My two cents

Google+ has reached 62 M in membership - a huge leap forward for the Facebook competitor, and perhaps very telling about user (and brand!) fatigue with the same-as-yesterday Facebook advantages.

Hopefully the growth continues. An open-source, data-driven, well-integrated, brand-friendly social network is a great thing for all of us!

Mashable link : http://mashable.com/2012/01/03/google-growth-2012/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mashable+%28Mashable%29

Google+ has reached 62 M in membership - a huge leap forward for the Facebook competitor, and perhaps very telling about user (and brand!) fatigue with the same-as-yesterday Facebook advantages.

Hopefully the growth continues. An open-source, data-driven, well-integrated, brand-friendly social network is a great thing for all of us!

Mashable link : http://mashable.com/2012/01/03/google-growth-2012/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mashable+%28Mashable%29

f8 was all the rage yesterday as Zuckerberg announced a significant transformation of profile pages from a mere “snapshot” of who we are, to a “storytelling platform” to share not only who we are, but where we come from, what we’ve been part of, what’s been a part of us, and — most importantly — what we might do/like/read/watch or listen to next. Zuckerberg has a vision for what our social lives and digital ID’s ‘can’ become – and, more importantly, what they ‘should’ become – and he’s wasting no time taking us there.

It’s a dramatic overhaul for consumers, brands/marketers/corporate America, and the industry – and raises some interesting questions for each:

FOR CONSUMERS:

  • Is the ticker unintentionally intrusive? – Many Facebook users have already noticed that what were once online comments between you and a friend are now online comments every ‘other’ friend can see in their ticker. I can’t tell if Facebook intended for the ticker to result in this “openness”, or if it’s a by-product of aggregating “less important” updates on the right hand side. It would also seem the types of content I see in my ticker is up to ME (which is good), and not up to the person whose update I’m seeing (which is bad) à for example, if Jane writes on John’s wall, even if I don’t know John, I will see the comment in my ticker - and Jane can’t turn this sharing off, only I can turn it off. Now, maintaining Jane’s privacy is up to me and all her friends - and not up to her. Is this what “frictionless sharing” is meant to achieve? 
  • Can the everyday user really curate their Timeline effectively? – In most cases, consumers are sharing everything their timeline needs to be relevant when it’s first activated. Some curation of our many posts and likes from the past is of course required - but for most users, our timeline’s may be in good shape when they start and its up to us to maintain and build on them from there.
  • Will our social lives transition to Facebook as the de-facto standard? – This is likely an open-ended question for a lot of people right now. While the updates seem fun, forward-looking, and cool at the outset, only time will tell if consumers actually leverage the platform for more sharing and engagement than they do now. The privacy concerns noted above may start to become a limiting factor if not addressed/resolved soon.
  • Will we continue using Google+? – A good portion of those who have already swapped over will likely stay with Google+ — even if they do dip back into Facebook just to see what all the fuss is about. Some might argue the new changes put Facebook leagues ahead of Google+ in how it enables sharing and social engagement – but still others will say Facebook has gone too far, and still others on the fence between both platforms may just make the inevitable leap over to G+.

FOR BRANDS, MARKETERS, and CORPORATE AMERICA:

  • What does launching a Facebook presence require in the new Facebook world? – Launching a Facebook presence used to be as simple as a fan page + some regular status updates on deals, new products, marketing events, positive press, etc. Now, the bar is MUCH higher. Not only will consumers expect the fan page + updates, but they will also expect these updates to be directly relevant. Brands and corporate America have to be engaging enough to overcome the switch from “show me all updates” to “show me only important updates” - with importance dictated by how many other users in my network have liked or commented also. Without active and constant “social credibility”, a brand’s Facebook page in the new world will lose relevance and traction more quickly than is fully understood right now.
  • What advantages does Timeline provide for brands seeking high engagement and ROI through social platforms? – A veritable pandora’s box of social consumer engagement has been opened and the sky is the limit. Now that consumers can not just “like” something, but can convey if they “read”, “watched”, “listened”, “hiked”, “cooked”, “tested” something, brands have much better information about who is actually engaging with their product. The uniform “likes” of the past are now fully qualified and consumer-provided indicators of who could buy versus who will buy. Social media analytics will be much more telling, and more ROI predictive, in the new Facebook world.

FOR THE INDUSTRY:

