Tag Archives: Google

Would I lie to you?


By actiance,   November 5, 2012

Last week the head of internet security at the Cabinet Office, Andy Smith, was quoted as having said that users should give fake details to websites to protect their identity. Putting aside the fact that this violates sites such as Facebook’s usage policy, it demonstrates a lack of understanding about how these identities will evolve in the future and how social media functionality and privacy settings should be used to control misuse.

As social becomes more interwoven into our everyday lives, it starts to make sense to use real information in interactions. Most people don’t pretend to be someone else when they’re out on a Friday night meeting new people face to face, so why should it be any different online?

However, offline we are more careful with what information we tell people and question what we are told in return. It’s that instinct that needs to be developed when using social and that’s where privacy settings can help. As Actiance’s Chris Mannon says in Social Media Scammers – New Frontiers of AggravationThe goal should be to make sure that your information is not accessible without your explicit knowledge.

Ironically for Andy Smith, the UK Government is soon to launch its ID Assurance scheme that enables people to interact with Government services using login from third parties, one of which is rumoured to be a social network as I mentioned in a recent blog post. Whether this will happen is yet to be seen, but it is expected that companies such as Paypal will sit alongside the Post Office and BT.

But using third parties does give people a choice as to who they trust with their identify and force those organisations that don’t come up to scratch or offer the right privacy settings out of the picture or to up their game.

What is required is an education programme in the same way that we were all advised to shred or burn personal information such as credit card bills that we no longer require to keep. Helping people understand the implications of different privacy settings and the best use of features such as Facebook’s lists and Google+’s circles, will do far more for everyone’s protection than fake identities.

Whilst one could argue that trusting Facebook et al with your date of birth and mobile phone number sounds alarming, when you consider the vast number of data loss and theft incidents incurred by the UK Government in the last year alone it doesn’t seem that bad.

Google makes a splash in Social Business waters


By nleong,   September 6, 2012

Today’s post comes from Norv Leong, Director of Product Marketing at Actiance.

Google is back at it again with the introduction of more business-oriented features for Google+.  This is significant because it places the tech giant squarely in the social business sea with the likes of Jive, Yammer/Microsoft, and Salesforce Chatter, just to name some of the biggest fish.

Undaunted by the failure of the short-lived Google Wave, G+ on Roids (btw, there seems to be no official name for this enhanced offering, so this is what I’m calling it for the time being) seems to have a better chance at surviving.  Why?  Well, presumably, the smart folks at Google learned some lessons from their Wave experiment, and also, the value proposition of social business is much clearer than in 2009-10 when Wave was slip-sliding along.

Is that a Google fish I see?

With G+ on Roids, Google Apps users can leverage the social and business aspects of Google+ and Wave, respectively, much more seamlessly.  For instance, sharing of posts on Google+ can be limited to specific individuals, and video meetings can be integrated with Gmail, Calendar, and Docs.  However, Google’s emergence in the social business landscape once again highlights the potential dangers around compliance and security.

Businesses and their employees play by a different set of rules.  They’re held to higher standards and expectations.  For instance, public companies have to answer to Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.  Regulated companies have to be mindful of whatever rules and statutes apply to them (e.g., SEC, HIPAA, FDA).  And finally, just about any business can be sued these days, so litigation and other legal issues are always in the back of executives’ minds.

It’s all well and good to be chatting with your Facebook friends or tweeting sophomoric jokes to your buddies while you’re at home, but it’s a different ballgame when business-related conversations are happening over social media-type channels.  Concerns over data privacy and the leakage of confidential information take center stage.  That’s why we’re beginning to see a viable technology space flourish, addressing the compliance issues created by the adoption of social business platforms within the workplace.

Requirements around recordkeeping, supervision, and monitoring have brought more uncertainty and hesitation to the waters.  Without the right gear, organizations stand to lose more than just the fish that got away:  you could lose your boat, your customers, and your reputation.  Companies are thus turning to Actiance to help navigate these murky waters.  Actiance provides the visibility and clarity that enable organizations to effectively use these social business platforms, making for a more virtuous cycle in the sea.

