Will Facebook Sell Recommendations?

Posted on April 15, 2009. Filed under: Facebook, Social Media | Tags: , , , , |

As Facebook continues to evolve it is interesting to note how much attention they have given to the development of the Fan page concept. Originally Fan pages were a very limited, cut down version of the personal page. They had much less functionality and their ability to provide a communications platform was minor.

The recent revisions of Facebook were overshadowed by the new look homepage which met a lot of resistance from users when it was first launched. With all that attention the other changes have been largely overlooked. Fan pages have become identical to the personal page. They can have all of the same content artifacts (pictures, video etc.) they can even be programmed to take other tools through the Facebook Markup Language (FBML).

The latest development which I really took notice of yesterday for the first time was the inclusion of Fan pages in the “People you might know” section. I find this interesting for two reasons, firstly Fan pages arent limited to People, so under People I might know now appear branded products. Secondly, I see this as a move toward monetization of friend recommendations by Facebook.

Here is the current recommendation list for me:

fansuggestionsOf these three, one is a business run by a friend, so that’s fair enough, one is someone I have never heard of and the other is the comedian Chris Rock. A quick google search told me Anthony Robbins is a Life Strategist – who knew? Well apparently someone in my friends circle, or at least that is my assumption. People you might know is usually based on 2nd order friendships, in other words, friends of friends, I actually use this quite a lot as it’s a good reminder of people I want to connect with and haven’t yet. The addition of Fan pages is interesting to me because Brands that have fan pages that friends have become fans of already show up in the righthand sidebar of my homepage. Now they are showing up as “recommendations” – what would a brand pay to appear in that list?

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You’re A Competitor – I’m A Fan

Posted on April 9, 2009. Filed under: Marketing, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , |

Rally Towels

Social Media has brought a lot of new opportunities to build stronger connections with customers. That’s what everyone talks about. How wonderful all this transparency is and how being able to engage with customers will only strenghten the buying relationship. While all of that might or might not be true (a lot of variables involved in that broad statement), what is certainly true is that it is now to get a greater level of transparency into companies than it was before.

Friend or Foe?

More and more companies are including things like a Twitter stream and a Facebook fan page in their marketing communications strategy and while it has always been possible for your competitors to read your sales material, now they can become fan’s too. Why would you choose to do that? What possible benefit is there to you to becoming a fan of a company that is your competitor, especially in a recession when everyone is scrambling for the dollar spend?

Actually there are several reasons to become a fan of your competitors and this is a lesson that brands can learn from watching the behavior of their latest media darlings – bloggers. One of the most common practices of bloggers is to leave comments on the posts of other bloggers, some of these other bloggers are in the same space as they are, they are in essence competitors for readers. So why leave a comment? because it includes a link back to their blog and is an open invitation for readers of that post to take a look at their blog.

Become A Fan

Apply the same philosophy to becoming a fan of your competitor and suddenly you just gained visibility to all of your competitors current fans, some of whom are probaby customers. Now you just provided them with an alternative. On facebook there is no way to control who becomes a fan of your page, unlike friending, there is no request, it is a user based choice to become a fan or not. Now of course, your fans can see who you have become a fan of and that provides your own fans with an alternative doesn’t it? Well they could have found them on their own but now you have found them for them, score one for you and your transparency. Rather than offering them an alternative provider you just proved that you are willing to show them how transparent you are, and after all isn’t that what Social Media is all about?

Image by alykat via Flickr
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5 Ways Twitter can Monetize without Ads

Posted on January 19, 2009. Filed under: Business, Observations, twitter | Tags: , , , |

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Recently there has been some discussion about Twitter monetization. Its the same conversation that has been going on for the past few months as people become more aware of Twitter. Unfortunately all the conversations seem to come back to the same suggestions, how Ads can be worked into the Twitter stream without annoying Twitter users.

What I would like to see is some new thinking, instead of simply assuming that if its online then it has to be ad based how about coming up with something better.

Here I propose 5 elements that Twitter could incorporate into a Twitter Premium Service that would allow for some monetization without having to resort to Ads at all.

