10 Signs You Might Be Addicted to Social Networking

December 4, 2007

– You learn about your brother’s divorce via his status update

– When you look at your friends list you have no idea who half of those people are

– You feel like you want to start poking and bitch-slapping people in real-life

– Complete strangers know more about you than your partner does

– The easiest way for your boss to contact you is by leaving a message on your super-wall

– People you hated at school are now on your best-best-friends list (anything to get that friends number up!)

– You start virtually stalking old girlfriends you haven’t seen in 10 years
.. and then get jealous when you realise they’re married ..

– Your mobile data plan blows out to $300 a month

– Your believe your friends really do include world leaders and A-list celebrities (‘It is Sylvester Stallone. Honest!’)

Anyone got any more?


Sticky, sticky. 10 Website Categories and the Glue That Binds..

November 24, 2007

I’ve been thinking about stickiness quite a lot recently. I’m not referring to that strange discolored patch on my carpet – rather, the challenge for any website: once you’ve grabbed a visitor, how do you hang on to them and keep them coming back?

Let’s have a look at some different categories of site (heads-up – I have a feeling this is going to turn into a long post as I am basically brain-dumping!). Oh, before we begin – I’m not talking about getting the traffic in the first place, just helping to keep hold of it once
you get critical momentum. The first part (just as hard) is a whole different discussion 🙂

1. Originators: In this group I’d put news sites such as the BBC, CNN, ABC and so on, along with a few of what are normally first or second sources of new stories. That would include sites like Techcrunch, Engadget and Wired. Fairly obvious why people return to these sites: there is always fresh content, normally localised or available to a specific interest group. On most of these, you can add comments or your own stories too.

2. Aggregators: Not an original source of information, but a consolidated view from the web, normally ranked or voted on in terms of popularity. For example, Digg, Slashdot, Reddit and the late Netscape. Given the massive amounts of new data available on a daily basis on the web, these sites offer an easier way to stay current with minimal effort. I’d suggest that at times a larger amount of effort goes into the comments and discussions than it does reading the linked stories!

3. Constant Virals: Sites that are able to continually drive viral and word-of-mouth ‘check this out’ buzz. Youtube is probably the pre-eminent example along with a few of the ‘me-too’ video sharing sites. B3ta used to be there, as are a couple of the flash gaming sites. A constant source of new material, who can resist watching some idiot stick his face in a fire-ants nest! The discussion boards and comments also play a big part here

4. Friend Collectors: No longer the ‘new new thing’, but still growing like mad, online social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Orkut, Thursday Club and the million other variations satisfy our need for self-promotion and gossip. Spend time investing in growing friends, filling out your profile, stalking ex-girlfriends, installing applications and updating your status and you’re hooked. Who doesn’t want to know that ‘Paul is feeling farty’?

Message boards, super-poking, wall-post and super-walls all add to the stickiness and most of these sites are very good at teasing you with update emails to prompt your return.

5. Contact Collectors: Largely similar to number 4, but I put in here some of the more ‘serious’ social networks aimed at business professionals. LinkedIn, Ecademy, Ryze, Plaxo .. again there are a multitude to choose from, although LinkedIn is probably the most popular, with its ‘Answers’ Q&A discussion forums proving particularly popular.

6. Reviews & Recommendations: Tripadvisor, CNET, Yelp, epinions and reams of other sites dedicated to helping you research product or service purchases, word-of-mouth reviews and related discussions.

Often tied directly to ..
7. Service providers: Booking a flight? Need a hotel? Hiring a car? Theatre tickets? Online food shopping? Books, CDs, Cameras .. anything eCommerce? Once you’ve done your research online (see 6) or perhaps even at the same time on the same site (e.g. Amazon) come here to make your purchase. Keen pricing, quick delivery, customer service, positive reviews, large stock, longtail serviceability, word-of-mouth marketing, affiliate programs and white-labelling all help these sites along. Let’s put the eBays, Craig’s Lists and so on in here too.

8. One-hit wonders, weirdos and one-offs: Remember ‘badgers .. badgers’? The filipino elvis looking for love? Star-wars Kid the original? The drink-o-meter? All those crappy but addictive Flash games that took up way too much of your time? With traffic that comes in waves as the next news site story and email chain runs, you may not get a lot of stickiness, but the knock-on effect or chance to grab that traffic for other purposes can be vital (esp for a startup)

9. Blogs: We all know that a tiny fraction of blogs actually generate much traffic, or have a particularly loyal readership. Take one of the most popular though – Scott Adams (Mr Dilbert). With such a large fanbase, he is guaranteed a large readership every day and can kick-off a huge discussion with nothing but a simple question. Powerful stuff!

