In a world where being able to connect with old friends, family, co-workers, and connections is now the “norm” it surprises me when we start to see backlash as we are with Facebook recently. Especially when these are FREE services. However, everyone in the Internet age has been foregoing bits and pieces of their privacy for the convenience of connecting with each other and interacting in a social way online.
The thing is that when we interact online we are always leaving a little digital signature of who we are, where we came from, what we did, etc. Part of this is an aspect of the Web in general through cookies and GPS coordinates. Another part is just by virtue of how the Web works and how analytics are tracking site behavior. While Web sites may not know who you are specifically (unless you log in), they will certainly get a good idea of what you like and deliver better content next time.
Free sites have to make money. Running Web servers, development costs, etc all costs money and no investor or venture capitalist is going to invest in a company without the potential to get their money back. So for companies like Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, (insert name of cool website with free service), they all have the same issue; how will they make money? For many, it will be in online advertising. Google does this with most of its products from Google Search to Gmail to YouTube. Facebook does it with ads and virtual gifts. Even LinkedIn does it with their online recruiting (job board), research arm, and advertisements. However, nobody really seems to care about it when it is advertising because most often it is what keeps the service free to use. Do you remember when Google first rolled out ads that were contextual to your search, or your email messages? Everyone was outraged, yet millions of people still use those services. When you go onto Amazon and you see products that are based on your behavior, your information you have shared and more. No matter what we do online, the more we want convenience of personalized information and use of free services we will have to give up a piece of our privacy. When you check-in at a restaurant using Yelp, Foursquare or Gowalla, you are sending out your location over the web. “I’m here!”
The easiest way that Facebook, and other social networks, are integrating your personal information is via their authentication tools. In Facebook?s world this is Facebook Connect. It allows you, the user, to log into another website with your Facebook credentials. In some cases, like a registration for a site, you can populate certain fields and share your activity with this new site with your Facebook friends. This is where everyone is getting their arms up air over this privacy invasion. But if you want the convenience of not having to remember dozens of usernames and passwords, using one, like what you use for Facebook becomes convenient.
The other big discussion is around Facebook?s social widgets. These are actually less intrusive as one might think. They are what we call iframes, which means the ?Like? button that they just rolled out is actually a page within a page. The Web site that the ?Like? button is on actually doesn?t get any information about that person. So for me, I have the ?Like? button on this blog post. If you see other people who ?like? this post, I get none of that data. It doesn?t go into a database of mine, or into an email to me. Zip. Nada. What makes them attractive to Web site administrators, like me, is that it provides a level of personalization that I couldn?t achieve otherwise. And because Facebook is 500M strong, the chances are of that personalization working on my Web site is pretty good. The same goes for CNN and thousands of other sites which have integrated these new features into them.
The next time you think about your privacy and where your information is being shared, or even sold, think about he conveniences you have online when you use Web sites. You are giving up your privacy every day, but you are also willing to do so. In fact, if you really want to know who else is using your personal information just look into the fine print of the following:
- Your Bank
- Your Credit Cards
- Your Loyalty Cards (Grocer, Movie Rental, Book Store)
- Google Account (Oh, how quickly we forget about them)
- Professional Association or Trade Association
You may be surprised on what you read.
Socialnomics, the economics of the social world and social media. It isn’t a fad, it is here to stay. Brands, companies, and industries have been paying attention — have you? Erik Qualman, the author of Socialnomics has updated his video that has mind-blowing stats regarding the use of social media in today’s world. It is an update of his original one that came out when he launched his book. Some of his interesting statistics include:
- If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest ahead of the United States and only behind China and India
- Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web
- 80% of companies use social media for recruitment; % of these using LinkedIn 95%
- 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations
- Kindle eBooks Outsold Paper Books on Christmas (COMMENT: I wonder how this will change next year with the iPad out)
- Successful companies in social media act more like Dale Carnegie and less like Mad Men Listening first, selling second
Here is the latest video. What do you think about the stats? Anything jump out at you?
