Recently in Applications Category

Facebook Search. Myth or Madness?


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Thumbnail image for facebooksearch1.jpgThe web is swirling with conjecture that Facebook is going to roll out a search product to take Google on head on. Interestingly, this follows rumors that "Google Me" was a new product launching to compete with Facebook. Some industry pundits believe that the search product launch is imminent and one that will differentiate itself by incorporating "like button" recommendations and open graph technologies into the algorithm that displays the search results. Others think that the current on domain Facebook search implementation is so shoddy that Facebook will first fix that before moving onto something grander.

Here's my take. Google has 20,000 employees of whom probably 80% are focused on search in some fashion or the other mostly as engineers. Facebook has 1,400 employees of which no more than 300-400 are engineers according to company insiders. Building and optimizing a search engine is no easy task and it is unlikely that Facebook will do this at this time. Yes, they are incorporating third party results (only pages your friends have liked) into its own search engine but I wouldn't say these efforts are significant as yet. They've got too much on their plate at the moment with the social plugins, virtual currencies, the core Facebook platform to optimize and location aware functionality to build. Not to mention the fact that running a search engine requires a huge infrastructure investment something that not even Facebook can support today. Sure, a search product could mean significant revenue very quickly but that's never been a priority for Mark Zuckerberg.

Instead, here's what I think Facebook should do. They should partner with Microsoft to extend Bing to include the influence of "liking" into the search algorithm. Remember Microsoft owns a small percentage of Facebook. The "liking" functionality is a direct endorsement and arguably would improve search results. This partnership would benefit Facebook as it'll really encourage website owners (egged on by the search engine marketing community) to implement the like button and the social graph api everywhere across their sites. Facebook will also be a player in the search game without the huge costs and could probably get a small ad revenue share too.

In other words, it would be a more effective and efficient way to compete with Google without the huge investments. It'll improve search engine results and it'll promote other Facebook products and services notably the proliferation of its social plugins. Go for it Facebook - extend your Microsoft partnership to include this.

Update: The rumors have now been confirmed that Google is going to launch a Facebook competitor sometime in the near future. Apparently, they have a very large team working on it. This isn't too surprising given how threatened Google feels. What's most interesting is that their new network really needs to combine a lot of their existing services - Search, Profiles, Buzz, Orkut, Picasso, Wave and Blogger in a seamless, consistent, immersive and friction free user experience. That's where the real challenge is and I hope they recognize that.

Image courtesy Facebooking101.com

Facebook becomes the Internet's Social Glue


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zuckerbergsocial.jpgToday was extremely important for the Internet. Facebook announced that its "Like" button is going to appear on publisher sites all over the Internet. These buttons will populate a user's profile in Facebook linking back to the originating site while also providing Facebook with even more immensely valuable, realtime data about its consumers. Here's an Ad Age story covering the announcement (which includes my perspective) and below is my deeper analysis of the announcement and what it means for marketers, publishers and agencies

What are the implications of the Facebook announcements?
First and foremost this means that Facebook will gather a lot more information about its users. There's nothing wrong with that as long as the privacy settings on Facebook are made more usable. And more than that, Facebook users need to be educated on the new privacy implications. This is something that Facebook can and should do for its user base and hopefully will.

Secondly, this means that the publishers will have a lot more information about Facebook users too. The 24 hours limit on holding Facebook data will be lifted. Publishers will now know a lot more about users (basically all their profile information) as soon as the click the "Like" button and they'll be able to hold onto this data. Just imagine the CRM implications when a publisher is able to marry FB user data with its own customer databases.

Thirdly, it means that publisher websites will get personalized based on a user's profile data in Facebook. There's nothing wrong with personalization and practically every major website (certainly the newspaper sites) include some form of personalization. The Huffington Post already personalizes content based on what stories people in your Facebook social graph have read. Expect to see a lot more of this as it gets easier for other publishers to role out similar functionality and use profile data to personalize experiences. Just think about the possibilities in retail for example.

Fourth, these announcements definitely hint towards Facebook launching some kind of ad network to overlay the like button. This announcement basically allows for another form of behavioral targeting and I'd be surprised if Facebook chose not to do something further in this realm in the coming months. The question is whether they'll launch an ad network to support the social graph distribution or just sell the data to advertising networks or exchanges. In the short term, Facebook is going to allow publishers to further target ads on their own sites with this data.

Fifth and most importantly this also means that what we do on the Internet (in terms of "liking" websites) and what is in our Facebook profile is going to heavily influence what the rest of our web experience is. The Internet is going to become much more of a personalized experience for us. That can be a good and a bad thing. Good in that we provided tailored content that we really care about and is driven by choices that we've made in the past. Bad in the sense that the content may reflect spontaneous off the cuff actions (just because I "like" a website doesn't mean I really like it) or more directly what we put in our Facebook profiles and forget to update. It'll make the web more local and less exploratory.

Do you agree with the analysis? Do you think it is as big a deal as I make it out to be?

5 Technologies That Will Change Your Business


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Last week Razorfish launched the Razorfish 5: Five Technologies That Will Change Your Business. This is an exciting report as it explains the underlying engine that drives a lot of social media today - cloud computing and other related technologies that are going to drive digital marketing in the future. 

I truly believe that every chief marketing officer is going to need to become more of a chief technology officer in tomorrow's world. Those that don't will struggle (as my CEO once said). Here's a deck created using Prezi (a novel cloud computing based presentation solution) highlighting some of the key take aways.

 

You can also view the report in its entirety. I co-authored the first piece titled, "Social Brands are Enabled through Cloud Services and Distributed Application Technologies" with the Razorfish CTO, Ray Velez.

