John Ason, one of our investors at SocialFeet, forwarded me this interesting link about the presentation that spawned Google+. In the post, Paul Adams explains the problem of how facebook’s social graph works. On Facebook, you have one pooled set of friends, regardless of what your relationship is with each person (shown on the left). In real life, you have separate circles of friends based on common interests, geography or life stage. Here’s the graphical depiction of it:
A lot of the innovative “circles” for groups on Google+ stem from this concept. Based on interest, geography and life stage, you have different circles of friends that you want to exchange different information with. Fair enough.
But embedded into Google+ is the notion that you want to have all of these circles on a single platform. But if this diagram is to be believed, each of these circles has little or no overlap. So what’s the benefit of merging your online lives?
In contrast, there are lots of costs associated with a single platform. Complex privacy. Harder to innovate in each specialized social network space. Greater exposure to the risk of privacy violations. In other words, I think that the very analysis done to spark Google+ has the data to show that multiple platforms will serve people better than one unified platform.
[Hat tip to Rebecca Tadikonda for the inspiration for the title of this post.]
Facebook has relaunched it’s homepage, and I think that it is a step backwards. Admirably, they’ve opened up their newsfeed and now it acts like a waterfall, displaying the most recent updates from your friends. But this design decision fails in a few critical ways.
1) twitter folks now DOMINATE the feed, since they are hyperactively engaged! I can only imagine how unfriendly the new streams and streams of #’s and @’s are to tens of millions of regular FB users.
2) It diminishes rather than highlights the great content like photos and videos that people post directly to Facebook
3) The featured column is really broken. It is highly promotional, and there is no way to get stuff to disappear on it.
There are a few good parts to the new format, including interesting ways to interact with the content in the featured column. But I hope that Facebook is listening to its users, because I have to think that this launch is largely a step backwards for them. (Someone on twitter responded that this mistake marks the beginning of the end for Facebook. I think it is merely a step backwards and not a complete failure. We’ll see.)
One twitter is enough! (And for many people, even one twitter is too much.)
At StephanieBamBam.net, I learned that Skittles.com has revamped their web site to be a weird social media experiment. Essentially, they are scouring the internet (in particular, twitter and wikipedia) for any mentions of ‘skittles’ and putting them, without any editing, right on their homepage. Indeed, when I clicked “chatter” on the site, one of the top tweets displayed was “Unicorns fart skittles.”
But the key thing is whether it sells more candy or not. As she says:
In the long run, is this going to make me buy more candy? Absolutely not. But I will be pointing to this as an example of UGC [user-generated content] gone bad for years to come. So for that, thanks Skittles!!
And she is quite negative about the experiment!
I, however, have a different take on the site. Although posters may be interested in seeing their tweets go on skittles.com, their messages are carried to their followers too. These messages far outweigh the exposure on skittles.com, and they are matched to their audience. I know that some of my readers, like Eric say, will *love* the title of this post. It will not reflect badly on skittles at all! And any negative connotation of “unicorns fart skittles” that one sees on skittles.com must be taken with a grain of salt.
I would be interested in seeing if the campaign has any impact on sales or not, because I am bit more bullish about the impact than Stephanie is.
Anyone for a rainbow of fruit flavors?
3. et cetera
I had a meeting this morning with Ed Baker, CEO of Demigo, and viral expert par excellence. He made an important observation: your viral factor is a sum over all your distribution channels. Why is this observation so important?
First, adding channels is basically a linear cost. There is a certain overhead to learning how to use Facebook Connect. Within Facebook, there are certain costs for figuring out how to integrate with each of the internal channels they provide (e.g., newsfeed, profile, notification, invites, etc.). Individually, these channels boost your marketing potential but perhaps not enough individually to achieve viral lift off. And after facebook, you can also add channels by distributing on other networks like open social, twitter, AIM, etc.
Second, when the sum of these channels creates a viral factor greater than 1.0, you will grow *exponentially*. When you have this happy occurrence, you will reach millions of people in a matter of weeks or less. So, his recommendation for SocialFeet.com is to keep at it. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t viral on the first go around. Prioritize and optimize viral channels. Keep working on it, because those linear costs may in the end create an engine for repeatable viral growth.
Linear costs, exponential revenues. That sounds like the kinda business I want a piece of! :)
I was at lunch with Scott Orn, a VC at Lighthouse Capital Partners, and he encouraged me to pursue this idea as a blog post.
Increasingly, A-list celebrities like Shaquille O’Neill and Demi Moore are actively updating their fans through twitter. In Demi Moore’s case, she has nearly 50,000 people following her! Even Congress is getting into the act, as 20 Senators and 50 Representatives have started twitter accounts. A friend from college has launched yardbarker.com, an amazing site that has gotten hundreds of professional athletes to blog on a regular basis and has the inside scoop on sports in general.
Why are so many celebrities and public figures “wasting” their time on social networks? Disintermediation. Now, they can offer tidbits directly to their fans bypassing the gossip rags and traditional media. By offering the personal tidbits of their own choosing, they can simultaneously help satiate their fans while controlling the spin about their lives.
Is this disintermediation a good thing? My brother-in-law, Sam, is a sport reporter, and he was bemoaning the fact that Tiger Woods issues press releases directly to his fans through his web site but does not do press conferences. Sam worried that ultimately fans were getting a disservice because they lost the chance of indepth, knowledgeable follow up questions on potentially sensitive subjects. His concern translates into a more alarming question when we turn to politics. Can we really imagine a “Watergate moment” by a blogger?
At the present time, I think the disintermediation trend is very real. We are losing our traditional “fourth estate” in the process, and hopefully entrepreneurs will create new institutions that are native to the new media to speak truth to power.
1. technology, 2. politics, 3. et cetera