My Thoughts on Google+ (Part 2): Challenges


By Jae Kim,   July 29, 2011

This is part 2 of my thoughts on Google+. In the last post, I discussed the innovative features in Google+ project that will likely spur other social networking sites to adapt and change. In this post, I want to touch on some challenges that Google+ has to deal with to become a viable Facebook and Twitter alternative.

There is a reason why group is missing from above;
because Google+ has no group

Absence of Group

There is no group in Google+. At least the group in the sense that we all understand from Facebook and LinkedIn.

Let me explain. When we think of a group, we think of them as clique where we share information with everyone in the group and members in the group to be able to respond to other members post. In other words, group exists as an entity. Group mailing alias, Facebook group and LinkedIn interest groups are good examples. A group gets created by members, and everyone either joins or leaves the group, shares or does not share updates in the group. Whatever update gets posted on group page is expected to be shared with everyone else in the group because group members can access the group page.

It almost sounds redundant to explain group in this way. It is because we grew so accustomed to group membership and group sharing to happen in a symmetric way. What I share in a group is visible to all other members in the group, and what everyone else shares in the group is visible to me. Group is a separate entity that people can join or leave.

Not so in Google+. In Google+ we create our own “circle” to categorize people into different buckets. But my circles won’t be visible to you, your circle is not visible to me. All I know is you have categorized me somehow, but I have no idea whether you put me on your ‘tech junkies’ circle or ‘NPR listeners’ circle. Circle only exists in someone’s perspective. There is no separate entity called group. I cannot join a group to share things in the group and expect to get a feedback from other members of the group.

This creates subtle but not so intuitive situation. I could be sharing updates with my ‘tech junkies’, but as recipient you will not have any idea of what context I am sharing them. If you receive technology news from ‘tech junkies’ group, you’ll know that people are talking about technology.

In real life, this out-of-context sharing almost never happens. Depending on time and place, people talk about different things. We humans are automatically aware of our surroundings and know what is appropriate and what is not. When we get a message without context of group, about the only context that’s available in cyber world, we don’t know how to react to the message because who else received the message and in what context.

Because Google+ is not honoring this physical contextual paradigm, I see a big challenge in overcoming the lack of groups. And I’m not the only one noticing this challenge.

Missing Webpage Paradigm

A related point to absence of group is missing Webpage paradigm. There is no Wall page in Google+. You cannot visit someone else’s Wall and leave a message to the user like in Facebook.

Saidur (Cy) Hossain got it right;
there is no Profile Wall in Google+
(His Google+ crash course in 49 slides is worth a view)

This is because Google+ is built on sharing messages based on your personal category called “circle”. It is almost like sending group email based on your own alias, and not having a webpage to have contextual conversation.

In the world of Facebook once you visit someone’s Wall page on Facebook, you are looking at everything about that user within privacy control allowed by the user. When you are on user’s Wall page (aka Profile Wall), you expect to see everything about the user and the page is dedicated place for the user. From this context, you immediately know that the message that you leave on the Wall is meant for the Wall’s owner. There is no question because you are posting a message on user’s Wall.

In Google+, there is no such context. There is no such page. When you visit Google+ page of a user, it may look like that user’s page, but in fact it doesn’t provide the features that you would expect from the user’s web page. Things that we come to expect such as what the user has been up to recently and leaving a message for the user are not available. To leave a message for the user in Google+, you have go back to your home page and type a message addressed to that user. This is like saying you can visit someone at his/her place, but you have to come back to your home and call them to talk about what you saw at the place. Bizarre.

This lack of webpage that represents a person creates a strange dissonance. Because there is no physical webpage to keep track of all conversations on a topic (lack of group webpage), it discourages people from sharing and commenting to a message and collaborating on a topic.

Terms of Use Enforcement

Partly because of all the hypes built by limited invite only release, Google+ is already starting to see many users who are bending and flexing the Terms. There are many thousands, if not more, business pages already created on Google+. Although Google came out and made public announcement discouraging people from creating business pages, people are already reserving the account names and getting the early start in setting up their presence in Google+. As of writing this article, Mashable and Ford, the two of early starters, already have 124,580 and 10,232 followers already (as of 7/27, it looks as though Mashable site has been shutdown by Google+).

It’s not just business folks jumping on the early-starter bandwagon. Hackers and other anonymous users with fake identities are creating Google+ accounts as well.