10. Yackfests: Last, but by no means lowest in priority or stickiness comes forums, chat rooms, discussion boards and the like. My wife is currently addicted to some Indonesian fashion forum, and I would bet that the combined eyeball time for discussion boards net wide would be .. well, it would be quite large 🙂 If you have an interest, any form of interest, you will find a group of like-minded people somewhere to discuss it with. From Google groups, usenet (sshh!), Yahoo to dedicated, home-run hobbyist sites if you get some momentum you have some serious stickiness!

So, what’s the conclusion? Well if you had to pick the common element with each, it has to be discussions and comments. That won’t be a surprise to anyone, and forms one of the key tenets of what has been called ‘web 2.0’. Truth is, the discussion based aspect of the ‘net has been a constant since almost day dot and is one thing that has consistently worked in grabbing people to take part.

One downside though of traditional discussion forums has always been that if you have one, and it’s successful, it tends to suck the traffic from every other part of your site (check out http://www.pprune.org for a good example – a site for professional pilots that gave up on trying to get anyone to do anything except use the forum – which is hugely popular).

There are a number of new players such as Tangler, trying to address this by trying to create not only an embedded discussion platform but one that enables you to bring together other aspects of your site too (profile, product info, interesting links, video and so on).

Imagine there’s a thread going on and you pull up an embedded interactive product, pricing information, select some experts and related media. Think Digg labs meets Amazon, meets Second Life, meets threaded discussion, meets Twitter subscribers, meets YouTube. How cool would that be?

Hmm, well, I did say I was just brain dumping 🙂


Moving on .. Blu

November 23, 2007

Ok, enough about Facebook. I’m blocking the tubes with it, and this isn’t meant to be some sort of bizarre stalking homage to the place, so it’s time to move on.

I received an invitation yesterday (actually five invitations in a row from the same person) to join yet another social network called ‘Blu‘ from a company called Blue Freeway. This one is a little different as it’s aimed specifically at marketing professionals (of which I am not one, but I signed up anyway). The intent is to create a broad vertical of like-minded interested parties – in this instance relating to marketing – and offer them the chance to not only network, but pick up information relating to the trade. For example, information about campaigns, industry specific newsfeeds, job openings, best practice and the like.

The logical extension of this is that Blue Freeway will be able to create similar verticals off the same platform for other professional groups (IT managers, HR people, sales etc).

I like the concept, and I think the fact that Blue Freeway will be able to leverage off their existing client base in new media marketing means they can drive usage to a certain extent: why not use the portal for sharing campaign details, correspondence, pitch ideas and usage statistics for example?

What I’m less sure about is the implementation. It’s early days so you can cut them some slack, and I understand the need to get at least something out, but right now the platform offers nothing more than a basic profile page with links to your connections. There’s a nice dashboard concept, but you can only move the standard widgets around, rather than adding or modifying your own.

Still also some issues with the information architecture – far too many clicks to get basic actions like confirming connections done.

I’ve lost count of the number of sites I’ve created a profile on, only to then do nothing with it (and see plenty of examples of that at Thursday Club too, which I’m conscious of trying to address). There is a danger, therefore, that launching without any sort of stickiness or viral nature will give that effect here too.

Hopefully once they launch the campaigns and the meat of the thing there’ll be some very specific added value over LinkedIn, FB and the like.
I can see it being more perhaps of a projects home, maybe with the bonus of being able to bid out on campaigns or work in a virtual teaming environment.

Will report more as I get it.

[btw – obligatory disclaimer .. I am also a Blue Freeway shareholder]


Facebook Advertising Platform

November 22, 2007

A short while ago Facebook announced the release of their advertising platform. Given that I had written about that previously, and was in need of some fresh ideas for advertising the Thursday Club (side-project), I decided to give it a go.

Setting up a campaign is a pretty straightforward process. You select the criteria for your audience segmentation, starting with the geography (I’d love to have the option to select ‘World’, but you have to start at a particular country – although you can run multiple campaigns simultaneously in different countries). You can also select gender, age ranges and target keywords to further define your audience. I do like the fact that as you select each keyword you are shown a tally of the number of people that match your criteria. I’m sure someone could reverse engineer some interesting statistics out of that.

It doesn’t appear that the keywords currently include group membership, or much other than a persons direct interests.

You can then create some simple text copy (think basic Google adword style) and optionally upload a picture. If you have a company page, you can also choose to include related information from that. Finally, select how much you’d like to pay per click or per view (I chose ‘per-click’) and that’s pretty much it. You can set timeframes for your campaign and maximum spends per day.