Recently the BlackBerry device was delivered two important apps for business users to their app store, Twitter and LinkedIn. For the last year the iPhone has been the dominant device for most major app development with Android becoming a distant second. BlackBerry devices seemed to be falling by the wayside. Which strikes me as odd seeing how BlackBerry devices are very dominant in the business world and growing in the consumer phone world as well. I know the easy answer is that the touch screen and just plain sex appeal of an iPhone is better than owning a BlackBerry (myself included), but I think these two apps will start to change that thinking. The reality is that the BlackBerry codex is more complicated and thus the apps cost more to make. However, as a business user, my BlackBerry rules and I need apps for it. After I recently had my BlackBerry upgraded to the Curve 8900 I started to look at apps not only to see what they looked like and how they worked with an eye to something we might build for my organization, but also just to see what was out there. Not much existed. While there are plenty of apps, nothing was ringing the same way my friends who have iPhones would talk about their apps. Hey, if we “bump” our phones together, we can share contact information. But maybe that was the point – the BlackBerry market is just different than the iPhone market.
I know that BlackBerry is more complex to write an application for. It has a different user interface and that can’t be simple to compensate for a lack of touch screen as an input (well there is the Storm(2). But I’m hoping these two apps start a push; a push for more apps to be developed. The Twitter and LinkedIn apps are important to me because I use them for professional purposes. And while I like looking at Facebook updates on my BlackBerry, I really have ignored my professional network on LinkedIn…until now. This app is a much needed upgrade from their mobile site, allowing me to do much more to monitor or share with my professional network. This is good.
Before upgrading to the new Twitter app I was using Über Twitter. Uber Twitter was nice at the time because it did more than just going to the mobile site of Twitter.com. However, it had ads that I found annoying, even if they were minimal intrusion. Now that Twitter has an official BlackBerry app, I’ve bailed on Über Twitter. I have to try the official app. According to the BlackBerry site, Twitter for BlackBerry features include:
- Get your Direct Messages as soon as they arrive
- Reply to tweets, re-tweet and send Direct Messages
- Post a link from your BlackBerry® Browser
- Take a funny picture and upload it
After a few days of use, I like the interface. I find the integration into my inbox for notifications useful. One of the downsides right now is that you can’t integrate multiple Twitter accounts or access them without logging out. The latter is something I like about Über Twitter. Also, you can’t edit a re-tweet in the official BlackBerry app. I will live with these two cons for the additional pros of accessing trending topics and overall Twitter search. Right now I have to find a balance between monitoring my Twitter accounts when I’m at my desk vs. on the go. Desktop monitoring is done via TweetDeck, which doesn’t have a BlackBerry app yet. The jury is still completely out on the official app, but it is a good first step.
LinkedIn is a different beast in and of itself. Similar to Facebook, but also not. LinkedIn is really the defacto profession network. While specialty networks will still arise, like MH Connected for lawyers, LinkedIn really addresses the business world as a whole, no matter what industry you are in.
Again, according to the LinkedIn blog, the app features:
- Network Updates. View and share crucial business intelligence and updates with your network. Perfect for those spare moments between meetings.
- Search. Search across over 60 million global professionals, and get the answer back in seconds. We’ve implemented a unified search across both your direct connections and the entire LinkedIn network.
- Connections. LinkedIn is your address book in the cloud. Get quick access to any of your connections to get their up-to-date profile information, and the ability to send them a message immediately.
- Invitations. Why wait to get back to your desk? Accept outstanding invitations immediately.
- Messages. Messaging is one of the reasons that BlackBerry owners love their devices, and we’ve worked hard to integrate your LinkedIn Inbox.
- Reconnect. You can’t leverage your network if you don’t build it. This module brings suggestions for new connections to you anytime. Now you can build your network from anywhere, in seconds.
These are great features that I have started to use. It reminds me a lot of the Facebook for BlackBerry app, but better.
Taking Advantage of the Platform
According to the announcement blog post, the LinkedIn app also takes advantage of several native BlackBerry applications. These include:
- Contacts. Integrate your LinkedIn connections with your BlackBerry address book, and view the profile of any contact directly on your BlackBerry.
- Messages. LinkedIn invitations and messages will now appear in your BlackBerry Inbox, just like any other email. You can also view the LinkedIn profile of the sender of any email you receive.
- Calendar. You can now view the LinkedIn profile of any attendee of a meeting on your BlackBerry calendar.