Challenge with this rapid expansion and everyone joining at once is rather subtle one. Google must be thrilled to see such enthusiastic responses from user communities, but at the same time trying to monitor and control the type of early adopters to maintain the quality of content posted.

After all social network, such as Google+, gets their content from users, and only way to quality control the content is to control the type of users and identities that are created in the network.

But at the same time Google must be careful not to over-enforce the policy. With the past weekend incident over shutting down many number of accounts, including early business accounts, anonymous and fake identity accounts, it looks like Google may be swinging too far to clamp down the illegitimate usage. Challenge for Google will be to strike the balance between fast growth and maintaining the quality of content shared on the network.

Despite all the challenges, Google+ looks like it has a real shot at becoming a major social network. It has clean and innovative UI/UX elements that makes it easy for new users to interact, and very clear privacy control on what you will share with whom. It also has clear mobile and location strategy to make it a compelling solution in the future. Plus, I would not discount the fact that most of us already have tons of Google product accounts that can be integrated into Google+ Project.

One thing is clear. Now users have one more place where they can connect with people. And that is good news for anyone who wants to connect with Lady Gaga.

My Thoughts on Google+


By Jae Kim,   July 26, 2011

It has already been close to a month since the launch of Google+, and I feel obliged to express my thoughts around Google+ on this blog. After all it’s only fair that I give a due time and attention to what Google created, the company that changed the way I use the web. Especially how Google fumbled earlier social attempts with Google Buzz, Wave and Orkut, they must have learned from those lessons.

I’m happy to report that they have. Let me talk about those few points that I think make Google+ shine on this blog post. In following blog post I will talk about some challenges that might slow down Google+ adoption.

Circle UI/UX

One very clever and elegant solution to organize people that you subscribe to is Google+ Circle. It is clever because it extends from multiple UI paradigms that are already familiar to most users: Drag-and-drop and semantics of the word “circle”. By combining the two, it created deceptively simple user experience in organizing subscription sources into manageable lists. It reminds me of how Apple approached their UI by borrowing heavily from physical metaphors such as multi-touch screen navigation and finger swiping gesture. Perhaps this is not a surprise because Andy Hertzfeld was one of the key designers who created the UI.

Hangout

Hangout is a video chat client. But to describe Hangout as yet another video chat is missing the bigger picture. What Google+ is after is creating a tele-presence experience with people who might be miles away. One way Google does this today is by allowing people to share YouTube video and watch it simultaneously as if they were sitting next to you looking at the same screen. By providing chat window and be able to inject your own commentaries while video is playing, Google wants users to not only share content using status updates and comments, but share them in real time when you and the participants are both available to “hangout”.

One application of Hangout is a public conferencing forum. In fact tinychat.com has been meeting that need for public video chat forum, much like how IRC was in early 1990′s. Hangout has all building blocks to become the next IRC with video conferencing capability. What will be interesting is to see how Google+ users will evolve Hangout feature.

A possible use case might be celebrity hosting a Hangout session to endorse the movie as it’s shown in below YouTube clip of Ashton Kutcher hanging out with his fans on tinychat (btw, he’s also the investor of tinychat).

Google+ Mobile: Nearby

Another cool feature that I want to underline is found in Google+ mobile application. It’s Google’s interpretation of location meeting social network application, and it has great potential to change the way Google+ mobile users think about location. It’s called Nearby.

Although Google+ doesn’t make a hoopla about Nearby on its overview page, it has great potential to change the way we think about Google+ and extend the way we interact with it.

The idea is simple. As a Google+ mobile user, you not only get the updates from people that you follow, but also can get updates from people who happened to be nearby from your current location. It doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but when you think about Google’s focus on Places and how it’s investing heavily to reclaim the lost ground on local businesses away from Groupon, it starts to make sense.

By having user’s location information and controlling how users can consume the data, Google can play an important role serving relevant local contents to users, such as nearby restaurants with good user review or local business deals that are on now.

In the next blog post I will touch on a few challenges that might slow down Google+ adoption.

What do you guys think of Google+? Do you believe Google+ will be a long-term success in becoming relevant among Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter? Please share your comments.

