The Future of Social Media Has Already Been Written…

Posted on April 20, 2009. Filed under: Online Interactive Marketing | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The Future of Social Media Has Already Been Written…by Charlene Li and other Forrester Social Media Industry Researchers a year ago in fact.

No its actually not that anti-climatic, but as corny as it sounds: the future is now, or at least that’s what it seems if you go back to March of 2008 and read what was presented by Charlene Li (Twitter Profile/Blog). Charlene Li is to the Social Media Industry what Felipe Korzenny is to Hispanic Marketing. Over a year ago the culmination her research at Forrester allowed her the insight to predict the Future of Social Networks one year before Facebook or MySpace could even begin to tread its waters. The relevant insight she provided a year ago is definitely shaping the current events of the last several weeks.

The two most undeniable are outlined below:

Universal Identity

  • Federation (OpenID approach)
  • A few major players will serve as major federation focal points
    • Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, Plaxo (Now a partner in MySpace’s MySpaceID Project), etc.
  • All players must realize that they can grow the market faster/better by working together
    • Data Portability Group is the beginning

Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web

‘We publicly assert that all users of the social web are entitled to certain fundamental rights, specifically:

  • Ownership of their own personal information, including:
    • their own profile data
    • the list of people they are connected to
    • the activity stream of content they create;
  • Control of whether and how such personal information is shared with others; and
  • Freedom to grant persistent access to their personal information to trusted external sites.’”

Both MySpace and Facebook are beginning to compete as the dominant provider of what will conceivably be widely used Universal Identity profiles. Most recently as part of an all out attempt to regain momentum MySpace has implemented a MyspaceID feature to allow the MySpace fans of artists or celebrities to share user profile information with other networks where that same artist also has a following. Besides providing greater functionality to MySpace’s edge in the online music community, this could restart MySpace’s stagnant web traffic. As a social utility, Facebook seemed to have this in its sights for quite some time. Facebook’s steps toward this started with Beacon in 2007, and after an onslaught of privacy complaints, Facebook re-attempted with Connect in 2008. Connect allows a user to voluntarily provide their information to websites they visit to retrieve information about their network in order to provide users with recommendations or information based upon what that user’s Facebook friend’s have purchased, written a review, etc. Previously, if you were logged into Facebook and visited an affiliate’s website, Beacon cookies would alert Facebook to automatically publish an update that a user could approve and publish as a profile update.

The difference between the two Facebook ID models is important and embodied by the Bill of Right Users of Social Web. Connect requires a user to opt-in, while Beacon did not and only after the fact did its surveillance reveal itself. Connect allows a user to define which websites can retrieve information and what ancillary profile information that website can access. The first major partnership that Facebook Connect has cemented is with Netflix.com to be able to post ratings, reviews and other information of its users through Facebook Stream (Facebook’s new Twitter-like status homepage). Another important step toward Universal ID is that the privacy that has encouraged Facebook users to share their lives on the social is now optional. Facebook now allows users to open up their profiles to the entire social network, but not search engines. Another facet of Facebook’s evolution is the voting taking place from April 16th to 23rd on the new Terms of Service (TOS) inspired by the response collected during the 30-day public comment period that Facebook implemented to address the backlash from its previously infringing TOS. If that weren’t enough Facebook’s about-face on its TOS was followed by the installation of a senior attorney from the ACLU as the new Facebook Director of Public Policy to help consider the privacy of its users as it matures.

Now this year from a SXSW-based pulpit, Charlene Li gave a more concrete picture of the functionality that will be provided by the Future of Social Networks (2009) based on her work at her independent consultancy: the Altimeter Group. However beyond the functionality provided by the future of social networks, the social media industry at large is increasingly being demanded to mature into the revenue-producing businesses that mass consumer marketers would like to tap.

TMMR

Concise Industry Coverage

My next post will explain how Facebook is currently positioned to surprise the social media skeptics with an advertising revenue model that will revolutionize social network advertising.

Note: I’m trying something new. In order to produce more digestible posts, I am separating what I would publish as part of one blog post into several smaller editions. I hope you appreciate this shorter format. I would greatly appreciate and welcome any feedback!

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Social Media Networks: How Facebook Won

Posted on March 16, 2009. Filed under: Online Interactive Marketing | Tags: , , , , |

The previous two blog posts arrived at the conclusion that on average, minorities consume online social media and utilize social networks at levels above the general population. Terra.com was presented as the most promising social media platform to address the incredible opportunity to reach out to the E-Latin@. In general online social media marketing is yet to truly take the form that will cement its place within the online marketing mix tool box. Additionally the nature of information technology development and the relentless pace of the internet destine it to never stop evolving. What follows is what will not change: the first part of the lessons that form the foundation of successful social media marketing. During the last several weeks the news about the most recent developments amongst social networks has exploded. Let’s start there.

