Despite Having 300 Million Members, Facebook is Not The Largest Social Network
In my opinion, online social networks have three distinguishing features: 1) They have profiles that enable people to express their identity 2) Ability for people to connect to these profiles 3) To be successful, there’s a greater value created by a group of people sharing than as individuals who do not.
When you combine all of the email networks from Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, and the millions in Outlook at corporations all over the world –it dominates over Facebook.
Not Everyone Agrees Email and Social Networks Are The Same
I took the conversation to my own community in Twitter, and while the majority seemed to agree others respectfully suggested that “email is not a social network because:” 1) It’s private, not public, 2) Lack of profiles, and 3) Lack of discoverability of people. I’d like to quickly address why I stand by that email is the largest social network:
Social networks can be private. Just like in real life, some communities are not for the public. In fact, Facebook is a closed social network, very little of your personal information can be seen by the public. Secondly, some of the most successful social networks are deployed inside of companies, just ask folks like Telligent, Mzinga, Awareness, and Jive.
Email does indeed have profiles. Many argued that email doesn’t have a profile, yet, consumer email clients all offer profiles. For example, see Yahoo’s, Microsoft Live, (which can spur from a hotmail account) and the Google profile. We’re encouraged to put our handle, name, location, and other demographic information. The second place to look is within the signature of each email you receive, people put their name, company, title, contact information and whatever else they want to self-express. In both cases people opt-in to put that information in, and make their profile information accessible to those they want to share it with.
Email profiles are discoverable and social. Some who don’t believe email is a social network will argue that the profiles are not easy to find. A social networks will help like-minded users find each other, and some social networks even recommend others to follow. Take another look corporations that have deployed exchange server have a large directory with individual names, profiles, and groups that they belong to. You can search for titles, locations, and groups to find who in a company may have similar needs to you. What about in the consumer space? Yahoo encourages it’s mail users to ask and answer questions from each other –even if you don’t know them directly. In fact, in my Yahoo profile, there’s an area that suggests people I should connect with, one which is Shel Israel, who is certainly a friend, and Microsoft Live recommends people “like you” to connect with.
Recommendations: Approach Email and Social Tech in an Integrated Strategy
It’s too easy to focus on the shiny microblogging tools and cast incumbent technologies by the side. Savvy communicators should factor in how email and social networks fuel each other, they should:
Interlace email and social efforts. In your marketing efforts, make it easy for people to share content both on social sites and through email. Use the sharethis feature on your websites encouraging people to post content on social networks –or email to each other. In your email marketing, make it easy for people to also share the information on their social networking profiles.
Prepare for applications to be build on email platforms. Recognize that email portals are becoming social platforms, and brands will soon build or sponsor applications that interact with Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Live, and whatever comes next.
Focus on the relationships between individuals –less on the medium. The medium isn’t as important as the relationships between the people. When Twitter goes down, some shift to Friendfeed, or Facebook to communicate, people have a way to find each other regardless of the medium or channel.
I hope this triggers an interesting discussion, even if you don’t agree. Would love to hear a global perspective on mobile usage, how does that factor in?
Update: On a related note,this study indicates that email usage is being eroded away by social networking sites and instant messaging. This is the type of data that will send email providers scurrying to the product roadmap to quickly integrate into the social web as quickly as possible.
Despite a downturn in the economy, we continue to recognize those moving in the social media space. I’ve started this post series (see archives) to both track and congratulate folks who get promoted, move, or accept new exciting positions. Please help me congratulate the following folks:
Simon Collister, formerly Head of Digital at Weber Shandwick >has joined We Are Social to head up public sector and not-for-profit work as an account director at social media shop, We Are Social. @simoncollister
Passenger, what I call an ‘insight community vendor’ that fosters communities for brands that want to better understand their customers has named Michael Winner as SVP of Technology. He hails from Blink Logic as the CTO, and will spearhead product dev, QA and IT.
