A few years ago, I wrote a controversial post suggesting corporate websites were irrelevant. Why? Decisions were being made off-domain by customers and peers. Secondly, many marketers were trying to get customers to go to their corporate website versus joining where they already are, “Fish where the fish are.”
Today, I’m pleased to see that the thinking –and technology, has emerged, where we’re finding a variety of companies that are integrating social technologies right into the corporate website, bringing the trusted discussions closer to the corporate site. In fact, I’m kicking off the Gilbane CMS conference in SF as the keynote, and will be sharing this deck live on stage.
Although the highest state of nirvana (seamless integration) doesn’t yet exist, we should expect there to be very little difference between social technologies and corporate websites as content will assemble on the fly. I predict URLs won’t matter, as content will be dynamically assembled around the buyer and their context in a variety of devices. Sure, that’s far out thinking now, but that’s why we have several other stage gates that companies must first go through.
In fact, use this presentation (loosely modeled after a post of the same topic) as a roadmap for brands, web strategists, and the vendors that serve them. Feel free to use these slides with attribution.
Thanks to our head of Research, Christine Tran for her assistance.
Every few days, (or hours) you probably get a friend request of some sort, the good news is, someday, this will not be relevant.
I just got finished watching this video of Renato of “E”, a device and software platform that allows you to phsyically gesture in the real world with people you meet that you are friends. Remember palm pilot back in 2001 that let you ‘beam’ contact info to each other? Similiar to that, but now with more ‘social’ context.
Thinking forward a few years, “friending people” whether in Facebook, Plaxo, or will no longer be an activity that we’ll have to do. Intelligent websites (and their data) will be able to determine who our friends are from our behaviors, context, and preferences, without us verbally (or physically) having to indicate so.
Those ‘bacn’ messages make it painfully obvious that the ‘system’ (the web, data, and beyond) isn’t quite intelligent, as it can’t determine who our own social contacts are yet.
Like a baby, we’re teaching the ‘system’ our language, how to walk, how to coexist in our real flesh and blood world, the ‘system’ is just starting to show intelligence. One primary example of this is the use of hashtags in Twitter. We use the # sign to tag content so it’s easily to organize and find. That one # character isn’t native to our tongue (unless when you recite your grocery list and say “hashtag”) it’s another example of us speaking machine language in order to teach the system.
For example, I started a social experiment on Sunday, where I encouraged folks to tweet related music artists using the tag “#relatedmusic” you can see the database form when you search for that term –If we had enough people do this in my –and your– network we’d be able to build a reference engine that other music reccomendations services could pull from.
Saturday, I posted my thoughts about what’s next after the social web, and some interesting comments are coming in, take the time to read about it. For now, I’m tagging these posts the ‘Intelligent Web” as I don’t really think we’re there yet, we’re having to input too much to teach the machine right now.
If you can’t see where this is headed, I’ll tell you: all of what we’re doing from our clicks, queries, wall posts and tweets is teaching the ‘system’. In the long run we’re creating a massive global computer, an artificial intelligence, and someday, a thinking being.
Therefore, when the ‘system’ is more mature, we won’t have to explicitly state who we’re friends with anyone –it’ll have learned and already know.
Phrases to know:
I’ll refine these over time, but for now, here’s some early stakes in the ground.
The System: The system is the combination of all websites combined, it’s a massive data base of content, clicks, search terms, time on site, shared posts, wall posts, links, and tweets.
Teaching the System: Humans are constantly speaking in machine language, from use of hashtags in twitter, or boolean searches in Google, or even from the act of friending folks in your social network. All of these behaviors are humans teaching the system how to understand us, so it can better serve us.
The Intelligent Web: Software that is able to collect and make sense of all the data in the system and is able to deliver meaningful content back to people in context –often without us saying or gesturing that we need it.
Update: This has spun off to more discussions in Friendfeed, I think a lot of folks missed the big idea I was trying to convey here –or perhaps more likely, I didn’t communicate it well.
I’m sitting in Union Square SF on a Saturday night at Starbucks getting some additional analysis completed on the Wave report, which should be publishing in a few weeks. I can’t but help think about some trends that I’ve been hearing from multiple people.
On Friday, I had a meeting with an SVP of Yahoo, to learn about some of the redesign coming to the homepage. What’s interesting is the focus is on apps, not the incredible large social graph that they’ve been building for 10 years. They know that not everyone is going to be a social participant (our technographic data indicates this also –although participation continues to increase) and everyone won’t participate on every website.
