actually allowing for portability-- but to be fair they do call it "availability" which they do, they make data available, not portable); and yes, now in the name of "user privacy protection" Facebook is not allowing Goog's Friend Connect to access its API (mother Facebook apparently knows better than us who we want to share our data with)--BUT..its a step. A baby step now fraught with embattled players, but a step nonetheless.

Now, as for this Facebook/Google scuffle....contrary to what Scoble says, its not Google thats in the wrong. How can Facebook, in an act of "protecting user privacy" deny me, the user, the right to allow Google to access my data?? Facebook doesn't care about user privacy, they care about maintaining their control over user currency whilst under the guise of participating in an open web. As for Google wanting to be the middle man, well thats no surprise. And contrary to some of Facebook's statements about Google not allowing for the discontinuation of data access (among other things), Google is taking precautionary measures to ensure user privacy (again though, its not perfect).

We still seem a way off from creating a decentralized Giant Global Graph, one that lives in the Cloud and free from the walled gardens of the social nets themselves....but I still think these first toe-dippings are a good sign. Its exciting nonetheless-- not because of the current implementations but because of the promise.


Goog's Friend Connect: The Web is Social

So this may not be the answer to social computing utopia yet, but the latest announcements from MySpace, Facebook and Google on their various data portability initiatives are exciting. After months of being members of the Data Portability Workgroup, these announcements (although made separately, and also interestingly not made in reference to working with the DP) appear to be the first of what I hope to be many:

On the premise that “users are in control of their data,” MySpace was first out of the gate with their Data Availability announcement. Inside this opt-in framework users will be able to dynamically share their data & content with third-party sites. Users will be able to port (1) Publicly-available basic profile information, (2) MySpace photos, (3) MySpaceTV videos, and (4) friend networks. Launch partners for this initiative include Ebay, Twitter, Yahoo!, and MySpace’s own subsidiary, Photobucket.

Facebook quickly countered with their own version of a data portability initiative, Facebook Connect. Facebook Connect (FBC) seems to echo pretty much the Data Availability initiative - the users are in control of their data and content, and now can port their Facebook data to third-party partner sites. Digg has already been announced as a launch partner for FBC, and it will be interesting to see who else comes in on Team Facebook.

Enter Google: The Google offering, Friend Connect, takes a different turn bringing the social Web to the long tail. With MySpace and Facebook, data portability is flowing out from them; with Google’s Friend Connect data portability becomes even more significant by allowing websites, any site, to act as a social hub. As a user I can opt-in to a Friend Connect-enabled site and if I so choose port my content and even friend network over to that site. I can also (and most virtuously for said site) have all of my interactions with that site fed back to my social net feeds (thus encouraging more traffic, and theoretically, more qualified traffic).

As a site owner, I don't need to do a massive redesign, or even know code. With a snippet of embeddable code I can create a social experience on my existing site by 1) allowing users to login via OpenID, 2)bring their data to populate their presence, and 3)create a dynamic experience by integrating OpenSocial apps to my site.

According to Google
, “Any website owner can add a snippet of code to his or her site and get social features up and running immediately without programming - picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.”

Any app, Any site, Any friends…

I was on the conference call Google held this morning to discuss the Friend Connect service where they elaborated on some key points:

First, about a dozen or so (test) sites will be Friend Connect-enabled for beta testing (live later this evening after Google’s Campfire) and preview. They project that it will be a few months before FC is available for all webmasters (you can sign up for a waiting list at Google's Friend Connect site once it goes live later tonight...you'll get a 404 Error if you try now)

The Friend Connect service helps any site become social by acting as a hub for the following existing open standards:

1. Universal user sign-in and authentication via OpenID (will support AOL and Google logins) for any site

2. Friend sources (Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo, etc.)

3. Features for non-social sites in the form of OpenSocial Apps


This is a very exciting announcement-- because the concept is there, although the implementation may be lacking.

Adoption of Google initiatives seem to have been lagging (like, who builds Open Social apps?) but the more interesting part of all of these announcements is not what they will affect in the immediate...but what these moves say about the future of the web.


The Brand is What You Make It

Brands in control? According to Noah Brier's latest experiment, brands are what consumers make them, and ultimately it is the consumer that controls the brand. I've been playing with Brand Tags-- its amusing and fun and some of the tag clouds are hilarious...obviously just for fun, but still very interesting nonetheless (I happen to agree with Brier's position, its just that the dataset collected by Brand Tags is more for novelty purposes than for hard core analysis...love it all the same)

On the site, you are presented with a series of brand logos to which you are to write the first tags that come to mind....no surprise that MySpace's tags read like a bathroom stall..."slut," "garbage," "trash" LOL!

