A review of Social Media in 2008

Social media is the use of electronic and Internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with other human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.

Social media consists of social networks (myspace, facebook, linkedin), social network aggregation (friendfeed), user generated content (youtube, flickr, wikipedia), social bookmarking (delicious, sumbleupon), social news (digg, dzone, reddit), virtual worlds (second life), online gaming (world of warcraft), livecasting (justin.tv) blogs (wordpress, blogger, many others), microblogs (twitter, pownce) …

Virtual World / Second Life hype

Second Life has 13.1 million global residents, amazing number, but did you know only 877,000 (6%) log on at least monthly (comScore says even less: 414,000). Only 4 to 7% of US firms and marketers have efforts in virtual worlds. Most locations in second life attract less than 500 weekly visitors. Why the heck everyone is so excited about this?

Social Networks

Social networks attract millions upon millions of users. Facebook surpassed MySpace in April 2008 with 115 million visits a month to become the largest Social Network in the world.

Forrester predicts U.S. spending on social networks will reach $6.9 billion by 2012. However, on a social network, don’t think of running ads, but rather ways you can join the conversation. Users in social networks are less interested in common advertising, but don’t mind brand placement, helpful games or applications, or brands who join a set of comments and provide truthful and transparent information.

I keep getting requests from clients to build social networks, but why would you want to do that? Doesn’t it sound better to leverage someone else’s users and not to reinvent the wheel? Don’t build your own social network, what’s the point? But if you’re going to build one, don’t center it around your product but rather something relevant to a particular consumer group.

Future of Social Networks

Social networks will evolve from a destination (website) into decentralized collaboration (widgets). Nowadays, all social services expose their services to third parties through an API, and websites consume a selection of elements and create what’s called a mash. Thus it does make total sense to add social elements to your business site, allow people to comment, interact, share; just don’t start your own network unless you really know what you’re doing.

Now, social networks meet e-commerce, e-commerce, meet social networks. All e-commerce sites will include social elements for users to comment or share anything using their existing social network ID and see what their friends have to say about it. People trust people, comments, reviews, rating. 43% of online shoppers say that consumer reviews have helped confirm an original purchase intention. 80%+ online shoppers trust consumer reviews and ratings. Now just imagine what these numbers would be if the comments they’re reading come from their friends or friends’ close network.

Mobile Social Networks

Social networking is already expanding to mobile, and will continue to do so in with an exponential growth. Myspace, facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube, digg, and most giants have mobile versions. Mobile devices extend the interaction to use their built-in GPS, ability to take photos and shoot video, and stay in touch 24/7. Your twitter friends now know the exact location of your tweet, your facebook friends know the exact location of the photo or video you uploaded, advertisers can create real-world ARGs (augmented/alternate reality games) that include elements such as snapping a specific picture, or scanning a bi-dimensional barcode.

Soon all media will be combined. For example, take Twitter, perhaps not media or content all the time, but could be used to extend existing channels and add/allow interactions. Imagine watching a T.V. show and getting a twitter feed that explains actions, talks about other characters not in the current scene, or even allows character communication in between episodes. The show ‘Mad men’ is already doing this by the way.

Conclusion

Let me end with a couple of inspiring quotes to remind you that trying ideas online is so inexpensive that it just doesn’t make sense not to.

“A lot of this stuff (blogs, online video, etc) you just have to try” – Michael Metz, Cisco

“Do it wrong, quickly, and then fix it” – Mike Moran, IBM


Behavioral Targeted Advertising

Imagine a world where advertising is so targeted that it is actually welcomed by the users. I know, most users don’t like any types of ads; it is understandable nowadays, since publishers try to squeeze ads anywhere and everywhere they can… there are multiple types of ads: disruptive (try to force the ad thru), user initiated (user has to show some interest), brand placement (brands in movies or games); and there is also the relevance of the ad… Targeted ads are important and effective for advertisers, but also more pleasant for the consumers. Imagine if all ads you see are products which might actually interest you and you were potentially shopping for. Furthermore, imagine if the ads are not actually just plain photos and pricing, but actually relevant information which might help you with your research and purchase. Let me tell you, we’re not far from it.

Internet publishing networks and other entities have ways of analyze browsing behavior and click-streams of every connected workstation. Every time you open a site, click through another site, search for a product or service, click on a banner or paid search keyword, … every time you do any of those things, someone is watching, logging, and analyzing. You might think it is invasion to privacy; I used to think so too. In reality, they don’t know your identity and they store all behaviors anonymously. Is it bad, awful, a crime? Not really, all they’re doing is improving your browsing experience. The fact of the matter is that if an advertiser buys an ad space, you are going to see it no matter what, but wouldn’t you like of it at least to be relevant? I would. There is no escape, so we better just accept it. To take it a step further, these entities even know to differentiate multiple people sharing a computer in a household by behavioral trends. They will know the difference of dad, mom, little sister, and little brother by the time of day and group of sites they usually visit.

Let’s take the same principle outside, to the real world. Imagine a billboard or posters with tiny cameras that analyze the people walking through. They know who looks, how much time they spend on it, and by facial recognition they even know the age, sex, and ethnicity of the viewers. Imagine if they could record all these data and use statistical information to display targeted ads to demographics by location and time.

Let’s take this last idea a step further. Imagine if these billboards and posters had the ability to store the frequency of your mobile device and capture the fact that you might be interested — this frequency is called RFID and all mobile devices emit it. Imagine if all billboards are connected into an intelligent grid, know if you’re approaching them by following your signal around, and show you direct targeted ads.

Everything I mentioned is either being done or coming. It is rather scary I might say, but none of it is captured against an identity; at least for now, though the scary part is that it could be with minimal modifications.



Votes for us at SXSW

SXSW is one of the most prestigious music, film, and interactive events. We submitted a few panels we hope you find them interesting, and if you do please support us by voting for them; it only takes a couple of minutes.

Panel 1:Emerging trends of Mobile Technology(by Rob Gonda and experts TBD)

iPhone 2.0, Android, Flash Lite 3.0, Streaming Video, Electronic Wallets, … Mobile technology is growing rapidly and becoming an intrinsic part of consumer mentality. Hear the experts discuss the role of mobile in today’s lifestyle, discuss emerging technology, and predict national and international trends.

Panel 2:Rich Internet Applications Death Match(by Rob Gonda, Adobe, Microsoft)

Entertaining and informative event where evangelists from industry top players try to defend their products in a competitive death match. Flash, Silverlight, Ajax, AIR, Gears, Curl, WPF, many familiar names, but which one is the best solution for your particular needs? This intense event will reveal the answer.

Panel 3:YourOn.TV - How to Battle Mainstream Media(by Freddie Laker, Adobe, Justin.TV, LonelyGRL inventors)
Online entertainment is changing- online broadcasting tools are allowing everyday people to produce high quality content and distribute it with tools beyond YouTube like Adobe Media Player. Learn from the creators of famous internet content, the new internet celebrities, and the makers of the tools making it possible to compete against mainstream broadcasters. Leading internet celebrities will be available to answer a wide range of questions.

Sapient submitted a total of 14 sessions, creating for the first time a huge presence on this event. I also wrote the content of the RIA+SOA and the RIA Security panels.

Feedback, comments, and suggestions more than welcome. Hope to see you there.