Plaxo Reaches Out

Posted on October 24, 2008. Filed under: Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , |



Plaxo taking the Pulse


I recently got the chance to talk with John McCrea, VP Marketing at Plaxo. This came about as the result of a series of Twitter exchanges. John was obviously watching the Twitter stream and saw my exchanges with another Twitter user regarding Plaxo. He then reached out to join in the discussion, a good example of using a tool like Twitter to develop relationships with users.

John was kind enough to indulge me in discussing some of the ideas I had about how Plaxo & Plaxo Pulse might be improved.

Prior to calling John I had discussed with some fellow Twitter / Plaxo users what their thoughts were, including Robert Scoble at an Austin Tweet up.

The conversation was obviously on the minds of others as the next day CIO published an article, the theme of which was Plaxo is neither Facebook nor LinkedIn so what use is it. The conversation that had occurred between the other users and I was almost the same, except the conclusion was different. Plaxo isn’t Facebook, nor is it LinkedIn, which is perfect because neither are Plaxo’s users so easily defined. They aren’t all on Facebook, they aren’t all on LinkedIn, nor are the people they want to share with.

I use all three. My family is on Facebook, my friends are on Facebook, some of my customers and business partners are on Facebook. My other business associates and some of my friends are on LinkedIn. Plaxo gives me a space where I can keep all their contact information and update them I can select which category I want someone to be in.

Where Plaxo goes beyond the features of LinkedIn is its integration with Outlook. This is something that you have to download as a toolbar for outlook, but in doing so it pulls the data from your Plaxo account into your Outlook contact book, it can also do the same for calendar and tasks.

Putting a face to the name

The first thing that you notice after doing this is that all your contacts now have pictures. Plaxo pushes the profile picture to your contact page. When you email a person from your contact book who is also a Plaxo user, their image shows up in the email – nice to humanize email. For contacts who are not fellow Plaxo users an “invite to Plaxo” button shows up – right now that launches a browser and takes you to the invite page in Plaxo. I’d prefer it to just send an email for me.

Plaxo could take this integration with other platforms to the next level and show you where else your contacts are – do you both use Facebook and didn’t know it, do you both use LinkedIn but aren’t connected, what other tools are they using and could you be using those as well? Then present that in a way that makes it easy for to review, on the contacts page, and perhaps in a “cloud” presentation on my homepage. Integrate that data into the contact book in Outlook.

Plaxo: Where might it go?

One advantage that Plaxo has over Facebook and LinkedIn is its ownership by Comcast. This gives them the ability to leverage media, particularly TV in a way that the others cannot. Plaxo Pulse rolled out Fan Pages recently, Facebook has those too, but the difference is that because of the Comcast connection the Pulse Fan page is a link to the real show, it’s not just a fan group. Becoming a Fan of a particular show gives you the ability to not only to declare your interest in the show but to watch full episodes online.

The extrapolation of this is to move the service to the set top box and allow shows to receive “thumbs up”, users get to see what is hot and program the DVR accordingly. I love the idea of being able to know what my family & friends are watching on TV, getting the instant version of the Monday morning watercooler chat. I see this having huge implications for companies like Neilsen ratings.

Where Plaxo is planning to take this really enters the realms of Web 3.0 – the integrated Web. John gave a great example. A user wants to share photos online with family members. Their parents are divided in their use of the computer. Mom happens to use one at work and home, and so can see the pictures posted online. Dad however, doesn’t use the computer at all. No problem, Plaxo pushes the images to the set top box and notifies him the next time he turns on the TV. He then gets to see the pictures on the TV without ever going near a computer or smartphone. That’s a great use of the “Social” in Social Networking.





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