I can’t stress the importance of integration with the native features of BlackBerry OS. If you are going to use these third party networks, integration is key and this is one of the great aspects of the LinkedIn app. Going from the mobile site which was really basic and clunky to this app is like going from a pinto to a corvette. Nice job.
Overall the BlackBerry market needs to get a kick-start. Mobile professionals, while migrating to the iPhone and probably the Droid phones now too need apps for the BlackBerry. I’ll be frank in saying the pure interface of a BlackBerry is one of its biggest challenges. Whether it is the roller ball, the touch pad, or even the touch screen in the Storm(2), developing for the BlackBerry can’t be as easy as the Android and Apple devices. But here is to hoping. Hoping that more business applications come out that support good business use on the BlackBerry device.
In social networking one of the first things we think about with LinkedIn and Facebook are the relationships we have and make. We have Connections and Friends. Through our contacts we acknowledge through a virtual “handshake” that we can have a symetrical relationship. We grow our “friends” or “connections” sometimes through widgets of “Who you may know” or through referrals.
With Twitter, we “follow” other Twitterers. You don’t have to acknowledge, agree, or allow someone to follow you. They just can. You can follow more people than follow you, and vice versa. This asymetrical relationship with your followers introduces a different type of relationship than Facebook or LinkedIn. The only exception is if you have a closed Twitter account, you have to allow certain people to follow you, which in essence is a form of a symetrical relationship.
After reading Relationship Symmetry in Social Networks: Why Facebook will go Fully Asymmetric by Joshua Porter, it got me thinking about his theory of these two types of relationships. While Porter states that Facebook will take on a Twitter model because of the different style of relationship it allows you to have, asymetrical and thus a larger “network” than a mutual agreed upon one, I believe social networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn should adopt a hybrid approach.
While Porter articulates the four types of relationships that Twitter allows highlighted by a post by Andrew Chen, there is something that is truly to be said about having a formal knowledge of who is attempting to claim a relationship with you.
The four relationships of Twitter are:
- People who follow you, but you don’t follow back
- People who don’t follow you, but you follow them
- You both follow each other (Friends!)
- Neither of you follow each other
“Following” not that different than RSS Subscribers if you think about it. A blogger writes posts, and one or many people subscribe to an RSS feed, or read that blogger on a regular basis. Twitter takes the writing to a micro-level, but the “relationship” is the same.
Ah, and you thought you were going to see a post of genius did you? Well, not yet. That’s the topic of a presenation I’m giving on Thursday to a group of State Bar communications staff. I have a few things in mind, but what are your thoughts? Still room to tweak my presentation. Add your top 5 in the comments. After the presentation I’ll be posting the slides and notes.
Today’s Wall Street Journal called One Key Fits All tells a tale of something that has been on my mind a lot lately. In the world where websites are requiring users to create accounts to participate from commenting on blogs to reading archives of a newspaper website, user accounts are inevitable. However, from a usability perspective, it is a pain in the rear to remember all the different variations of user names, passwords, email addresses, etc. for all of these websites you may participate in. The concept of OpenID enters the picture as a potential solution to this problem. Ideally it would be the one-stop-shop of user account management.
For those not familiar with OpenID, it is:
…a shared identity service, which allows Internet users to log on to many different web sites using a single digital identity, single sign-on,
eliminating the need for a different user name and password for each
site. OpenID is a decentralized, free and open standard that lets users
control the amount of personal information they provide. (Source: WikiPedia)
Where OpenID gets interesting is when you think about taking it beyond social websites and think of it with larger corporations. It is one thing for Yahoo!, Microsoft, or Google to accept an OpenID protocol, but entirely another with your bank, utilities, and investment websites start to accept it. Think about all the different online accounts you manage, how many of them can you manage with the same login and password. I “try” to use the same information for most of my sites, however, it doesn’t work that way always. Can it be more convenient? Yes.
However, it has several impacts beyond just logging in. Security, fraud issues, and framework maturity are still outstanding for other major corporations ot adopt it. But think about a level of websites beyond blogs, but not quite your financial institutions. Can associations adopt this and make it work? Of course! Can media websites adopt this an make it work? Of course! Currently over 22,000 websites accept OpenID (including this blog) as a form of identification. It is projected that this number of sites will reach close to 50,000 by the end of this year. So if you have a login/register process for your website, why aren’t you looking at something that will make it easier for users to manage their account with your site? Take a look at offering OpenID as an alternative to your current login procedures.
