Archive for July, 2008


Twitter as a platform

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Yesterday, on my own twitter network, I announced a contest for a giveaway of a Nokia internet device I’ve been reviewing (I never keep any device I receive from to review) and asked participants to tell where they thought twitter would be in two years. Andrew Finkle gave a great answer about how Twitter would become an open platform, which make sense –providing they can keep their infrastructure up. I got a chance to speak with Andrew, he’s a former software guy who’s moving into the social space, real nice guy, thanks for participating.

I was hoping to see an answer that not only involved Twitter as a platform but also a software that gets picked up by some mobile carriers and ties into GPS positioning. I hope you read the 50 other answers from folks, lots of great ideas from geo-location tagging, to definitive groups and permissions. Thanks everyone for participating.

Weekly Digest of the Social Networking Space: July 30, 2008

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I’m respecting your limited time by publishing this weekly digest on the Social Networking space, which I cover as an Industry Analyst –a good way to get in my head.

I’ve created a new category called Digest (view archives). Start with the Web Strategy Summary, then quickly scan the succinct and categorized headlines, read text for my take, and click link to dive in for more.

You can subscribe to this digest tag only, which filters only these posts tagged digest.

Web Strategy Summary
Unlike last week’s series’ of major announcements, we’re seeing brand deploy with social networks, facebook applications, and the typical deployment of social networks for just about every vertical. MyYearbook receives funding, as well as tracks high growth rates.


Best Practice: Twelve best practices for online customer communities Fantastic resource by Dion Hinchcliffe on how to best organize, prepare and manage online community projects read these 12 best practices. A must read.

Growth: My Yearbook exhibits growth and raises $13mm
Data from Hitwise indicates that MyYearbook shows fast growth among social networks, but what these graphs don’t indicate is myYearbooks’s current registered active base, which Forbes indicates it has 4.5 million unique visitors –still a long way from MySpace of Facebook.

Data: IBM’s Smart SOA to connect communities
A growing trend to connect many companies, IBM’s Smart SOA promises to connect communities such as User Groups, Developers, Architects, Business Partners, Universities.

Deployment: Swiss Re connects alumni with SelectMinds
SelectMinds will support Swiss Re in the implementation of its first alumni network using their community platform. Specifically, Swiss Re will implement SelectMinds product AlumniConnect, designed to connect former employees, or corporate alumni, with each other and the organization, learn more from Marketwatch.

Features: introNetworks enhances suite
introNetworks launches community managers new features to enhance Groups, Collaborative Resources and Targeted Messaging and Advertising capabilities highlight the latest introNetworks release, see PDF for more.

Deployment: UK’s Sky to launch community platform
British Sky Broadcasting (Sky) is working with Pluck to launch a variety of social media tools across it’s various web properties, see Sky News to see where they’re headed.

Deployment: Neutrogena launches Widget by LiveWorld
In support of it’s Beautiful For Good community, LiveWorld, often notable for it’s community platforms, is now launching a widget to extend their client’s campaign. You can view the application on Facebook. Expect other community platforms to offer widget services in the future.

Marketing: Bebo reaches to alien planets
In this latest campaign, Bebo to build a time capsule to send to a near ‘earth-like’ planet. While an interesting undertaking there will be no ROI or tremendous ROI perhaps several centuries from now. I always thought we should put our best humans forward, if that’s Bebo users, so be it!

Reputation: How your LinkedIn profile impacts your company’s brand
While true for any social network or blog, how you behave online can impact how others perceive you or your employer, follow these tips from Steve Patrizi at LinkedIn to make sure your company is seen in the right light.

Global: LinkedIn launches Spanish Version
A few months ago, Facebook launched in Spanish then many other languages, LinkedIn, also extends it’s global (and local) reach by launching a Spanish version.

Infringement: Copywriting “Branded Communities”
I see so many issues with this, Jennifer responds to a vendor who claims ownership of that term. First of all, communities can’t really be branded, secondly, this is a common term used by the industry.

Verticals: Even Zombies get their own social network
sloth like? armless? need braaaains? Everyone gets in the social network action, even the undead, see this Zombie dating and social networking site.

PR professionals that have clients in this space, should subscribe to this blog, and ensure their clients are put on this digest by sending me an email, or better yet, leave a comment.

Graded by Analysts

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Way back in the start of my career, I was a lowly UI designer for a customer facing web application –an extranet called MyExodus. Sitting with a team of engineers, my job was to help deliver a consistent, usable experience that would help our clients quickly ascertain the status of their web hosting systems.