  1. Bio Search. Right now this is extremely hard to achieve and for the most part is fairly hit or miss. It would be a great idea to have a keyword search for the bio section of a Twitter users page. I would definitely see both power users and commercial Twitter users paying a premium to get at this data.
  2. Extended Tweets – yes I know there are 3rd party services that will allow you to do this for free but if you could do it from within Twitter or better yet within your Twitter application through the use of an API Key which would allow TweetDeck or whatever tool you use to recognize that you are allowed to extend your tweets to says 300 characters I think people would pay for that.
  3. Priority Bandwidth – one of the biggest criticisms of Twitter since it first went live has been its flaky servers. So first they would need to fix that, but moving certain accounts to more reliable servers with greater bandwidth would certainly be a premium service that some would be willing to pay for, especially those that micro-blog from events, such as CES etc.
  4. The ability to DM non-followers. Now I know the TwitterVerse, will, for the most part hate me for even suggesting such a thing – after all it opens up Twitter to Spammers even more – but you get spam anyway. Being able to target Twitter users as a result of good search and send them directed messaging is a Marketers delight, and I am sure they would pay for it.
  5. Make the Sign Up Info available to developers of third party applications via the API. Twitter asks for very little information about you when you sign up, and what it does request it keeps to itself.  Making this type of information available to certain developers would allow those tools to become more useful and powerful and allow for better integration between Twitter and other Social Media platforms. For example you cannot currently export your Twitter followers and then import them into say Facebook to see who is also on there.

Well those are my 5 ways Twitter could monetize its Premium service, what are yours?
Image via CrunchBase

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Money Makers on Twitter

Posted on December 4, 2008. Filed under: Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion of how 3rd party companies are attempting to monetize the Twitter world.
Twitter themselves have so far avoided doing this, though rumors abound about how they might decide to charge for various parts of the service.
The first two attempts to monetize Twitter have come from Magpie and Twittads. They take two different elements that a Twitter user can control and “purchase” rights to that. The two elements are the user profile page and the actual Twitter stream.

Twittadstwitad_logo

Twittads allows you to “auction” the background of your profile page off to a bidder company. They provide you with an estimate of what you are worth and then let you set the price & duration that you will show the ad. I tried the service out for seven days. I was given an estimated value of $70. So I decided to post my profile page for the bargain price of $45 and decided on a seven day duration for the ad. Now let me be upfront here, I had no expectations of someone actually paying that much to put their company information on my profile page for seven days. I wasn’t disappointed. No one bit. Had I set the price at $10 I am sure someone might have. Certainly the front page of the site shows recent successful bids, some of which run into the hundreds of dollars, of course those particular users have thousands of followers.

I see nothing intrinsically wrong with this service. You as the Twitter user get to determine if you want to accept the bid, if its a company you have a problem representing don’t accept the bid. It is non-intrusive, its rather like having a billboard in your yard.

Magpiemagpie_logo

First let me say, I have not tried this service. Usually I am one of the first to try new Twitter tools, however, I felt that this one presented too much risk for my Twitter followers.

Basically you sell your Twitter stream on an interval basis, once every 5, 10, 20 tweets your tweet will be an ad for something. Some people had a real issue with Alltop – Guy Kawasaki’s Encylopedia of RSS feeds, where Twitter users could sign up and allow Alltop to post the latest Alltop addition through their Twitter stream. Some Twitter users lost followers, some didn’t – I lost a couple but not enough for me to be seriously concerned. However, Guy recognized the issue and changed the methodology, now users are email new Alltop topics and can add them to their Twitter stream in their own voice as they wish.

This is the problem I see with Magpie. A lack of fine detail control on the part of the Twitter user. I see nothing wrong with people wanting to make some money from a service they use on a regular basis. Blogs have had ads on them for years – though the actual amount the average blogger makes from those is debatable. So the it is not the concept, but the lack of thought that has gone into the service that I take issue with.

CrowdedInkcrowdedink_logo

The third attempt comes from CrowdedInk. This is a model that I actually think is quite fun, kitsch perhaps, but fun nonetheless. Going to the CrowdedInk website you enter your Twitter username and from that they generate a montage of all the people on Twitter that you follow. At the moment the image is only available on a mug, through Zazzle. I am sure that there will be other products available and I have no doubt these will start showing up at Tweetups, conferences and other places that geeks gather in 2009. I will run a count of how many I see at SXSW in Austin in March.crowdedink_mug

The reason I like this idea though is simply because it doesnt require you to impact your followers or anyone else on Twitter. Obviously this has little or no appeal to marketers or advertisers because it lacks immediacy and doesnt drive traffic to a website. However, the model could definitely be adapted.