Competition goes Social for Financial Services


By Sarah Carter,   July 22, 2011

Its only 3 months, since I sat on a panel at the Finextra Social Media Day  at the Reuters building in New York, ruminating on the future of financial services and social along with Daniel Marovitz of Deutsche Bank and Frank Eliason, SVP Social Media of Citi.  Not content with discussing the future of financial services, social and mobile, we also talked about how social might impinge on the traditional bricks and mortar business of financial services.

Not far off, I said, referencing how Tesco (for those none UK folks in the room, that’s one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK) expanded out of groceries into clothing, household goods, furniture, electrical goods, AND financial services products – from banking to insurance, credit cards to travel products.  Tesco’s model of gaining my loyalty through my grocery shopping and its Club Card – and yes I’m a sucker for coupons – and then using my fixation with the money off vouchers and the loyalty scheme to convince me to place my financial services business (more points and points mean prizes..) with them worked exceedingly well.  Not just for me but for millions of others.  The initial partnership that Tesco had with the Royal Bank of Scotland – latterly morphed into Tesco Bank – and really proved that the loyalty network that this grocery store built up, the trust they created gained thousands and thousands of account holders for the organization.

Tesco Bank now accounts for 7% of the Tesco Group 62.5billion pound sterling revenues.

And my “not far off” came about this week, with a new launch from Google.

No no no, I’m not talking about Google +  - that so last week.

I’m talking about the Google credit card.  The AdWords Business credit card promises a competitive interest rate of 8.99% and no annual fee with the sole proviso that it can only be used for spending on Internet advertising over the search engine, according to a report from Finextra.  Google’s treasurer , Brent Callinicos says that the card will be offered to a statistically significant number of people as Google investigates how the card affects spending.  With more than a million users of the Adwords network – they’ve got a large enough audience to go after!

Hundreds of millions of people use Google every day to search through many petabytes of the world’s knowledge, in 146 different languages.   It goes without saying that Google has become a threat to the bricks and mortar business of our traditional financial services organizations.  They’ve built a loyal following (where would we be without Google maps these days?), a dependency ingrained within us (a colleagues 5 years old upon finding that her father couldn’t answer a questions retorted with an exclamation – “What do you mean you don’t know, why don’t you Google it?”) and that loyalty, that dependency is one small step for consumers, one giant leap for Google’s increasing domination.

We are in interesting times folks, interesting and exciting.  Now what remains to be seen is how the financial services market will take the fight to the social network  What’s your prediction?

Get Federated or Get Obliterated


By actiance,   December 14, 2010

From Jae Kim – Director of Social Media Products, FaceTime Communications

About fifteen years ago, I was happy with my desktop applications installed. The computer was a glorified calculator, typewriter, and video game machine back then. When I powered up my desktop, I was either going to write quick proof-of-concept Pascal code, type up school reports, or play Doom. All executables and contents that I used were installed on my hard drive. Whenever I wanted to talk to friends, I picked up the landline and called. Whenever I needed references checked, I headed out to the library.

These days, the computer has turned into an all-in-one communications device. When I fire up my laptop, I immediately open my browser, check out the latest tech news on Twitter, read what my friends are up to on Facebook, and respond to emails. No longer do I have to pick up the phone. I just open my IM client to chat with my friends or use Google to look up the answer to any fleeting question that I may have at the moment. I cannot possibly imagine using a computer without a network connection. A computer without an Internet connection is as good as dead weight.

In this post, I would like to make a case that this increasing connectivity is not a trend isolated to computer networks, but applies to social networks as well. The urge to share things and get connected has deeper roots within our human nature. It is something that cannot be ignored and must be harnessed to make the leap into the next stage of networking.

I’ll give a few examples of what it means to technology evolution and how it impacts the adoption of new communications tools. I would argue that the same is true with social media and lay out the likely scenario for social networks to get federated.

For long term viability of social networks as communications platforms, I would argue that social networks must get federated to survive or face the inevitability of obsolescence and eventual obliteration.

1. Internal-Only Email to Email for Everyone

For those of you old enough to remember Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) must have used internal-only email and messaging systems. It used to be that workstations connected to the main server comprised the early intranet. When you wanted to see whether someone was available, you would type ‘finger’ or ‘w’ to see if the other party was online. If so, you were in luck. You could use ‘chat’ to have a real-time chat (what’s known as IM today). If the person was not online, then you had an option to send email using ‘mail’.