I remember how management would scramble, hustle, and work hard to meet the demands of an Analyst Research firm that was reviewing our product –I was involved in helping to scrape together presentations, gather the right screenshots, and mockup scenarios of where we were headed on the roadmap. Tier 1 Research graded our product (along with over a dozen others) and I remember how stressful it was for us to deliver all of this, show our secret sauce, let them take a peek behind the curtains and letting management beam or scour with the results. It felt exposing, but helped us in the long run, as we knew where we stood in our marketplace, and what we had to improve on.

As I embark on this Forrester Wave Report for Community Platforms, I’m just reminded of what the experience was like.

So if you’ve ever been graded or rated great or poorly by an analyst, I just want you to know, I remember what it was like on the vendor side of the table, but I won’t let it deter me from doing an objective analysis.

Oh, if you’re wondering how we did, we scored pretty well in out category, esp in the UI rankings –I was proud and it was a bullet point on my resume. Of course, Exodus is long gone (although I tell my story here), the remnants were acquired by Cable and Wireless.

When Brands Under Fire Step into the Fracas: Exxon Joins Twitter

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Update: After speaking with public affairs at Exxon, it’s been confirmed that Janet is not an official spokesperson of Exxon. Alan of Exxon has given me his story here.


Brands joining twitter
It’s no coincidence that brands that are under public scrutiny from customers, competitors, and other social groups start to turn to the most vocal of all –right in the epicenter of dialog.

Twitter is, for better or worse, a global chat room where honest, often vitriolic opinions are shared. With the recent public anointing of online support effort, Comcast Cares in New York Times “Griping Online? Comcast Hears and Talks Back” –it’s easy to see why corporation communications, and PR professionals are ready to embrace the dialog.

Exxon joins the dialog, steps right into heat
Next to join the fray is Exxon Mobile, announced in their first weet as: “Janet, one of a few Community Evengilist at ExxonMobil Corp”. The responses are mixed, but some asking the tough questions as they react, test, and push Exxon to see how they’ll respond.

Immediately, Janet walks into a firestorm, publishing this rebuttal tweet over the Valdez spill: “@1WineDude, did you know that the Valdez spill wasn’t even one of the top 10 worst spills in history? Like the Nowruz Oil Field spill in ’80“, a few in the community responded with bitterness, read the search results.

You’ll also notice when you visit the Exxon Twitter account that Janet is directly and actively engaging with others, she @replies back at folks, responding to their queries, all a good practice.

Internal revolutions
Speaking with Josh Bernoff, or former colleagues Charlene Li and Peter Kim, we often hear about a group of employees that push the ‘corporate membrane’ sometimes without official sanctions, these folks tend to be customer-centric, and are willing to risk apologizing rather than asking for permission –an internal Groundswell.

While I don’t know which group is responsible for this effort at Exxon, (likely Corp Comm, backed by PR firm) it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the many criticisms in their industry. As soon as Janet releases her full name, I’ll be sure to add her to the growing list of Community Managers at enterprise corporations.

Twitter community should let Exxon get sea legs first
When Dell launched their blogging programs a few years ago, I proposed a moratorium of a few days to let them get up to speed before bashing them into the ground. Why? I was sympathetic after having launched our blogging program at Hitachi, most critics aren’t aware of the internal struggles that happen for months or years from customer-centric revolutionaries.

So, I encourage the community to let them get their operational feet grounded, and then prepare for the open dialog. By doing this, you’ll let them get running (internally and externally) then they are better prepared to handle questions, criticisms, and hopefully, eventually solve important issues. A good rule of thumb is to follow the Company-Customer- Pact which is printed out on my desk, which suggests rules of engagement for both parties.

Many questions remain:

  • Is Exxon ready to make these important changes beyond discussing it in public?
  • Is this Community Team backed from the top, and ready for the long haul?
  • Is Exxon prepared to tackle the tough topics in a public forum?
  • Is this a PR cover-up, or a genuine desire to tell their story?
  • Who is Janet?
  • Will this effort impact the bottom line, or change public perception?
  • People on the Move in the Social Media Industry: July 28, 2008

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    I’m starting this post series (see archives) to recognize and congratulate folks who get promoted, move, or accept new exciting positions. Please help me congratulate the following folks:

  • Drew Olanoff is now Community Manager / Evangelist, July 28th, 2008 at Strands, congrats. Learn more in his blog post announcing his change.
  • Geoff Livingston’s Livingston Communications company is now being acquired by Social Media Group’s staff increasing it to a total of 20 employees.
  • Adam Gershenbaum has left his position with Bodog Music as Social Media Coordinator and am now Marketing Communications Specialist focused on the Internet for Brother International.
  • Friend, and former colleague Peter Kim now joins Jeffrey Dachis to build a new company focused on enterprise social computing. Peter it was a pleasure to work with you, thanks for helping to recruit me!