Last year you may remember me writing about a project I worked on redesigning and launching a new website for our flagship periodical, ABA Journal. It was just announced that the ABA Journal website has become a finalist in the Law category of the People’s Voice section of the Webby Awards (an online award for websites). So spend a little time, vote for the ABA Journal and help us win a Webby! Winners are announced on May 6th.
Day one had a great line up of speakers and content. Day two looks like it will be no different.
Here is my Twitter Stream which I will be updating during the day. I’ll then recap later.
LIVE! From Forrester Consumer Forum
Online Community Sites of Note:
I’m at the Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago today and tomorrow. I’ll be writing my thoughts and observations on the content from the conference here.
So far there have been some great speakers. The theme of the conference is around the online world, social integration, advertising, and how your company can understand and take advantage of this medium. The format of the Forum is pretty cool. Short presentation on targeted topics, then a “coffee talk” type Q&A with the speaker (literally two chairs with an end-table on a stage w/ two large video screens on each side). The dialog is great and personal to those in the audience.
Kicking off the conference was Forrester Vice President and senior analyst Charlene Li. Charlene does a lot of her research around the social technographics. Who is using the social tools, how, and to what level of participation.
Christie Hefner from Playboy had a great keynote on how Playboy has truly been able to leverage the Playboy brand in ways that most companies would drool over. It is amazing how they have been able to integrate new solutions successfully from Print, to TV, to Online, and now Mobile. They have brought the brand beyond the print publication(s) to the real world, and now virtual world with an entry into Second Life. They also have been able to leverage a key demographic and target market by launching PlayboyU, a social space for college students with an .edu email address.
Richard Edelman, president and ceo of Edelmen PRgave one of the most forward thinking perspectives when it comes to PR/MR. It resonates with a lot of what I’ve been thinking about when it comes to control of messages, brands, and the interaction with your consumers (and in my work, members and consumers). One of the biggest take-aways was the reality of how the traditional media triangle works. It used (and in many corporations still is) to be that a few influencers controlled the conversation and distributed it to the masses. It has touch points of how it got distributed and they all came back to the same message. The internet, and social media such as blogs, ratings, reviews, etc. changes that model. Today if someone wants to have information about some topic, the influencers are now bloggers, customers, like-minded individuals who publish online. Companies have to realize that there is a limited amount of influential control they have left. Now, the mass audience make up their own minds–right, wrong, or in-different.
I also got to attend one of track sessions. It was about how User Generated Content, or UGC, can have a place in corporate strategies. The panel included representatives from Dell, QVC, and Baazarvoice. Each explained how they have taken UGC and integrated it into their company strategies. From Dell’s IdeaStorm, a customer feedback site that allows users to rate feedback for popularity, to how QVC uses real-time feedback to inject into their programming. UGC is a tough cookie to crack and how to use it. Let alone if it really does. Many of us have wondered how to make it work. We are fearful of the backlash and if execs can even swallow the fact that they are not in control of what goes on. But that’s OK. Rather, we need to find ways that work for us. For example, customer reviews. Having all positive customer reviews on a product page in reality is just product testimonials. You need negative reviews to show authenticity. Companies have to understand how UGC works, it is written by passionate individuals (for good or bad) and it is often intended to help like minded individuals (though companies can listen and learn from them). Monetizing on this type of feedback and content is still a challenge, but models are being formed and success is in the results–more products shipped and more revenue generated.
I’ll be updating this more with my notes and perceptions. This is just the beginning so I can pay attention to the presentations and blogging at the same time.
Forrester Marketing Blog
This article originally was published in the May 2007 issue of LLRX.
You have worked for a large firm for many years and you have made the decision to either go solo or start a small firm. You were used to having access to all your information via an Intranet, file server, and your desktop. You could practice law and let the IT department worry about when the printer jammed or if you got a virus. Now that you are solo, you are the one that has to deal with all those problems as well as practice law.