Have a go at it here


Why Not Indeed! LAFD on Social Media

This is awesome…I was commenting on Lee Odden’s blog (TopRankBlog.com) this morning (David Alston of Radian6 guest-posted) and one of the recent comments to the post on the need for social media monitoring was one I wouldn’t have expected!

Original Post

Brian Humphrey of the LAFD’s comment:


David's guest post is but one of the many features that keep us coming back to your blog.

In an era where too many organizations descibe on-line dialogue about them as 'why us?', the Los Angeles Fire Department is pleased to be among the increasing number of brands saying 'why not us?'.

While our efforts are difficult to quantify as a typical return-on-investment, the qualifying effect on safety, health, productivity - and overall public trust is far beyond metrics.

Our thanks to David and you for helping and keeping us thinking outside the norm!

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department


Um, that is cool.



I have been extremely riled the past few days...and my posts and Tweets I think have been a bit more pessimistic than usual. The bottom line is that much has to change in the marketing industry as a whole, and the ramifications of those very high level philosophical changes will eventually have an impact on practice and process for sure. But like everything, it will take time. Time! The very thing the digital landscape eats for breakfast. That marketing as an industry, and agencies as its constituents, needs to adapt is well-known...but the process can be slow and murky and its an interesting time to be in the mix of it all.

So, on a more positive note-- I do believe change will happen, that the paradigm shift in marketing's attitude towards consumers, in particular the "digital consumer" (an already semi-redundant term) will occur...but not without growing pains. And instead of griping about how idiotic agencies can be, I suppose now I'll turn my energies to being part of the solution. OMG. Yes, I just said that..."part of the solution." LOL....but seriously!

And someday, it'll all be digital ash in a digital urn anyway (oh puke, she made a Bright Eyes reference). :)


Social Media Wars Update: I Was Wrong

I was wrong. Yep, I admit it. I was wrong on this one when I said digital agencies would win social media. First, there is the whole issue about pigeon-holing "social media" as an offering versus recognizing it as the state of the web and therefore altering your offerings and position as a digital agency all together. But that isn't the point of this post (as that is a whole other issue about agencies in general).

While it initially seems that the digital agency should win out the battle for social media strategy-- indeed they have all the right ingredients with creative, dev teams, search & market research insight, etc to stand poised as leaders in this space-- there is a fundamental and pervasive lack of understanding of the current state of the internet today in the industry. Mention social media and they get excited. Talk about "dialogue" or "engagement" and you'll get a blank stare. You see?

This issue, however, is more fundamental to agencies and the inherent problems with their organizational structure and standard offerings (and standard way of approaching/understanding the internet) that is to blame and not any one company.

And really the question is not so much "who will win social media?" but really one that is much bigger and scarier than any digital agency is willing to admit...the question is "who will win the internet?"

Correction: as Eric Weaver points out more specifically..."WHO WILL WIN THE DIGITAL COSNUMER?"

My new take: companies not steeped in stagnant agency traditions of structure, who understand the current state of the internet, the culture shaping it, and the future of the digital consumers' lives that acquire talent with varying talents in communications/PR/WOM, creative, user/design experience, web development, and content development/publishing.....these stealth firms will be the one's to watch..and the ones to win the future of the web.


Super Tool!

Ok, so Super Tool doesn't exist, but certainly analysts can dream, can't they? @JolieODell asked me "K, so if you could imagine a real doozie of a social measurement tool, what would it do?" And so this is the start of my wishlist (I'm sure I'll be adding more as I ponder it tonight at 3am):

• Sentiment analysis: Conversation by Tonality
• Conversation by Influencer-weighted Tonality
Sentiment by topic/sentiment by topic/influencer
• Distribution: Conversation by source (and lets expand sources from Blogs, News, and Forums to social nets and media utilities as well)
• Influencer Distribution view: Conversations weighted by Influencer source
• Conversation Share of Voice competitive analysis

• Include aggregation of all UGC/media tagged with tracked keywords

• Weight data by Influencer and Type

• Expand “Types” to include (in addition to Blogs, News, Forums):
– Video/ video by Influencers (I= views, link, and embed analysis)
– Photo/ photos by Influencers (I= views, link analysis)