Congrats to Christpher Lynch, who did excellent reporting at CIO.com with a strong focus on micoblogging and other web topics. His interest in the topic has landed him at SocialText, a company that provides social and enterprise here in Palo Alto. He’ll be involved with marketing and will utilize his skills and background from mainstream media, I’ll be watching for the launch of his new blog @cglynch
MindTouch has filled it’s Community Manager/Customer Advocate Role. We are excited to have Katherine Smith (LinkedIn Profile) join from HL2. At HL2, she was Director of Marketing Strategy for Microsoft clients and created the social marketing strategy for SharePoint Social Computing.
How to connect with others (or get a job):
Several people have been hired because of this blog post series, here’s how you can too:
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. Please include a link to your announcement, and ensure you’re really living and breathing in the social media world –this is not a small aspect of your role.
Seeking Social Media Professionals?
If you’re seeking to connect with community advocates and community managers there are few resources
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, please)
Left Image: Companies can monitor and manage the discussions in their marketplace, screenshot of Jive Market Engagement
This post was collaboratively written on a wiki with my colleague R “Ray” Wang who focuses on enterprise strategies such as CRM. My focus is on customer strategy which encompasses social technologies. Together, we’re covering convergence of the emerging and incumbent technology systems, he’s cross-posted on his own blog.
Summary: Jive Offers Brand Monitoring Using Radian6 –Empowering Companies To Quickly Respond
Jive Software made an announcement that they’re now incorporating listening service Radian 6 into their community platform suite, they dub it Jive Market Engagement. This gives internal teams that manage brands, topics, or influencers to discuss, manage, and assign tasks to follow up with real world –and real-time market events. An example? A company selling headache relief medicine can quickly be alerted to conversations with mommy bloggers in the social sphere, discuss in an internal, private community powered by Jive, then decide on how to quickly take action before it escalates.
Currently, companies are doing this in a mish-mash of manual efforts using scraped together RSS feeds, Google alerts, and Twitter clients. The benefits of this partnership? Companies can now become more organized around the real-time web, develop a process to quickly respond and therefore be more reactive to customers. Yet, despite the automation upside to brand and customer management, this causes yet another disparate pool of customer data that IT departments will have to splice together –potentially giving customers a fragmented view. Companies should nod to this latest trend of social business software converging with existing company systems and develop an information strategy.
Macro market forces foster new trends in adoption and risk:
Despite this announcement, there are greater trends at play that impact both business and IT side, be aware that:
Diverse systems converging, resulting in greater speed but more complexity
The push to improve customer intimacy, move to a proactive customer experience, and convergence of Web 2.0 with enterprise class social business apps, drives new models and solutions. We’re tracking this living breathing reef and see social software, CRM, brand monitoring, email, and mobile quickly converging.
More “CRM” features being deployed, without involving the CIO Jive’s offering is really a customer relationship module in disguise, yet because of the web based offering, marketing can implement this psudo-CRM solution without involving IT. We continue to see technology adopted from business units -often at the frustration of not getting on the IT roadmap during budget tightening times.
Greater exposure to risk, as more siloed customer information fragments enterprise systems Being responsive to customers is ideal, but in the long run, it’s not truly effective if you can’t integrate it with your sales, service, or marketing systems. In the end, fragmenting customer data will result in disjointed user experiences for customers as separate departments will have disparate data for each customer.
Jeremiah (business side) and Ray (IT side) come from completely two different worlds’ speaking two different languages. Yet they both know that these new technologies are going to force IT and Marketing to quickly come together. Expect to see more joint-blog posts merging these two groups together, because customers don’t care what department you’re in –they just want their problems solved.
Ray’s Take: For the CIO
Expect a proliferation of social media monitoring solutions to emerge with a tie back to CRM, eCommerce, project based solutions, and collaboration software. Disparate sources will create fractured customer experiences. Single 360 degree view must be assembled and reassembled.
Find tools to aggregate these new channels and sources. Consider how these new social business software platfrms will integrate back into data warehouses or customer interaction histories.