Right after lunch I talked with Scoble, who reminded me about the looming recession. we both agreed that this will shed off non-unique startups and force innovation, and likely higher CTRs for new types of marketing and advertising.
After lunch, I stopped by University Cafe in Palo Alto for an impromptu meeting, if you sit on the sidewalk table like I did, you’re almost guaranteed to see someone from the social media or tech space walk by. Facebook is just a few blocks away and many VCs, entrepreneurs take in business meetings here. Chris Saad (pic) of the data portability group came by, and he explained in depth his vision of the personal web –how content will be delivered based on historical, relevance, and not social data.
Chris showed me the upcoming Web 3.0 conference, which I tweeted “Did Web 2.0 jump the shark?” Minutes later I received a private message from Tim O’Reilly himself, we got on the phone and he explained his intentions of the term (most of us aren’t using it in the way he first envisioned) and loosely, his vision is that the behavior of networks will populate databases in which organizations can retrieve the data and deliver content –social activity isn’t always implied.
So that’s four conversations (in one day) that were outside of my usual ‘social’ discussions I have with clients, entrepreneurs, press, and VCs. I’ve heard and read a lot of folks explain what they think is coming (I’m avoiding saying the “S” word), but I’m not going to accept that as fact, I’m going to continue to explore, talk to folks, interview people to understand what this trend entails.
What’s interesting is that most of my clients (large corporations) haven’t figured out how to fully embrace the social web –let alone think about what’s next. The only caveat being here is that the social web won’t go away, but will integrate, and soon a new type of technology will emerge to provide greater relevancy to content, people, activities and ideas.
When I first started this blog, I titled it the “Web Strategy Blog” not the “Social Media blog” as I know there will always be new technologies and new trends, there’s something else coming beyond the social web. As I learn more, I’ll continue to report back to you all, stay tuned.
The search box circumvents the address bar
After playing with Google’s Chrome browser for the last few days, I noticed the “Address” bar, which is just called a “Omnibox” (corrected from just “box” via comments) is really a search field. Anything entered into it will deliver a webpage (it first looks at your historical activities) or renders Google search results (or search of your preference, including twitter search). As a result, it’s become apparently that I no longer need to enter in URLs to my browser for 99% of all tasks.
[Chrome is a nod to the future, the address bar is really a search bar. URLs will be an anachronism]
…is what I mentioned in Twitter with a flurry of agreements back from the community. Lori MacVittie expands further on the idea and agrees that like engine parts in our car, or IP addresses, they mainly go invisible as we drive to our real world or online destinations.
What’s next: content to be found and served through context
I have an odd habit of counting how many TV advertisements don’t have a URL somewhere in it, on average, I only count 1-2 per hour, nearly all are signaling to viewers to learn more on the web. If I’m curious about a product, I can manually enter in the URL, or do a search to find the site. Given that Google has experimented with active listening to TV programs through the mic on your computer, there’s ways to serve up contextual information at any point of your TV watching experience, thinking further, when TV and the web truly marry, entering in URLs will truly be an extinct activity.
Of course, URLs will always be there, but like signs on the road, they move into the background and let you focus on what’s really important –your destination.
For me, I’m happy to say good bye to URLs and move on to more contextual ways of finding, or serving information through digital spaces, the next phase of information navigation is starting.
Love to hear your thoughts:
1) Will URLs go away?
2) At what point will URLs be an Anachronism?
3) What is needed to make this happen?
4) How will be find (or be served) information in the future?
Can you answer the above 3 questions without saying the “S” word? (semantic), try to, it’s good for ya.
I’ve been a supporter of the Company Customer Pact, which is a set of guidelines put forth by Get Satisfaction and friends on how both individual customers as well as brands should behave in this ‘social contract’. Since it’s launch (I believe Feb 08) there’s only been 250 people that have signed and put their name on the wiki. Given the sheer number of bloggers out there, or companies, either awareness has been low, or there are some reasons why individuals don’t want to participate. For example, not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, as for one, Peter Dawson explains:
From Peter Dawson:
“The Customer Company pact, is a BAD IDEA, The problems is that Companies will not adopt it as part of a strategy. Individuals will, just like the Clue Train Manifesto. How many of the f500’s are really on the clue train and adopted these principles ? The same will hold true to the CC PACT. If a bunch of Bloggers ‘like’ an Idea ( aka CC pact) and endorse it (yes the more the merrier), it does not imply (a) that they will always follow it and (b) the company that they work for will adopt them as standards.