Pepsi tried to get bloggers to write about their new can design by sending boxes of Pepsi to top bloggers. Now how much more impactual would it have been if those cans had shown the top blogger their Twitter crowd?

How do you prefer to see 3rd parties make money on Twitter?

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Mr Tweet: Virtual Networking Assistant?

Posted on November 26, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Social Media, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , |

This week saw another rising star in the Twitter apps, Mr. Tweet. Still in Alpha, Mr Tweet offers to scour your Twitter network and make recommendations for two different groups of people for you to follow.

  1. Influencers beyond my network
  2. Which of my followers I should be following back

This is an interesting concept, better executed than the auto-follow model used by Twollow, which was based on keywords that you specified.

Influencer?

Option one is to find “Influencers” beyond my network. A few people have already asked Mr. Tweet on Twitter what the definition is of “Influencer”, I haven’t seen a response as yet. When I examine who is recommended to me the top 5 are all the usual suspects. They are people I would expect to see in any list of top Twitter users. Under each name are the list of people that I am following that are also following the recommended user. The feature that I really like though, is the “Characteristics” information. This gives you the avg number of Tweets, and perhaps, at least for me, the reciprocity of the user, whether they follow back or at least respond to non-follows. If I am going to follow someone it is because I believe they have something informative to say, not because they made the top of a list somewhere. I also want to know how engaged they are with their followers and the Twitter community as a whole. These numbers give me a reasonable insight into that and help me make a decision about who to follow.

mr-tweet1

Follow Back

Option two gives you a list of people that are following you that you should follow back. This presents an interesting situation. The reasoning for following your followers varies from user to user. Tim Ferris, author of the 4-day work week, is famed for not following people. He explains his rational in this video, basically he only follows those people he has a connection with in real life. At the other end of the spectrum is Guy Kawasaki, who auto-follows anyone who follows him.

These two users would have wildly different results on their pages, Guy’s page would be blank, one would assume. While Tim’s page would be extensive. The difference is in the manner in which a user chooses to engage or use Twitter. Everyone has an opinion about how Twitter “should” be used. The point of Twitter is there are no rules. Twitter is different for every user.

The Review

I have been using Mr. Tweet daily for almost a week. My initial impressions are that it is a useful tool for both new and more experienced Twitter users. It has one of the ugliest UI’s I have seen, but the functionality is there. I would like to see the ability to mark recommendations as “viewed” so that they don’t maintain their position in the recommendations list.

For me what has really set Mr. Tweet apart is the use of Twitter itself. When they lost service due to a server issue, they immediately tweeted about it. They have continued to ask for feedback, and to acknowledge comments, observations and praise for the tool.

Have you used Mr. Tweet? What was your experience, did your list contain any surprises?

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Who I am I reading?

Posted on November 16, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

summer reading

Most people know who the “Rockstars” are in blogging these days. With an estimated 1 million blogs being created everyday in the US you would think that it would be very hard to get noticed or have your voice heard. Those who have been blogging a long time have already managed to differentiate themselves or have disappeared.

But what about those who are not necessarily rockstars, who aren’t the top of everyone’s list but still have a lot to offer.

Chris Brogan recently decided to give back to his followers by creating an awesome list of his “Rockstars”. In effect a blogroll, but of huge proportions. The list was “self created” in that everyone on the list (myself included) submitted their websites and were just listed.

What I wanted to provide here was my list of personal “Rockstars”, more than just a list, a reason why these are the people I look up to and read on a regular basis.

Christine Gilbert – writes at almostfearless.com Christine left her job as a manager at a Fortune 500 company to travel the world. She sold her belongings to travel the world, to write & take photographs. Some might think this an incredibly stupid thing to do, especially in the current economic climate, others yet might wonder at the bravery that it takes to undertake a journey like this. I love to keep up with Christine’s travels. A real world, Where is Waldo?

Amy Derby – writes at Write From Home Amy writes in a real world style. She is both engaging and though provoking. Her blog is ostensibly aimed at aspiring or new freelance writers, but her messages are as equally important to anyone, writer or not.

Cheryl Phillips – writes at The Daily Blonde Cheryl is part of the group referred to as “Mommybloggers”. I am always uncomfortable with terms like that, firstly because it seems to be exclusive, as though the writings of this group will only appeal to other Mommy’s. This is definitely not so with Cheryl. Her blog is about being human, about being real. Sure a lot of what she writes about is her family, but she writes in an unapologetic, real world, take it or leave it style that appeals to me.