I would recommend experimenting with the CPC rate you bid as you can go from zero impressions to many thousands through some very small adjustments. You can see the effects almost straight away. Current click-through rates are pretty low, but that may be a function of my test ad-copy too 🙂

Overall though I like it. The operation is pretty much identical to how I perceived it might work, bar some limitations on granularity. It would also be nice to get some clarity on exactly where these ads show up.

I’ll let you know what affect this has on traffic to my site, but as of now (24 hours after starting) there have been 5000+ ad impressions which I don’t think is too shabby.

I’ll also be experimenting with some much more targeted ads with a small number of potential viewers.

Stay tuned!


When You’re Done With Playing Nicely On Facebook

October 16, 2007

If you fancy a change from being friendly with your mates on Facebook, why not head over to Hatebook and vent some steam? Hatebook is the equivalent of an anti-Facebook. A Yang to its Ying, where you can set up enemies lists, publish nasty stories and generally be horrible to people!

drevil.jpg

There are a number of these ‘anti’ sites popping up (including the dubiously titled ‘Jihad On You‘) and even Facebook itself offers plug-ins such as Enemybook.

So, for some good fashioned hating, you know where go. Just watch out for the flood of lawsuits that seem almost bound to follow … !


Top Ten Facebook Apps

October 10, 2007

If you’re a Facebooker you can’t have helped being spammed, err, I mean invited by your friends to install some of the third-party applications that can now be built on the platform. I’ve actually disabled almost all of the ones I installed as I was getting overwhelmed with pirates and ninjas and people throwing virtual chairs at me 🙂

if you do like your FB apps though, here’s a list of the current top ten (with the developer in brackets). Apparently there are over 5000 different applications available, but only 84 of them account for over 90 percent of usage. I wonder what would happen if you tried to install all 5000?

Here’s the list. How many have you got?

1. Top Friends (Slide)
2. FunWall (Slide)
3. Super Wall (RockYou!)
4. SuperPoke! (Slide)
5. Video (Facebook)
6. X Me (RockYou!)
7. iLike
8. Movies
9. Graffiti
10. Likeness (RockYou!)
11. My Questions (Slide)
12. Quizzes
13. Mobile (Facebook)
14. Free Gifts
15. Booze Mail
16. Compare People
17. Honesty Box
18. (fluff)Friends
19. Vampires
20. Scrabulous


Facebook and Social Networking Are A Fad

October 3, 2007

Or so says Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer. To be fair to the king of the chair-throwers (alleged), Ballmer does say there is a risk that this is the case.

He may well be playing a clever game of toning down Microsoft’s interest in a rumoured stake in Facebook. Or he may just have missed the point entirely; particularly as he seems to be focussed just on the technology.

I’m with Scoble on this one. There will undoubtedly be a lot of consolidation and casualties to come from the plethora of social networks currently around. There will be cooler and more seamless technologies, new players and new cool toys to play with. What Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Thursday Club (sorry, gotta get a plug in :-)) and who knows what else provide though is a platform and a ready-made largely self-segmenting group of identifiable and targetable consumers.

Let me explain: the platform, when done right, offers an open and extensible opportunity for the originator and third-parties to build on and add interesting new twists based on existing data. Witness the Facebook API (although, as an aside, I think that whilst the viral nature of the applications built on the API is superb, they need to be cautious that people don’t get turned off by the sheer volume of ‘Zombie vs Pirate’ style requests. I’ve turned off most of the plug-ins – it was starting to feel too much like crappy cc’ed joke emails. But, I digress.)

Take that platform and add in millions of people who have voluntarily decided to add an advertising persons dream set of demographic data: age, sex, location, marital status, interests, pets, groups, fetishes, favourite bars, clubs, food. You name it and people on sites like Facebook are telling you about it. Or if not you, they sure are telling the automated algorithms that will shortly be feeding them targeted adverts and other useful information. Users on Digg might hate the adverts and a number of the tech-savvy may have ad-block or clever host files set-up so they don’t see them. But your mum? Your sister? The other sixty three and half million emo kids on MySpace? Pure gold if you can mine it.

So Mr Ballmer, it really doesn’t matter whether Microsoft could technically build another Facebook in a short time period (and that’s debatable, but we won’t get into that). It doesn’t even really matter that one particular platform loses some of its appeal, a’lah Friendster (which still goes great guns in Asia by the way). The methods might shift too. But the concept of the network will stay.

Final thought: I’ll bet there are people in Microsoft, lots of super-smart, super-switched on people in groups like Live banging their heads on the table thinking “We know how to do this, but we are missing the boat. Stop frigging around with politics, protecting positions, re-orgs and headcount manipulation and give us a few smart people, a long enough rope and some space and then see what happens.”

And, no, I don’t work at Microsoft 🙂