As server and workstations became popular, more companies started to adopt these internal-only email systems. Soon, it became obvious to everyone that linking these islands of email services made sense and would create disproportionately more value for everyone. Companies started to federate their email islands to their partners’, accelerating the adoption of the ARPANET mail format.

Some held back saying it would create security concerns in both leaking sensitive information and receiving unwanted files (viruses). Today, no one disputes the value of having a global email system and being connected to it. These concerns were valid, however. People have built solutions around these security issues, and they have given rise to the Data Loss Prevention (DLP), security, and SPAM-filtering industries.

2. AOL – the Walled Garden

America Online (AOL) in the late 1990s was unstoppable. They made the Internet easy for millions by simplifying the technical configuration required to sign up for a service and to dial in the AOL server farm. AOL essentially had the same network model as the LAN-based DEC architecture. AOL subscribers would log on to their servers and see other subscribers who were online, exchange IM/emails, and browse AOL-hosted company sites. AOL was a huge LAN network where you couldn’t access content outside of AOL.

At the height of AOL’s popularity, there were 30+ million subscribers. It became so popular that every brick-and-mortar store was buying AOL keywords to reach AOL subscribers (the similarity is striking with what we see today with Facebook pages, as Peter Yared points out on his Venturebeat.com article).

But AOL did not leverage the explosive growth of content outside AOL’s walled garden. As people found richer content outside the AOL network and companies realized they had to make separate investments to reach non-AOL users, users and content creators started to migrate.

Only after losing more than two-thirds of its peak subscribers did AOL start to retool itself into an Internet portal site, i.e., a gateway to an open Internet. In effect, AOL finally dismantled the walls around its isolated garden and federated with the rest of the Internet, albeit only after paying a heavy price.

3. Disjointed IM Networks to Federation

After ICQ became successful and acquired by AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google launched their own instant messaging networks. Again, people were chatting in a similar approach as the DEC server/workstation model. AOL users were able to IM with AOL users, MSN users with other MSN users, and so forth.

Unlike islands of email services, technologies were available to federate these services in their early days. However, each provider stood their ground and couldn’t work out an agreement to federate. It was only after enterprises started to deploy their own enterprise IM servers and federate with each other that AOL and others began to federate with other IM networks.

IM network providers refused to give up control over their user base to the detriment of the long-term benefit of doing so. But, the fact is that people have been getting around these disjointed networks by creating aggregator IM clients to combine AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and Google Talk networks (not to mention Skype and Facebook – check out IM+ for the latest attempts at building the ultimate aggregator). It’s futile to resist improvised user workarounds. You have to adapt your service to support these workarounds as valid use cases.

4. What About a Federation of Social Networks?

If we have learned any lessons from email, AOL, and instant messaging, it’s that social networks should federate with each other to create a global exchange of real-time status updates. It’s not a zero-sum game. As social networks federate with each other, the value of the resulting network is far greater than the sum of disjointed networks.

We are starting to see this happen already. Twitter has shared its feeds with LinkedIn and Facebook. MySpace is now connected with Facebook. Yammer, which has developed a social networking platform for enterprises, is connected to Microsoft Sharepoint.

But then there are signs of resistance, as evidenced by Facebook’s and Google’s policies not to share friends’ lists.

Walled-garden policies invite users to create workarounds. Just as islands of IM networks motivated users to create IM aggregators like Trillian and Meebo, preventing users from sharing friends’ lists is already prompting users to create workarounds, such as Facebook friend exporter. Rather than resisting federation, social networks need to embrace them.

In reality, however, those who are in control seld
om relinquish it voluntarily. History tells us that federation will be a gradual process and will pick up steam only when the perceived value outside Facebook outweighs what’s found within Facebook. For that perception shift to occur, someone must create a more compelling use case outside Facebook.

What might cause this perception shift? I have no idea. But I can tell you that it won’t be called social networking, but rather, something else. I couldn’t agree more with Pete Cashmore at RWW: it’ll be someone who introduces a different communication paradigm than what we know as a “status update” today.

When that next wave happens, users will start to see greater value outside Facebook and will force Facebook to fully federate with other social networks. Until then, I expect to see continued resistance from leading networks. And yes, Google will join the race soon, and things are going to get a lot more interesting before federation is a household term.