The News Media and the Social Media Kool-Aid

When Forbes recommends CEOs should Facebook and Twitter. you begin to understand that the recent media obsession with social networks is far reaching. As an owner of: a blog that comprehensively researches and reports on topics including social networks/media, a twitter account, an open networking linkedin.com account, a Facebook account and several ning.com network profiles, you may assume I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid too. This blogger is actually waiting to see what kind of social media marketing implementation becomes the standard adopted marketing practice for a reasonably successful company before, I call in my vote. Until then, the social media evangelism that is currently enjoying overexposure in the news media has much too live up to. This is not said with any cynicism, it is meant to allude to the fact that the proper implementation of a social media marketing campaign is something few companies are actually undertaking because the test of time has not vetted the best social media marketing practices.

Yet, without getting in over their heads, most companies could start to implement social media tools internally to support a corporate culture that values transparency, collaboration and innovation. The new lines of communication provided by social media are very powerful tools that can allow a company’s top leadership to communicate directly to all levels and empower all employees to contribute through more informal means. But that’s the easy part. Successful implementation of the more valuable and impactful interactive consumer/business social media marketing is much more involved, complicated and requires a long term commitment to allow this marketing strategy to pan out. That said, the best examples of online social media are the big three social networks: MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. The story of the development of these networks provides invaluable lessons about how successful online communities can be organically facilitated. Once a few principles are elaborated through the examples provided by these three ubiquitous online networks, solid social media marketing guidelines can be extrapolated to help guide long term planning and investment into this new and powerful marketing channel.

Assessing the latest Groundswell Quantification (without Twitter)

Maybe after reviewing the numbers below, one could begin to forgive the Media’s honeymooning with online social media and networks.

The latest report from Nielsen Wire is that:

-“Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites,”

-This accounts “for almost 10% of all internet time,” and “that percentage is likely to grow as time spent on social network and blogging sites is growing MORE THAN THREE TIMES the rate of overall Internet growth.”

-Internationally, social networks now account for 1 in every 11 minutes of internet usage; interestingly the average in Brazil is 1 in every 4. (But looking into those statistics is a post in and of itself.)

-From December ‘07 to December ‘08 37.7 million new Facebook users aged 35 and above describes the demographic most responsible for the surge in social network subscriptions.

Reasons contributing to Facebook’s rapid growth:

– An organized and simple design

– Activity focus

– Privacy

– Broad appeal

– Architecture for applications, peer-to-peer activity influence, third-party developers have increased word-of-mouth and visitor engagement

NOTE: The first three reasons are critical to understanding later contentions within this post.

Those are more than enough numbers and findings; now let’s add some substance and understanding to these overwhelming statistics in order to explain the behavior depicted by recent shifts in online social network usage.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE: The Loser, The Winner & The New Contender

Online social media/networks follow their own sociological conventions that are translated from the real world. A successful online social network should emulate as best as possible within their platform these conventions. The rivalry between MySpace, Facebook and the latest contender, Twitter, have created and re-created how these human behavioral concepts manifest on these networks throughout each network’s individual development. A review of the rapidly evolving competitive landscape of online social networks provides a fascinating case-study to understand how success can be achieved within social media marketing.

MySpace: The online real estate with looming devaluation

MySpace currently faces the combination of situations that do not bode well for its future as a leading social network. Besides being eclipsed by Facebook late last year in unique visitor count, its own growth seems to have reached an apex, top executive talent has announced it is leaving and an advertising deal with Google that comprises 40% of its revenues is subject to rumors of its retraction and reduction. Last year it and its holding company News Corp. both failed to reach earnings goals and this has overshadowed that fact that it generates the most revenues of any social network. A possible silver lining to MySpace’s current situation is its aggressive plans to expand upon its MySpace Music platform.