  • How to connect with others (or get a job):
    Several people have been hired because of this blog post series, here’s how:

    Submit an announcement
    If you know folks that are moving up in the social media industry, leave a comment below, or if you’re feeling shy (it’s cool to self-nominate) send me an email.

    Seeking Social Media Professionals?
    If you’re seeking to connect with community advocates and community managers there are few resources

  • See Web Strategy Jobs powered by Job o Matic (Post a job there and be seen by these blog readers, fees pay for my hosting)
  • Connect with others in the community manager group in Facebook
  • Check out Jake McKee’s community portal for jobs
  • See Chris Heuer’s Social Media Jobs
  • SimplyHired aggregates job listings, as does Indeed
  • ForumOne Jobs for Social Media and Community
  • Teresa has a few jobs, some around community
  • New Media hire has an extensive job database
  • Social Media Headhunter
  • Social media jobs
  • Jobs in social media
  • Hiring? Leave a comment
    If you’re seeking candidates in the social media industry, many of them are within arms reach, feel free to leave a link to a job description (but not the whole job description, or I’ll delete it.

    I’m seeking folks that are related to full time hands on social media strategy and community managers, to be on this list, so let me know if you see these folks, and please submit them. Also, I probably will not include executive management changes on this list at social media companies, as the list would go on and on, but you can feel free to express yourself in the comments!

    An Overview of Facebook’s F8 Developer Community

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    Above: Over 1000 developers attending Facebook’s F8 Conference, picture above the developer showcase, photo from Brian Solis use with attribution by creative commons

    Facebook’s Developer Conference F8
    I attended Facebook’s F8 developer conference in SF last week, and met with many of the application developers on the floor, or at their booths. First of all, for those that had booths, it was expected they were demonstrating success within Facebook (who allowed them to showcase). The event itself was a real production, from food, drinks, sessions, panels, the night ended with a private conference from Thievery Corporation, a popular down tempo artist. I also recommend you read my take on what Facebook Connect means for corporate websites.


    ["Applications are the Microsites of Social Networks"-Social Media Employee]

    Opportunities for Brands
    Corporations want to reach communities and customers where they currently exist, and many realize that they are gathering in social networks. Brands have several options, but among them include using widgets (mini-applications) to reach them, there are two main ways: 1) Build their own application (or work with a developer 2) Sponsor, advertise, or latch on to existing successful ones.


    Overview of Widget and Application Developers at Facebook’s F8 Event
    I talked to as many vendors as possible, to understand what’s new, and report back to readers at corporations (who I write for)

    Slide
    Focusing on improving applications like Funwall (the top application with an estimated 1.6 million active users), Topfriends and Superpoke. In addition to deploying on Facebook, they are also on MySpace. Slide says they have a strong sales force, and goes direct to brands. Suggests that advertising on slide apps are greater than going with Facebook themselves. Why? Facebook is a utility, when most are interacting with an application.

    Example: Brands like Estee Lauder has been working with Slide to advertise across superpoke.

    Example: 10 million vitamin water ‘top friends’ drink on the first eight days. It’s not an ad, it’s an integrated part of the top friends experience. People sent them ‘virtual drinks’. Coke.

    RockYou
    Adding more applications and helping more developers to monetize. Rockyou is now more like an ad networks, although Slide and RockYou were compared as competitors in previous months, their business models appear to be diverging. They’ve an active sales force that goes to brands to sell ads across their network,. As well as working with agencies.
    Revenue model: Rockyou is doing a lot of ads and cost per install (CPI)

    Example: Tropic thunder is an application that used, Superwall, and there was a tab added for top videos that promoted the movie.

    Faceit
    Viral application developer mainly focused on Facebook (as the name suggests). Have about a dozen employees. Their current clients include apparel companies such as Adidas and consumer companies such as Pedigree and other Fortune 500 brands. Partnered on projects with RockYou, such as Supewall and Likeness. Price point for deals, Minimum for 30-50k range. They do guarantee the app is up and running, do not guarantee visitor numbers.