  • Can Facebook be a bonafide media company? Are they already a media company? – Many would argue Facebook already is a media company, and these new platform changes are further solidifying their place in the media market. My sense is that Facebook is “almost there” – while 90% of us defer to Facebook for our friend and network updates, we’re not all deferring to them for our media, news, and video consumption. The latest comscore video rankings still place YouTube well ahead of other platforms for video consumption (162k unique viewers in August versus 52k on Facebook), and their presence continues to grow. Unless Facebook can convince us that consuming media with them is more valuable via the integrated social experience, it will take some time for Facebook to really “arrive” in the media space. Though with partners (and board members) like Washington Post, Netflix, and Spotify on board - Facebook is actively convincing us.
  • How much will the implied increase in CPMs on Facebook impact CPMs on other platforms (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft included)? – This is a question every other internet company is grappling with right now, and one which will dictate how impactful and innocuous the recent Facebook changes will really become. It’s probably a safe assumption that advertising on Facebook’s new platform will cost more money – both in terms of CPM since the eyeball is more qualified, but also in terms of creative ad content which then has to be more relevant. It’s hard to know if advertisers will be willing to pay for both sides of that cost – or if Facebook will have to keep CPMs somewhat flat to allow for ramp-up time on the creative side. Marketing budgets aren’t getting too much larger just yet, so one or the other will have to give.
  • Will Google respond? – This question is intriguing – not only because the two have been an all out tit-for-tat on features the last few months, but because it’s starting to feel as if the purpose each is serving is just slightly different. Facebook wants to be a media consumption platform – a place where I meet & greet with my friends, watch videos, listen to music, share anecdotes about my life, and create new social experiences. Google+ on the other hand, feels more like a content distribution engine. They want me to add friends and colleagues to circles, share content and information, pick circles to share with, create ‘sparks’ to follow content I care about, join hangouts to talk live with friends I don’t see all the time, and create public posts that are then searchable within Google+ and beyond. The underlying methodology is distinctly different – Google wants me on their site, but they want my visit to take me places – whether it’s video, news, live conversations, or other external resources. Whether that resource is Google or not is no matter – we just want you to find what’s most relevant to you through socially generated (and searchable) data. Facebook wants me on their site – and they want me to stay there. Google will respond in some way, but it’s not likely to be a re-creation of the storytelling format we now have from Facebook – it’s much more likely they’ll tighten their integration with mobile devices, daily deals, and location based social activity. Google doesn’t want us sitting in front of our computer interacting with a finite social media space online – they want us outside, interacting and engaging with the world, while seamlessly providing social content and search data others can leverage along the way. This Facebook Timeline likely feels “interesting” – but not “groundbreaking” - to Google’s internal idea engine.
  • Where does Facebook go next? – The next 5-6 months will be indicative of how much traction Facebook creates and maintains from the recent changes. If the privacy implications (intended or not) raise a stir; whether or not advertisers rush to more dynamic ads right away; and whether or not we actively manage our timelines will all feed into Facebook’s next steps in social sharing and engagement. And of course we’ll all be watching …

Some great reading on f8 and the implications / perceptions across the industry …

What Facebook’s Changes Mean for Marketers - Mashable

Mashable’s coverage and commentary on f8

Making Sense of Facebook’s Media Moves - Digiday

Facebook f8 News, Updates, and Pics

Really great video from the AdAge Small Business Conference where David Shing from AOL talked through his vision of how consumers will continue to evolve and transform how they communicate going forward.  He highlights concepts including  ”attention [as] the new economy” … ” social mobility” and the need for more “conversations and less campaigns …”. It’s a great window into not only how consumer behavior is changing, but also how companies like AOL are adjusting their organizations to meet this change.

Enhanced content creation - content which can drive a conversation rather than one-off interaction - paired with better curation of that content, such that it reaches the right consumer, in the right context, at their “zero moment of truth” (a term coined by Jim Lecinski @ Google) is what will drive value going forward.

This is compelling because in our gut we all believe (read: know) it to be true — and yet its perplexing - The ‘right consumer at the right time’ is intriguing because CPG’s have been trying to do this for years. Marketers have always strived to reach the right person with the right ad to drive awareness and consideration - and yet, digital, which really should make this proposition easier to do, has thrown marketers and content creators for a loop. Has the consumer really changed that much? The “old rules” are assumed invalid, and yet what we, as marketers (and which is the crux of what David Shing is driving at) should be doing is understanding that digital has not only made our lives as marketers easier (e.g. new campaigns can hit the web in record time versus the wait time we used to have with circulars, etc.), but has also made our consumer smarter. Not only smarter in how he/she consumes information, but also in how he/she looks for and prioritizes information. All content is not equal and we need to be much smarter about what gets created, where it is presented, and how we capture the reactions. Else, we’re leaving our consumers wanting more and we aren’t even close to meeting them halfway. And that makes our challenge as marketers even greater.

The faster content creators and marketers can used to the “new rules” (read: “old rules” applied to a smarter consumer), the better brands will engage, the more engaged the consumer will be, and the better our products/services/campaigns will perform —- and it would seem David Shing is pushing AOL in the right direction which is great news.

Video Link Here

Google+ approaches 18M users in less than 2 weeks!

The rapid growth of Google+ is astounding! Since the “exclusive” launch a few months back, to the now rapid sign-ups everyday, Google’s new social media platform is making some incredible strides!

I’m signed up and have been adding 10-12 new friends to my circles everyday. The drop & drop functionality, the ability to seamlessly decide who to share content with, and the highly simplified GUI make the experience pretty incredible. My one point of feedback (and I did submit this to Google this morning via their “send feedback” button) is that I can’t filter which update stream I see at login. Default settings have you looking at the streams for all your circles in one feed until you actively click another circle to filter the view. I would LOVE to set my default view to “Friends”, and be able to leave our ‘acquaintances’, ‘colleagues’, etc unless I actively choose to view their updates. We’ll see if Google adds the feature anytime soon!

If you aren’t on Google+ yet, get on it! Else you’re missing out on social media history in the making!

(Source: Mashable)

Netflix CEO joins Facebook board - plans for an IPO becoming more imminent?

This is great stuff — Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix and one of the most savvy brains in the “disruptive business model” market brings significant (and successful) IPO experience to Zuckerberg’s board in prep for the imminent IPO.

This move serves a few purposes —

1) It legitimizes the IPO rumors about Facebook. Mark’s definitely going to do it, its just a matter of “when”.

2) It brings experience and credibility to the IPO. Nobody thought Netflix would last long either, but instead our lives have been happily transformed by it. We LOVE Netflix now, and (like our iPhone’s) don’t really know how we ever lived without them.

3) It sets the stage for a very easy marriage of streaming video to the social community that is Facebook’s domain. As Netflix continues to extend their presence across movies, TV shows, and original video content — Facebook will continue extending into e-commerce, local deals, and UGC —> and at every possible intersection, the two shall be sitting at the same board table discussing how to take over the world next. It’s pretty compelling and more than likely, we don’t really know what great new solutions will emerge from it — but I bet these guys have a pretty great list of ideas.

If there were a “like” button on this decision - I would click it.

(Source: TechCrunch)