Jeremiah’s Take, For the CMO
Marketers should continue to be responsive to the real-time web, but quickly develop processes that involve other customer touchpoints such as support, service, and product development into the mix
Don’t limit your responses to the corporate communication team and brand monitoring team –cascade this information quickly. While the discussions that will be had in Jive’s community platform will help to aid the customer triage problem, be sure to tie the process and data back to other customer facing teams. Remember, customers don’t care which department you are in.
Use imported social data to create topic based aggregations. Looking forward, use the data that brand monitoring companies are unearthing and turn your product pages into trusted aggregations of conversations –not just static product pitches. Learn how future webpages will be more like collections of customer conversations.
The Altimeter Group is a strategy consulting firm focused on providing companies with a pragmatic approach to emerging technologies. Note: Ray had a minor changes and links added, which I’ve updated since original post.
I hope this is one of those resources you print out pin to your desk, and share with others. This is the core theme of this blog, the balance needed for successful web endeavors in organizations.
I originally posted this diagram in 2006, then updated it in 2007, and it’s time to revisit the core structure of the goals and challenges of a Web Strategist, especially as I reset as I change roles.
Who’s a Web Strategist? In a company, they often are responsible for the long term vision of corporate web properties. At a web company where their product is on the web, they’re often the product manager or CTO. Regardless of role, the responsibilities are the same, they need to balance all three of these spheres, and make sure their efforts are in the middle of all three.
1) Community Sphere
To be successful, the Web Strategist must understand (by using a variety of techniques and tactics) what customers and prospects want. Stemming from, ethnography, analytics, brand monitoring and primary and secondary research the end result should be a web experience profile and mental model.
Specific skills needed: Ability to understand and implement research, strong understanding of user experience which would include usability, information architecture. Ability to synthesize content from a variety of real time locations such as web analytics, customer feedback from support and surveys and communities, and an ability to be empathetic to customers. Above all, this strategist should be able to predict where customers will be in coming years –not just understanding of previous or current states.
Key Recommendations for 2009-2010: Focus on brand monitoring of customers in the social space. We’ve seen an increase in consumer adoption of social technologies which has caused a shift in where customers make decisions (not just on your corporate website). This is an opportunity to quickly identify who they are, what they want (and don’t want) and understand the language they use in order to reach them.
2) Business Sphere
Yet understanding customers alone isn’t sufficient, the Web Strategist must be able to achieve measurable business objectives. This leader must be able to first identify key stakeholders within an organization, capture their needs, prioritize, and balance into a plan that meets both their needs and the community. This delicate dance requires the strategist to balance the needs of a variety of internal teams, offset daily fire drills, yet meet the needs of the company. Many Web Strategists fall short here, they meet the goals and objectives of internal stakeholders yet fail to balance the needs of the community. The end result? A website where users rarely visit, and go elsewhere to make trusted decisions.
Specific skills needed: Ability to communicate within a company, understand and prioritize emphatically the needs of multiple business stakeholders and prioritize. This leader will also need to be a mediator and must defuse the assertive business stakeholders will cool logic and business acumen, as well as ensure the web team operates in an efficient operation. Management skills are critical here: project management, human relations, communication, and the ability to define clear concise goals based on dates for content and technical teams. Lastly, the core of the role includes skills in marketing leadership, advertising, media, product management and marketing.
Key Recommendations for 2009-2010: In many cases, the recession has clamped budgets down to operations with budgets coming from campaigns and business units to innovate. Where budgets are limited, learn how to use inexpensive technologies like community software, blogging, or status update tools internally –yet have a long term plan for how they work. On the external front, provide guidelines and resources to internal teams to use social before it cascades to many areas of the company without common framework –fragmenting the customer experience and wasting business resources.
3) Technology Sphere
Lastly, the Web Strategist should be an expert in their own realm of internet technologies. They’ll need to know the capabilities and deficiencies of their current arsenal of tools as well as adopt new technologies that are ever emerging. Leaders in this space often become complacent configuring current systems and forget to plan into the immediate roadmap new technologies that widen the breadth and width of what can be done. If the Web Strategist is performing the Community sphere correctly, they are already watching how the use of customers technology adoption is changing.
