Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Anderson's "FREE" & Social Media

Chris Anderson is right. Again. The Long Tail author is publishing another seminal tome on the theory that costs are dramatically reduced given the efficiencies of the websphere, promulgating a whole new economy of "free". From Wired in February:
Once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.
Another example: Social Media integration. A year ago this month, Facebook launched its API platform, allowing third-party developers to create applications that can easily be integrated into existing tools and features of the Facebook community. This opportunity has spawned over 26 thousand applications, generating over 1 billion downloads by Facebook users. It is free to use. However, the API is a "walled garden", providing no interoperability with other social media networks, creating a cost to the developer (e.g. their time).

This idea of providing an API to enable interoperability between your website / web service and others is taking off. Even the New York Times is jumping on the band wagon - they are working on an API to allow developers to import NYT content into new and yet-to-be-thought-of applications for disseminating content.

Earlier this year Google launched its Open Social product, with MySpace, LinkedIn and most others (except Facebook) on board. Their intent is to provide the infrastructure to allow developers to code their applications once, and then provide the tools and resources necessary to support the interoperability among the various social networks, websites, etc., current and future.

Facebook had attempted to license (i.e. charge) other social networks to take advantage of their platform. Bebo bit, licensing the platform last December. However, given Google's move, Facebook has been forced to go a step further, "open sourcing" their platform for anyone to use. Thus, like Google's Open Social, use of Facebook's API platform is now free for other social networks to integrate. The only cost is their time.

Facebook's obvious expectation is that other social networks will take the time to integrate, therefore offering Facebook's growing developer community more value for time spent developing within the their API platform.

The efficiencies of the internet continue to shrink even non-monetary costs (in this case, a developer's time). Interesting times...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Beyond Blogs

In an effort to keep up on what is going on in the social media space, I read. Lots sometimes, less others. There are a couple articles I found interesting recently.

First, this one by Heather Green and Stephen Baker. The key point I take from it is that social media has crossed over to the mainstream. Though only a quarter of the US online population reads blogs once a month or more, the continued proliferation of tools and services to connect are dominating attention and dramatically evolving online behavior.
While only a small slice of the population wants to blog, a far larger swath of humanity is eager to make friends and contacts, to exchange pictures and music, to share activities and ideas.
And this shift in online behavior is overflowing into the off-line. I am a neophyte within this space, as compared to my younger colleagues, and yet even I do not walk in to a meeting without first looking attendees up on LinkedIn and/or Facebook. It is a rare event where the guest list isn't published online beforehand. I have been in a bank a handful of times, only to cash the random check that was not direct deposited. And, I have not bough a newspaper in years.

This article by Jackie Peters, further summarizes the impact of these behavior changes on marketing and communications:
Our job now is two-fold: make sure the fakers who claim they get it, but really don’t, don’t screw things up, and educate clients, potential clients and our peers so they are able to make intelligent decisions in selecting an agency and implementing a social media strategy.
The fundamentals of this space are crystallizing, separating the effective from the ineffective. More is certainly to come. So now what?

Friday, May 16, 2008

August 29, 1936

In another installment of how control is lost in American politics, we have this gem:

I am curious has to how the McCain camp will defend against a birthday. John McCain turns 72 on August 29th - less than 10 weeks before election day.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Facebook is Dead? Long Live Facebook! (in Politics)

I commented on Colin Delaney's post about the failure of Facebook to deliver on its value to political organizations & campaigns, but I wanted to elaborate.

As I wrote, no one has yet really invested in a well-thought-out strategy. The features of Facebook are limited. By features, I am referring to Groups, Pages, Events and even Profiles. Active communication tools such as email messaging are hamstrung on each of these, to suppress spam. Interactive features do not go beyond basic discussion boards and comment threads. These tools become no more than glorified blogs. Thus, maintenance of these has been left to lower-level staffers and often interns within the campaign's internet team.

But the application platform is much less inhibited. You are able to do whatever your creative mind can think of within the canvas page. And then you are able to connect your application to the existing features of Facebook and, more importantly, adapt your application to the behaviors of the existing Facebook community. Is Facebook's discussion board infrastructure too limiting? Build your own. Is your application constrained by Facebook's strict emailing policies? Figure out a way to motivate users of your app to provide you their email address. The opportunity to connect with the 25+ million US Facebook users is limited only by creativity.

And yet, Obama and Clinton have made minimal investments of time and energy in their applications, and McCain's is nowhere to be found. Non-presidential apps have been few and far between.

To consider the value of political activism via Facebook a dead end at this point is premature. Many people (and development firms) have tried to take advantage of the application platform. But the folks that "know" politics, know what works and what does not in the offline world, have yet to commit investment dollars to the space. The people that get the opportunity (and get politics) are most often on the internet team, buried within communications. Those that control the purse strings don't yet understand the opportunity of Facebook and the greater social media space, and therefore are reluctant to invest when tactical opportunities are presented...

Full disclosure: I helped produce Clinton's Hillary Gifts - what I expect(ed?) to be the beginning of a longer-term investment...