Left Image: Blake Commagere of Ohai tells of the success he’s had porting his popular apps from FaceBook to Bebo at AOL’s Mountain View campus.
Last night, I was invited to AOL’s offices in Mountain View to learn of Bebo’s Dev Nite, a public courtship to startups and developers who make web applications on social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Hi5 (Examples: Vampires, Scrabulous, Superwall). For anyone that didn’t get the association (it slipped my mind for a sec) that Bebo was acquired by AOL, they keep the branding very loosely separated –likely on purpose.
Bebo, a unique Social Network
Bebo’s community segment focuses on user sharing and media, and is somewhat in between the experiences of the wild ‘self expression’ MySpace and more refined Facebook ‘communication’ experience. They claim to have over 40 million users, and has strong traction in UK, and other English speaking countries.
Bebo Reaches for Application Developers, and sets some parameters
While there were several things announced, Bebo’s has launched a 10 point based system that rates and ranks quality applications, defined by ‘engagement’. I asked, and they define engagement as repeat visitors and time on site. Developers are rewarded in this ‘game-like’ type of scenario so the top applications (scoring 10) will have the ability for some of their applications to appear on newsfeeds of users that do not install their apps. Translation: the opportunity for viral growth.
Bebo should also reward developers that attract new members to the Bebo sites. T
Porting applications from Facebook to Bebo and beyond
he first presentation from Blake Commagere of Ohai who created some of the more popular (but useless?) applications shared his case study of how he was easily able to port over Facebook apps to Bebo. It was discussed that OpenSocial, which is coming up on it’s 1st aniv still has a ways to go, as developers still have to cater to different protocols with each social network. Learn more at the Bebo blog –which transparently admits to having some issues with the platform.
Enterprise Companies reach for Startups
Why would Sun or Microsoft care about some scrappy vampire developer? With the rapid growth of social network adoption from consumers and businesses, some (most will not) of these garage startups will have needs to fill up their data center, (or cloud) with servers, storage, software and professional services.
As a result the Sun Startup Essentials team was there, (I’ve been tracking them for years, since I was at HDS) and offered developers free hosting with their partner Joyent (learn about the developer program), as well as access to Sun hardware, open source software, professional services, and connections with VCS. Sun should create an online community for startups, or build one inside of existing social networks to further extend their cause.
Microsoft, (who was not involved with this event) recently launched BizSpark, has far to go, and must truly join the community they want to serve. In my pre briefing meeting with them a few weeks ago, I recommended they reach and join this community, much like how Scoble did in 2005-2006. I expect them to work with existing social media stars, and to aggressively reach for this space.
The Bottom Line:
The culture of each social network is unique, don’t expect applications to easily be ported and successfully run on different social networks –customization is always required.
Expect to see more applications on Facebook to also appear on Bebo and other sites, due to the catering of developers, as well as technologies such as OpenSocial.
Brands should explore relationships with these application developers who have success on more than one social network, this makes marketing more effective. Brands should first leverage existing sucess rather than build their own –this space is highly fast moving and specialized.
Bebo’s measurement index (although extremely limited in attributes) will not only encourage good behavior by those rascally developers, but also helps brands identify who they will want to work with.
Expect to see more enterprise companies catering to startups, in order to plan architectural seeds. Although most startups won’t bloom, some will turn into lush tropical forests, bringing ROI full circle.
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]
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
A few months ago, I covered Dell’s Green campaign called “Regeneration” which allowed community members to create their own art themed “green” and they were then given the opportunity to vote on which one was best. They turned over much of the marketing control to the community, while they become more of an enablement platform, rather than ‘forcing’ a message down their throat.
They’ve taken the next step by assembling some of the winning drawings and created an emebeddable flash player that shows the art work being created in time-lapse style. Yes, you can see how the engaged community of artists hand drew each of these ads. As I understand it, they are not paid, this is voluntary, in hopes of some prizes, and perhaps more importantly, recognition.
Now you should be sharing this with your creative team (see the initial case study) and start to think about how your brand can start listening to your customers –and allowing them to tell your story, rather than you always having to use a megaphone.
What could Dell do to take this to the next level? Integrate these final drawings in many different areas of the Regeneration campaigns, including TV ads, theme designed laptops and computers, and ultimately having a community created marketing department that spreads to other product lines.
Widget, Gadgets, Applications, Canvas Pages, Embeds, it goes on and one. One thing is clear, the rate of widgets continues to increase, take for example Facebook’s application platform has over 15,000, 20,000 applications in just about 9 months. Granted, many of those are slightly tweaked clones of each other, the top 100 widgets clearly has adoption.
In some cases, there are sophisticated companies developing widgets, the RockYou’s and Slides of the world can really zero in and focus, or take the garage developers such as the two Russian developers who created Scrabulouos, or lastly, the big corporations or interactive firms that are getting in on the action –often with limited success.
Yet, how do we monetize widgets? There’s only a few ways, some tied back to traditional methods, and some leaning on the new media.