MySpace Music is currently 5 million songs, 100 million playlists and a history of almost one billion streams strong. It plans to develop tools to make it even easier for emerging artists post their media. This move will also be extended beyond its current domestic realm into international markets. MySpace Music’s most ambitious intentions are to encroach upon the oligopolistic concert ticketing market by intending to partner with TicketMaster and LiveNation. This multi-pronged plan to fill online spaces is not without competition. $99 music videos is a relatively new service supported by an infrastructural partnership with Verzion fiber-optic internet service (FiOS). $99 intends to provide emerging musicians with a financial accessible way of producing their own music videos and sponsoring the-making-of-music-videos media on their own viewing platform. This new service plans to undertake a social media marketing strategy that will use MySpace and amongst other networks to compete with the heightened MySpace Music initiative. How these two services will share this overlapping space is uncertain, but their competition is guaranteed.

A SUMMARY OF SUCCESS: Facebook’s Community Development and Empowerment

All of this begs the question: Where did MySpace go wrong? What can explain how Facebook was able to achieve its current dominate position? My answer premised upon the main differences between the online spaces created by MySpace and Facebook.

Homepage Layout

The most obvious difference between the two is their respective homepage layout organization and the resulting allocation of advertising. MySpace lack s the simple design and organization that prioritizes its major networking functions. In comparison to Facebook, the MySpace homepage detracts from a focus upon the communal activities provided through its network. On Facebook the homepage space is dedicated to incite its members to use the latest social application or invite others to play a game that leads to more community interaction; MySpace filled that space with advertisements. MySpace has a single Microsoft windows “tool bar menu” that provides the navigation to different applications, community forums and other social networking activities.

The Benefit of Facebook’s Collegiate Roots

MySpace’s networking concept also didn’t recognize the importance of real-world social ties, geographical affinity and the corresponding significance of privacy. The conflated results of this meant MySpace had chronic issues with spammer profiles and the virtual universe it created did not develop communities as organically as Facebook’s platform. Ultimately this difference is what defined Facebook from its early beginnings. Arguably MySpace communities developed more haphazardly because Facebook had the benefit of the university microcosm to help it develop and incorporate early-on the functionality that would result in facilitating online behaviors that foment online relationships.

Understanding the “Poke” & Privacy

At Facebook’s very beginnings the clearest example of this was the “poke.” Poking is meant to indicate a causal interest in interacting with someone that you might not even know or just met but haven’t gotten to know. This simple and almost meaningless expression of interest represents the level of consideration that Facebook has given to principles that translates real-world acquaintance-type circumstances to an online social network. Poking is an important first step in breaking the online privacy barriers between two unknown people and introducing yourself to another person’s online cognizance of your existence in their virtual universe. In short all it does is prompt someone to respond to the unsaid expression: “Hi, I am also on Facebook.” It also represents the subtle act of voluntarily admitting that you went out of your way to look them up. There is no “poke” equivalent on MySpace.

Instead MySpace new introductions happen out of the blue and more overtly. Worst yet, a loss of privacy and social network legitimacy has been deteriorated by chronic spammer profiles that can find any profile on MySpace. This simply does not occur on Facebook to any remotely close degree of incidence. It could be argued that since MySpace had intended on facilitating new friendships with people they didn’t know that this critique is not fair. It is important to note however, that instead of following a model that went above and beyond make new connections, over the long term MySpace found itself following in the footsteps of Facebook instead of pursuing innovations in developing new online relationships.

Communal Affinity

The most significant difference between the two is the greater communal affinity that exists on Facebook. The early manifestation of this social media element reached its pinnacle on Facebook through the proliferation of the most obscure and comical groups/causes/online associations. These kinds of groups exist on both networks now, but they were adopted first on Facebook. This communal activity of forming nonsensical groups begins to jeer at the very act of gathering around a cause for the sake of affiliating to the same sense of “collegiate” humor. The existence of these kinds of groups represents the degree to which early Facebook adopters claimed ownership of Facebook. This is the cornerstone of the social behaviors that drove Facebook growth and network ownership from the very beginning.

The Resulting Success

These differences explain the edge that Facebook has against MySpace in facilitating greater social interaction. The result of this greater social interaction is that Facebook represents the best example of a mass consumer online community that has taken hold of its network as their own. Facebook is the most complete online repository of relationships, personas, groups and other social activity; and this personal information is highly valued property upon which this online community has already taken claim.

http://MultiMarketResearcher.com

Concentrated Analysis

COMING UP NEXT:

-Facebook Community Ownership, Monetization of Facebook, The Two Latest Changes to Facebook and long term plan.

-The Latest Contender: Twitter, The Evolution/Future of Social Media, Social Media Marketing Lessons Learned

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    Providing concentrated analysis of syndicated research on the intersection of Online Interactive Marketing, B2B Marketing/Market Trends, Brazilian Market Developments & U.S. Hispanic Consumer Marketing.

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