    Example: Adidas, they designed the app, includes education in hourse, then they do a product spec. then they make the app and manages it for an ongoing basis. Its on fan page

    Living Social
    This application let’s users review products of six major types: books, music, movies, restaurants, video games, beers. They’ve recently received 5 million in A round funding. Planning to monetize through advertising and affiliate marketing.

    Example: Recently did a campaign with Sony, and promoted a movie (that was an book adaptation) they then used cross-movie promotion on books by that author.

    iWidgets
    WMS Widget Management system for creation workflow and ad management. This website let’s website owners (non-technical) to create a widget that can be embedded on Facebook. They are opensocial compatible. How they monetize? They have an ad on each of the widgets for tiered CPC, brands can pay to remove the logo of iWidget

    Example: A brand that has interesting content on their site (that is frequetnyly update) can quickly and easily use iWidgets to reach the newsfeeds on MySpace, Facebook, iGoogle and Netvibes. Coming soon is Bebo and Hi5.

    Social Media
    Wants to reach brand, media, companies. Can help increase exposure of brands on social networking platforms, motto: “Apps are the Microsites of Social Network”.

    Example: BMW joyrides application, that lets users create and configure a car, and select friends and where they want to go. They worked with the agency to devlope, although core competency of social media is to leverage their network 95,000 installs. Also working NBC, American Gladiators

    [Context]
    Claim to fame: a Social Marketing Company. They aim to build ads, build widgets, and advise.. these are really ‘interactive ads’. Current client base includes EA, Spore, Bank of America.

    Example: Microsoft office did a campaign called ‘office poke’ that sent Microsoft branded pokes to each other with business humor. There were millions of pokes were sent. 700.000 installs and continues. Even though the campaign is over the application is downloaded and spread –over successful.

    Xobni
    While not a Faecbook developer, I was able to spend time with the founders, as an outlook plugin, that makes outlook a socially aware utility. Recently, they announced a partnership with Linkedin so their social graph is displayed on Xobni, an outlook application. How they can make money? They are evaluating the different ways to monetize such as premium models.


    Findings

    Although startups exhibit great passion…
    It’s really great meeting folks at startups, you can often see the fire in their eyes, hear the passion in their voice as they share their dreams. On the flip side, it’s also very hard when you see that they’ve commodity technology, are entering an already crowded market, or have rough marketing skills. I can see the pattern of companies that come and go, after attending so many STIRR events, startup events, and seeing the many early (seed) startups at the Techcrunch party two nights ago.

    …Most startups will fail
    Many of the early stage startups don’t make it, which is the natural selection process that we know as the market. The ones that are standing on their own (often A, B round stage, sometimes C) are mature enough to have a communications person, or hire a PR firm and eventually brief analysts. This means two things: 1) They’ve traction with their products, 2) They want to reach Fortune 5000, and are getting ready. I care the most about these later stage startups, as they are the ones that I may

    Facebook embracing successful apps, punishing others
    Mark declared in his keynote that providng a safe and successful experience for users is key, as a result, they are creating methods to filter applications that provide respectful user experiences that are non-invasive and protect users’ identiy first. Others will be penalized. Expect developers to clean up their act.

    Developers struggle telling their story to brands
    Applications/Widgets are very complicated story to tell to corporations, many corporate folks don’t “get it” and would rather rely on tried and true forms of web marketing like microsites or traditional advertising. More than one widget vendor told me they are having a hard time explaining their story to brands. There’s a lot of truth with this as when I give presentations to Forrester clients about social computing, I often have to explain what a widget is.

    Business models rapidly changing
    Unless you’re directly in the space it’s very difficult to keep track of who’s doing what, with low barriers to entry (400,000 developers currently exist) there are many entrants. As a result, this petri dish is constantly flexing and remorphing, business models, revenues streams continue to change.

    Funding fuels more innovation –but doesn’t guarantee success
    In Mark’s keynote, he said there was $200 million total of funding to developers from a variety of investors. This large influx of capital is allowing for many startups that may not have had the chance to launch products. A year from now, it will be interesting to see a string of dead applications that were once funded –but not adopted by users.

    Many Developers Pan-Platform focused
    While Facebook was the first to offer an open platform for developers, there’s been many containers that have opened up, as such, developers are seeking to widen their network by expanding to new communities.


    Related Resources

  • How Dell’s Regeneration Campaign allowed customers to build their own ads
  • What ‘Facebook Connect’ Means for Corporate Websites
  • Many Forms of Widget Monetization
  • Forrester Report: Google’s OpenSocial: Good News For Marketing Widgets But No Silver Bullet
  • Forrester Report: The Best and Worst of Social Network Marketing, 2008