Many Forms of Monetizing Widgets
Advertising/Sponsorship: CPM models sit nicely here, yet research indicates that users don’t go to social networks for finding products, CTRs are pretty damn low. Why? because people go there to socialize and self-exprsess, not find products, (that’s what Google, eBay, Craigslist is for). Banner ads count too, such as this case study with Vampires and Sony.
Interactive Marketing: Some widget developers are selling their already existing application space to large brands, who can insert this branded engagement into an existing community. Take for example Dell’s regeneration campaign case study.
Branded Entertainment: Somewhat different than advertising and interactive marketing, popular media or widgets can be put forth from funding from large companies, while we’ve yet to see this occur, Intel comes to mind: they sponsored a feature on Digg, and paid for the development, all in the context of their brand.
Cost Per Install: I personally think this is a dangerous way to monetize, although I realize the top widget networks are getting sizable revenues from selling the opportunity for other applications to piggy back off their success, and sell installations. If everyone does this, we’re going to end up with an excess of applications installed, based upon lower value. I somehow imagine successful widgets should grow naturally and organically, not sold from a mercenary application.
Acquisition: No brainer here, but folks like Scrabulous (if they weren’t shut down) could sell of their application to an interactive firm or widget network and all the community members that come with them.
eCommerce: Surprisingly, we’ve not seen any great applications spur forth with adoption in social networks, it just isn’t happening yet, expect to see an existing eCommerce site to create a successful widget by end of year, and likely a new form of social shopping to appear. Update: Rodney is watching this new type of ‘classified’ widget Radical Buy make some traction.
The market pressure to create technology products that protect or at least damage their impact to the environment continues to grow. Sustainability and green-tech campaigns are coming from nearly every tech company –esp hardware manufactures. Dell is no exception and launches this Regeneration campaign.
[Dell Leaned on an Active Artist Community In Facebook to Create, Vote, Self-Regulate what it “Means to be Green” Regeneration Campaign]
I’ve not spoken with the Dell marketing team, but it’s pretty obvious this is a campaign helps to help improve Dell products to be more eco-friendly, and of course, spur affinity torwards the brand from green leaning consumers, the ReGeneration site has more details.
Strategy Dell Computers, along with Federated Media (A social media marketing agency), and Graffiti Wall (A popular self-expression Facebook application), deployed an interactive marketing campaign that encouraged existing Graffiti artists to be involved in a contest that spurred a member created campaign resulting in affinity towards Dell. The artists were encouraged to ‘own’ the message, their creativity would spur a contest, and would continue to fuel the campaign.
Graffiti is a self-expression application in Facebook. It has popular (rated 4 out of 5 stars) Based on 242 reviews, and has 177,506 daily active users. Rather than creating a new application, this campaign took advantage of an application –and community–that already existed.
2) An art contest: What does Green mean to you?
Facebook members who used Graffiti were encouraged to join in a contest to win a 22″ environmentally friendly Dell monitor (appropriate for artists) to create art around the theme of “What does Green mean to you?” The contest lasted for one week
3) Engaged contributors spur theme
Over 7000 pieces of artwork were created and submitted to the contest. If you watch the replay of the art being created, you’ll see hidden messages (like easter eggs) from the artists as they discuss what green means to them. Many of the drawings had the Dell logo or the regeneration logo embedded in it. The Regeneration microsite promotes a few contributors.
4) Self Regulation
There were few negative pics that would detract from the campaign, as the community of existing artists will self-regulate and vote off pics that were not appropriate.
The campaign was a success, thousands of engaged members participated, created the campaign on behalf of Dell (similar to the Chevy Tahoe campaign a few years ago), and the community was rewarded. I don’t know for sure, but I’ll guess the majority of the campaign dollars were spent creating the microsite, then hiring FM, and working with Graffiti. The monitors, were likely less than a $1000 each.
What could have been better
When it comes to social media, the mentality of short lived campaigns should go away. Communities existed before a brand reaches to them and after the campaign stops. Marketers should plan for long term engagements with these people, rather than short two week spurts. There was clearly traction here and now’s the time to step on the gas and continue forward.
Secondly, the artwork created by the winners (and runner ups) should be included in future products, such as digital wallpapers, in the primary branding for Dell, and even the artists should be given an option to continue as sponsored artists. With the relationship forming, take it to the next level. Encourage artwork to be part of next generation green computers, with proceeds going to non-profits or back to the artists to continue forth.
Thirdly, the campaign was limited to Facebook, which isn’t the extent of artists on the web, as well as limited to other social networks such as Bebo or MySpace where similar communities can be found. The contest should have been created not just within the walls of a closed gardens, but also spread to the open web.
Unlike most marketing campaigns that deploy heavy ads, fake viral videos, or message bombardment, this campaign let go to gain more. Overall, this is a successful campaign as they turned the action over to the community, let them take charge, decide on the winners, all under the context of the regeneration campaign. The campaign moved the active community from Facebook closer to the branded Microsite, closer to the corporate website, migrating users in an opt-in manner that lead to hundreds of comments was clever. Well done.