David Lano – writes at davidlano.com I am a new reader of David’s, he started following me on Twitter a few days ago, and as I do with anyone who follows me there I go and check out their blog. I really like David’s writing style, accessible, informative and he asks good questions.

Tony McCune – writes at What I See From My Window This is not so much a blog as it is a photo project. Tony invites you to send him a picture of what you can see from your window and a few words about the scene then he posts it. Its a simple idea, which is what makes it so brilliant. I love going here everyday and seeing a new view from someone else’s window. Tony has been sent pictures from across the world and all of them from someone’s window. Go take a picture from your window and send it to Tony.

Tawny Press – writes at Innoventions Tawny & I met through LinkedIn. She has been my Social Media mentor and encouraged me to get back involved with Twitter after I had given up on it. She is “officially” a corporate educator, but her ability to educate the rest of us regarding the best practices in Social Networking is what will keep you visiting her blog. She has some wonderful How-To’s on using Twitter and associated tools. She writes these not from a mechanical perspective but from the practitioners perspective, she has used the tools, documented her use and then written the How-to, saving the rest of us hours of trial and error.

Christa M Miller – writes at Vocational Duality Christa & I met through LinkedIn when I answered a question she had posed about using Twitter. She represents that great dynamic of professional non-fiction freelance writer (Law Enforcement is her specialization), mother, wife, fiction writer. All of these influences make appearances in her blog which makes it all the more readable. She can discuss items as diversse as personal branding issues using great personal examples of googling potential collaborators, to discussing the challenge of writing with a two-year old on your lap.

David Brown – writes at neo1seo David has a really interesting idea about how to respond to your followers on Twitter. He has a video that is sent to them via an auto-response. He says he has only received on bad comment back and lots of positive ones. I guess the auto-response part is slightly less human, but I must admit I love the idea of a video introducing yourself to your follower, that part is really human.

Of course I read the Rockstars too, but these are the people I read not because I should, but because they give me a reason to at the personal level. So who do you read?

Image by ruminatrix via Flickr
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How May I Help You?

Posted on October 20, 2008. Filed under: Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , |

Following on from my post on Friday – How to Improve your Twitter gradings and why you should – if you have decided to follow those steps you are probably already seeing results, growing your network, so what is the next step?
This coming Friday, October 24th I have decided its time to put online social networking to the test. I have a growing network, followers on Twitter, readers of this blog, LinkedIn users. I am sure that you do as well.
I want to run an experiment to see if we can all do something that, in my opinion, is what Social Networking is all about. Putting connections to work. Last Wednesday was Blog Action Day, bloggers around the world took part, posting stories, comments, and observations on World Poverty. This experiment is focused a little closer to home.The basis of the experiment is, to paraphrase JFK, Ask Not What Your Network Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For Your Network.Set aside Friday, October 24th, reach out to your network first thing in the morning and ask what you can do for people in your network. Can you introduce them to someone, can you brainstorm with them, can you help them solve a problem, can you share an experience.You probably already post useful links, answer questions etc. Douglas Karr posted a useful “how-to” that can help you, by using Google Alerts with the networking site LinkedIn.

Here are some other ideas to get you started:

  • Do you know someone in need of a job, how about sending their resume out to some recruiters you know?
  • Know a web designer who could give one of your connections a free review of their website so that it creates more opportunities for them?
  • Are you an experienced blogger, can you give someone new some tips on how to create a better experience for their readers?

I am sure you will come up with more creative ideas than I can list here.

If you run your own blog repost this idea there, get your own network involved so that they too can reach out to their network and ask the same question – How May I help you? The idea of this is not just to give everyone a “warm fuzzy”. But to seriously show the power of social networking. I have no idea how far it will spread, what will be achieved.

If you are the recipient of a How May I Help You? Message, be realistic, don’t ask someone to send you a check, or get you a lunch date with Jennifer Aniston / George Clooney!  But also think about how that person might help you and then of course, return the favor, make it a circle of helping each other out, because if they have reached out to as part of their network, it follows that they might need your help as part of your network.

If you would like to join in please leave a comment here and then on Friday or over the weekend come back and let me know what you were able to help your network with.

As you are giving your time to read this, I consider you part of my network, so, How May I Help You

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