How to Bootstrap Your New Social Network


By actiance,   December 13, 2010

From Jae Kim – Director of Social Media Products, FaceTime Communications

These days I seem to hear about the launch of a new social networking site every other day.  There’s Neezz.com, the classified ads site; CollegeOnly, the site for college students; The Fridge, a social group site; Diaspora, an open-source privacy-sensitive social network  package; and Path, a personal networking site.  And the list goes on and on. 

If you look at location-based social networks (LBSN) only, there are dozens of them starting out, following the initial success of Foursquare. It seems like every organization is either thinking about starting up a new social networking site or incorporating social networking features into their existing site.

This got me wondering. Is there any lesson that we could draw from failed social networking attempts, such as Google Wave and Google Buzz? What lessons can we learn from Facebook and LinkedIn’s success? What should be the strategy for new social networking sites to bootstrap themselves?

Here are nine bootstrapping strategies that all social media startups should consider:

1. Find a niche user base

Smaller, more focused user bases will allow a startup to tailor the new social networking site to its target audience. Launch the site with a specific use case in mind. In order to have a specific use case, the site must focus the user experience on a specific user base.

Great example of this is Facebook. It first started out as a Harvard social network, then expanded to include Stanford, Columbia, and Yale, and soon to all colleges. By focusing on college students, it was easy to tailor the entire site to a target audience. In addition, college students are more likely to experiment with new sites, and this also helped Facebook build its initial user base. This may be another reason why you see many social networking sites
popping up, geared towards college students, such as CollegeOnly and The Fridge.

You could argue that this is what Google overlooked when bootstrapping Google Buzz. Rather than trying to build a core user base, Google incorrectly assumed that users would flock to its new service, if you placed Buzz right on the Google Mail UI. Their strategy was to target everyone from day one.  While Google Buzz had its values for some, not all Google Mail users found the value. User adoption of Google Buzz has been disappointing at best, and its
opt-out approach of targeting all Google Mail users was disastrous at worst.

2. Provide value to the target audience

Once a target user base is defined, the next step is to decide on the value proposition to the user base. In reality, what value to provide is often the first impetus to launch a social media site (e.g., “let’s build a professional networking site” in LinkedIn’s case). One thing to keep in mind when identifying the value proposition is the target audience. The site must have a feature that has perceived value from the target audience’s perspective.

A good example is Facebook. Facebook started out as a profile photo surfing site for college students. Facebook had a clear idea of what to offer, and it understood college students will spend time surfing friends’ profile photos. New social networking sites must understand what features would be valuable to their target audience.

Best way to do this is to build a site yourself. Just as Mike Zuckerberg understood college students’ needs as a student himself, you are far more likely to succeed if you build a site that you yourself would use.

3. Add signature user experience

User experience is very important. A great user experience is to a social media site what great taste is to a fabulous meal. In other words, a great user experience is a critical part of the entire package.

It used to be that websites were criticized by their available features (or lack thereof). But as more and more horizontal features, such as user-feedback platforms, recommendation platforms, and social connectivity platforms are shared and available off-the-shelf, features alone can no longer be differentiating factors. In today’s social network sites, user experience is one of the key determinants in attracting users.

Consider the MySpace user experience. Although MySpace hit its peak before Facebook did, MySpace failed to expand outside its core user base. It’s debatable what factors caused MySpace’s decline, but I would argue that one key area where MySpace failed miserably was its user experience. Does anyone remember how MySpace’s user profile page looked before their UI makeover?

It’s not surprising why MySpace hemorrhaged users.

On the other hand, one good example is hipmunk.com. It is yet another meta-flight search site, but with a very refreshing user experience. It is perhaps the simplest air travel site that I’ve seen on the Web so far. After selecting departure/arrival dates and airports with ease, it returns available flights in a Gantt chart showing layover and overall travel time. What a difference visual display of flight schedules makes. Add to this user experience an easy way to perform another search (i.e., adding a new tab to make similar searches) and you have a winning recipe.