Facebook growing up. Advertisers to fall in love


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For a long time I believed that Facebook was moving too slowly in addressing the needs of marketers. The pages for brands was but a rudimentary step in the right direction and the analytics behind the pages were simplistic at best. I'm excited to see that it is changing now and I believe that marketers are going to flock to Facebook (and with their dollars) and not just because of the huge user base but increasingly because of the specific advertising products and analytics that the platform is offering. In a sense Facebook is truly entering the marketing world now.

fbstatsimpressions.jpg

One small example, of this is how they're testing the ability to show case impressions and clicks. This is hugely valuable for both marketers and individuals alike. Big brand and personal brands (meaning you as an individual) care about this and I believe it'll spur even greater use of the Facebook fan pages and the newsfeed. What is especially interesting is if this information is made completely transparent as the image above seems to imply. The next step to telling you the number of impressions and clicks that a post has gotten is to tell you the number of people that have purchased the product. As e-commerce rolls out across the Facebook landscape, I can see that being a metric included as well. And knowing the number of people who have purchased a product (as a percentage of impressions and clicks about it), will be a huge influencer for purchases. Photograph and inspiration for this post is courtesy Loic Le Meur.

Risks with Twitter Advertising


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adly-logo.pngWhether we like it or not, we're going to start seeing many more ads in Twitter. As The New York Times reported today, services like Ad.ly, IZEA and Likes are furiously putting twitter ad networks in place. SocialMedia.com has also done several tests in this realm too.

When I covered sponsored tweets in my book a few months ago, it seemed the promise land for many advertisers. What could be better than having a social influencer reach a prospective customer on an advertiser's behalf by providing a recommendation in an editorially integrated fashion? It's Facebook Newsfeed dynamics taken to another level. It seemed the holy grail of social influence marketing. However, I'm starting to have my doubts now. Here are some potential risks.

1. Your users can revolt with mass un-following
The twitterati who stand to gain the most, will need to test how comfortable their followers are with receiving these advertisements. Formats, frequency and content - all need to be figured out. Because these are new formats (and frankly speaking, the whole platform is still very new), we do not know what will work as yet. We all get irritated by people who tweet a bit too much as it is.

2. Lack of technological sophistication may kill the model
If a Google adwords model is put in place and we start seeing ads on twitter in droves, there will probably be a strong backlash. Unlike other platforms, you currently can't cookie a user who's seeing an advertisement on Twitter. So if I follow five twitter users who accept advertising, there's a chance that I may see the same advertisement from each of them in the span of an afternoon. That would be problematic. The networks need to be implemented with the right technology infrastructure behind it. Twitter must help here.

3. Black box ROI that makes it difficult to compare
Click thru rates cannot provide enough ROI - there will need to be CPM models in place as well. The problem is that there are few good ways to measure impressions. Sure you have the number of followers but that doesn't mean that the total number of followers actually saw the ads. The problem is compounded when you have people using twitter applications to access their streams. There's no way of finding out whether a user has actually seen a tweet. You also need to know whether the users fit your target demographics.

4. Advertisers choose not to intrude on conversations
Advertisers are savvy group of people. They're also increasingly sensitive about how their brands are perceived in the social media space. And by sensitive I don't just mean that they're worried about someone speaking ill of them but about appearing to be invading on a user's social world too. It is left to be seen how many advertisers will sign up for twitter ad networks. Many will probably take a wait and see approach. The last thing an advertiser would want is a backlash against their brand. I for one would recommend that advertisers invest in developing their own social voices first before experimenting with twitter ad formats.

5. Lack of transparency hurts the Twitter trust model
It is sometimes easy to forget that twitter is built on trust. We share more than we realize often because we trust that no one will use the information against us. Our followers reward us with their attention and the conversations that ensue. If there's no transparency in the twitter advertising, some of that trust will be broken. Before you know it, the FTC will feel obliged to institute guidelines or requirements for advertising in this space too. So there's a risk that the advertising may not be as transparent as it should be. And that's where disclosure codes like those recommended by Jon Burg will matter a lot. Maybe these twitter ad networks can build disclosure codes into their platforms?

We've an exciting year ahead of us as more companies and publishers look to monetize social media interactions. The question is what formats will develop that will truly be in synchronized with the ethos of the social web. With twitter advertising, as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on it.

Wibya, my new favorite social utility for websites


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page1_image.jpgMy new favorite utility is the Wibya one. If you look at the footer of my blog, you'll notice the horizontal bar that makes it extremely easy to share the contents of this blog post. But more than that, it also links you to the Facebook community for my book and to my tweet streams. It is a light and easy way to share content, search the blog, connect with me on Facebook or through Twitter and get a better sense of the community. It is the glue that binds my blog to the rest of the social web.

Why is this special? Because all of a sudden, it is extremely easy for you to link your website with your community on one of the social platforms in an easy way.

Web 2.0 and the Enterprise: A Symbiotic Relationship


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I spoke at the Social Networking Conference in Miami two weeks ago. My presentation w as titled "Web 2.0 and the Enterprise: A Symbiotic Relationship." As someone who's advised Fortune 1000 companies on Enterprise 2.0 strategies as well as their Social Marketing ones, I see those two worlds blurring very much.
Historically, they've been treated as two very different beasts but I believe with the consumerization of the enterprise and the portability of social graphs the walls that divide the two are breaking down. And not just that but to do one effectively, an organization will need to be practicing the other as well. View my deck from the conference and tell me whether you agree with the hypothesis.

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