Specific skills needed: Ability to understand the workings of web architecture in the internet field. While they are not technical experts they should be able to understand the impacts of these technologies to the business and community. They should also be watching for emerging technologies and devote a percentage of resources to research and development for new technologies –never falling behind. The strategist should demonstrate skills of innovation, and experiment and practice with new technologies as they emerge first hand –but by keeping a focus on long term business objectives.
Key Recommendations for 2009-2010: Web Strategists need to prepare for a new set of connected devices that are quickly emerging. While social caught most companies off guard, mobile technologies within and outside of your company will impact how information is quickly shared. Start by analyzing related applications and mobile social networks in rich mobile devices such as Blackberry, iPhone, and Palm Pre.
To be successful, the Web Strategist must balance all three of these spheres. Becoming a master in each of these spheres requires incredible dedication, so the leader must rely on their team for input, actively seek out education, attend workshops, and read books on the various subjects. Also, if this helps to shape your career, or you’re a hiring manager for this role, I hope it helped to define what to look for.
The community sometimes translates my posts, I’m thankful and am happy to highlight them here: French Serbian Italian Czech
One of the best ways to conduct research isn’t just to go to the field, but centralized the field. Last week, mobile analyst Michael Gartenberg was in town for Apple’s new video iPod announcement and there were dozens of others in town for GigaOm’s Mobilize conference, so we organized a Tweetup on Union Square in SF. The topic? The future of mobile. 30-40 folks showed up from startups, PR firms, folks from the mobile team at Microsoft and even the Financial Times.
What will you learn by watching the video? See how GeoVector is piloting new applications for Augmented Reality. You’ll hear some exploratory discussions on how augmented reality (see other YouTube videos) can appear in a variety of combinations with the physical and virtual –beyond geo caching games. You’ll hear about how custom content from Off Beat Guide is now on mobile devices like the Amazon Kindle, and some demos of the latest augmented reality applications are quickly appearing on the scene. We also got a tour of Palm Pre’s Synergize product which syncs and aggregates social graphs into one location. We also took a close look at the new video iPod which could give Cisco’s Flip Camera (which I used to create this video –which Cisco gave to me to demo)
What’s the trend? Convergence. Mobile devices are giving birth to applications that triangulate geo data, compasses, and social data and serve up unique experiences. Facebook just released a lite version of it’s site –in order to meet the needs of the mobile experience around the globe.
Last night, I played the new Beatles Rock Band edition, it’s important to note how video game entertainment has both social components and a revival of music made popular decades ago –although some musicians worry this detracts from people playing real musical instruments. Expect other genres to appear as this expands to Hip Hop with Snoop Dogg. We’ve already seen mobile versions of these games appear, so it’ll be interesting to see how mobile device that conncect to each other make these games portable, social, and who knows what.
Stay tuned, next month I’ll have a tweetup around the topic of just mobile social networks like FourSquare, Twitter, BrightKyte, and whatever comes next.
Thanks for everyone who attended our webinar today (799 registrants, 458 attendees) to discuss Altimeter’s vision on the future of business, and to tell a little about ourselves.
Yet, for us to be successful, we know that we need to be part of the larger community, so we only presented till the half of the hour and opened it right up to discussion by taking questions from the webinar, and tweets that were tagged #futurebiz. Ironically, it became a trending topic, then the twitter spammers quickly moved in to offer cialis deals.
We learned a lot. Looking inside the company, this was a great internal exercise as it forced us to really work together, define our vision, what and who we are in a public way. We also learned from the real time and live feedback: Some folks wanted more detailed content, others preferred some speakers over others, and we made the mistake of forgetting to record the conversation so only the slides are available.
The learnings never end, but now I’d like to get your opinion on where you think the future of business is headed. Take a look at the embedded slides above, and come up with your own: How must business change in the future for companies to be successful.
Love to hear from you: What’s the Future of Business?