• Influencer Identification – authority is niche-specific, not authority in general; based on frequency/relevancy to topic/keyword/industry/brand

• Site Authority/Credibility established by post to post link analysis or site to post vs. Page Rank site to site analysis for topical relevancy/authority
– Page Rank’s power law makes it difficult to see emerging influencers around given niches/topic areas and would prefer a tool whose algorithm does not base Authority solely on Page Rank
– Ability to track emerging Influencers based on frequency/topical relevance/posting frequency/comment and/or traffic velocity to post

• Influence differentiation between authors from same site/blog: Author Tracking

• Manual exports of raw data to CSV; automated and timed exports; email alerts
– Automated graph generation would be nice too—then I don’t have to do it!

• And if we’re really talking tool wishlists then a visualization tool leveraging the comprehensive API’s of popular social utilities such as Twitter, Flickr, Digg, Google Maps etc for better data visualization would be really cool…and then there is also Goog’s Social Graph API that could turn up some really interesting data for Influencer Viz (like Facebook’s Nexus only for all of the social nets that make their data public)

And please! Add what you think you would want in a Super Tool in the comments...interested to see what people think.

Note, I've demoed/used a lot of tools in this space, and all are lacking in some capacity or other, either in feature (above is really a list of desired features with a bit on the data) or the datasets are lacking or there is a lot of indexing and analysis latency....

Also, important to note that needs are based largely on objectives. I use these tools to draw up prescriptive analysis for engagement strategies...this is different that say, someone who is in search and interested in traffic source and user journey analysis.


I know I've been on my soapbox about this...but it is seriously mind-blowing that digital agencies can call themselves as such when they apparently have no idea whats going on with the internet. Sure, they know about "those blog" things and Facebook, and they know they have to track "the conversation" in social media (but ask someone what that means and I'll bet you get a blank stare). And while these agencies are awake to the idea that they need to embrace social media, and put services and products against it...the major flaw in that thinking is treating social media as something that is merely a part of the internet...IT IS THE INTERNET. Social technologies have re-shaped what the internet is and means. The web is moving through iterations of connectivity and usefulness just has it has done previously.

Remember "Web 2.0?" that annoying epithet that Tim O'Reilly stole and coined for himself? Annoying (and so 2006) as the term might be, it does a much better job of summing up the current state of affairs than "social media." I think "social media" was a term that marketing adopted (over "Web 2.0") because "social media" is an idea they can (sort of) wrap their heads around-- but a different kind of webosphere? Too scary, to transformative-- to much work to adjust and adapt to the new web paradigm.

Ok, I may be a bit hyperbolic today (and granted, I realize there can be many deliberations and disputes over the differences between "Web 2.0" and "social media" but the terms have been used so interchangably, and for this argument I'm simply pointing out that for lexical, and therefore psychological, reasons the digital marketing industry adopted "social media" over the much bigger concept of a whole new web-- "Web 2.0") BUT digital marketing agencies are in a critical state if they continue to fail to understand what is happening with the internets.

Now, my head is about to explode so I'll simply leave you with this: :)


Nexus! Influence Imagined

If you're like me you've had Facebook app fatigue long before Scrabulous. But in my recent hunt for nifty third-party apps (not necessarily for Facebook...check out www.summize.com, a much better way to Twitter search than via Tweetscan.com) I stumbled upon (no pun intended) Nexus. Nexus is a "friend grapher" app which visualizes your personal network. Ok, so it may be only mildly interesting and just more social media navel gazing-- unless of course you use Nexus for that branded Business Page your client has that you wish you had more data on.

Well, by analyzing (note: this is strictly a visualization and it doesn't provide any actual metrics) your Fan base through Nexus, Influencer Nodes can begin to be identified. These Influencer Nodes would we be those Fans who have a high degree of connectivity (friends) and reach (networks). You can also see the relational influence of Fans, and even who is "most like you" based on profile keyword analysis.

For those working in a space (social media) where CPM, click-through rates, and other traditional digital metrics fail to provide a total picture of consumer interaction, involvement, and intimacy--you know that constantly seeking out new data and new ways of looking at that data are critical to understanding and quantifying the qualitative.

And, if nothing else, its a nifty enough tool to occupy my cognitive surplus for a few hours analyzing my personal network of influence--or lack there of :)

(note: if this post seems less "Socialized" than normal its because I originally wrote it for the iCrossing blog and needed to temper the vitriol)