The most crucial aspect is in Corporate /Company Ethical and Governance Missions statements. These polices must be aligned to laws and statutes. Therefore a PACT between a Customer and a Company should and ALWAYS be put under the jurisdiction of the law. Yet how many bloggers (Customers) like being under the hammer ?? The Value prop is great in Theory , but near impossible to implement.”
Peter’s right, it’s not a legal document, nor should it ever be, but instead a ‘social contract’ that would encourage best-behaviors from customers and brands. What’s in it for individual bloggers? Sure every blogger has the right to rant and complain, but doing it in way that would be condusive for companies to respond to –and actually make a difference to change their product is helpful. Now, for a blogger that simply wants to vent their frustrations out on the web (without caring if they get resolution from the brand) then Peter is right, none of this will matter.
So in summary, the Customer Company pact is a best practice “Social Contract” or perhaps even a “Guideline” that would encourage communications to improve customer and company relations for better products and services. For those that don’t want to see products or services improved via online communications –this pact won’t serve your needs.
I for one, am for it, and have it taped up on my desk at work, I keep this in mind as I talk to both the brands, as well as bloggers, and how I choose to engage with companies when I want changes fixed for product and services.
Love to hear from you, do social contracts like the Customer Company Pact have a place in the world? Or should it be more of a laissez-faire approach and let them market sort it out?
If you work at an online media company, or are a stakeholder for content on a corporate website, forward this to the decision makers and engage in an email or in person dialog.
How Media and Marketers are Missing an Opportunity
A few days ago, I embedded a slideshow of fantastic images from Beijing’s opening Olympic ceremony. An embed is code that I can easily paste into my blog post, and it will show media (such as a youtube video).
[The community will ‘scrape’ content that is valuable to them, often without attribution. Get ahead of their behaviors for your content and package it for them]
Within a few hours, a commenter informed me of the actual photography source, the Boston Globe. Essentially, someone grabbed each of the images from Boston.com and then uploaded them to DocStock.com and tagged them “public domain” with no attribution to the Boston Globe.
Essentially, The Boston Globe got ripped off, as they either paid for those photos, or sent a photographer out to capture the images. Photo ripping (or video, audio, or content on your webpages) isn’t going to go away, content on the web is distributed, and holding it close becomes more and more common.
Also, I do give Boston.com credit, the images they posted on their site shows them all on one page, unlike the annoying slideshows from other online news outlets that force you to click to see the next image. For Boston.com this has made it much easier for individuals to download photos and share without attribution, hence my call for them to get ahead of the curve.
Media and Marketers Should Provide Embeddable Content
Instead, The Boston Globe should have created the images in an embeddable media player or slide player that allows the images to quickly be shared from blogs, facebook profiles, and anywhere else those may talk about the Olympics. They should have links back to their site, give due credits, and even make a dynamic “learn more” at the end of the slideshow that they can change at will to recommend other content as it comes around. There are many widget developers that offer these services, that can also help content spread within Facebook and other social networks.
[Media Companies and Brands should Provide Content to Where Communities Currently Exist: Fish where the Fish are]
Attributes to Measuring Success must change
With the distributed web, measurement will need to change. For media companies (and marketers at corporations) hits, visits, and clicks are the most common way to measure success. This needs to go away, as these are not accurate attributes to measure as content flies around the web. Instead, they should focus on velocity (distance/time) as embeds fly and are spread to different sites.
All Content Should be Considered –although not all will be shared
Ever heard the phrase: “If you love it, let it go”? The same applies to corporate sites, who should repurpose presentations in Slideshare, and brochures and collateral in docstock, images in Flickr, and product demos in YouTube. The goal of marketing is to get the word out, so you best do it first, so you can at least have credit for brand attribution, as well as control to remove or edit it as things change. Remember, as a content provider, you should find the communities where they exist, and provide content to them: “Fish where the Fish are”
Get ahead of the curve and let your content be sharable, much of this is uncontrollable, you might as well lead this change, so you can at least track, edit, and manage how it’s dispersed.