4. Make it easy to join – use a Facebook, Twitter, or Google ID

When people visit a new social networking site, one of the most dreaded parts is filling out user information and creating yet another account, not to mention a password. This new account creation is often enough to turn the prospect off and have them move on to the next distraction. I am not sure why websites think that having a user create new accounts will be of value to anyone. It will be the case that most users, especially those who will be early adopters of the new site, will likely have dozens of usernames and a few passwords they use (if they are security-conscious), and dozens more that they’ve created but have forgotten.

Creating an account does no one any good. It does not guarantee any return visits any more than you handing out business cards to total strangers in a parking lot.

Instead use what’s already out there. Allow users to sign up with your service through their Facebook, Twitter, and Google IDs. Most successful social network sites do this, and more need to embrace existing user accounts.

5. Leverage Facebook and Twitter for viral advertising

Another reason to link with existing social networking accounts is to leverage the social net to launch viral marketing. Remember seeing one too many Farmville updates from your Facebook friends? Do the same (of course, with the user’s explicit permission). It’s unlikely that people will complain about too many of your new social networking ad bits (that will be a good problem to have). If you are offering enough value as discussed in #2, people will in fact thank their friends who introduced it to them.

Check out mentionmap of me. It visualizes the mentions of people and hashtags in the most recent tweets. Oh, don’t forget. They offer an easy way to retweet about them.

6. Make it addictive by adding games or gaming elements

Building value, targeting the new site to a specific audience, and making it easy to join with viral marketing is a good start, but often not enough for sustained growth. As a new social media s
ite, you’ll need repeat hardcore users; users like those who propelled Zynga to a billion-dollar enterprise within three years of launch. Your service needs to be addictive for users to spend lots of time and for users to spend lots of time, it needs to have gaming elements.

One of the huge windfalls for Facebook was Zynga’s success. With Zynga’s FarmVille, FrontierVille, Cafe World, and Mafia Wars popularity surge, Facebook was able to attract and retain those social gaming addicts. This explosive symbiotic relationship between Zynga and Facebook is something that Google has been working on to recreate on their social networking site.

Game-like features can be integrated within the site as well. Foursquare and SCVNGR are geolocation-based social networks (GBSN) that incorporates gaming aspects. Foursquare gives badges as you check in to places, along with mayorship to those hardcore users, which encourages users to compete with others.  SCVNGR has added challenges to GBSN so that users can engage in ad-hoc games when they check in at places.

7. Embrace third-party developers by offering a useful API

While it is important for the site to provide value for its target audience, it doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting in creating additional value. No one has exclusive right to creativity, and certainly no one understands users’ needs better than the users themselves. When tools to integrate third-party applications are available and developers see the value in targeting the audience that you are attracting, they will build applications to become the Zynga for your site.

Take a look at the iPhone app store and Facebook API. The iPhone app store offers the Facebook mobile application, which is arguably why people are buying smartphones like the iPhone.  The Facebook API enables Zynga games to be integrated with Facebook, which played a key role in increasing active daily user counts since 2007.

8. Take risks to provide innovative features

When you have all of the above, you then have to innovate. It is far too easy for someone to copy what you are already doing. Just take a look at all the Facebook-wannabe startups just coming online. You have to take chances to build upon existing features to provide more value, above and beyond the feature that you started out with.

Look at what Facebook did.  Starting out as a profile photo sharing site, it added an innovative feature (some might call it evolutionary, but no one did it as well as Facebook), News Feed. The idea of making it super easy for anyone to subscribe to a friend’s news was a huge hit. Initially, Facebook ran into some resistance from users, but they kept tweaking its features and look-and-feel to make it the de facto standard of all social networking platforms.

Facebook had their share of flops as well. Does anyone remember Facebook Beacon? What about its overly simplified privacy controls UI? But, Facebook consistently took chances with new features and responded quickly to user feedback to continue improving their features.

Facebook continues to expand their core feature set by introducing Facebook Groups, Deals, and Messages. Not all of them will succeed, but they will be the first to learn from these lessons and iterate on them.

9. Listen to user feedback and iterate fast to increase value-add

Fast iteration is the key. I discussed in my earlier blog entry about the importance of fast iteration, especially when you are entering a new market. You have to listen to user feedback and incorporate it into the feature as if it’s coming down from board members. Ultimately, it will be the users who determine whether your new site will succeed.

Anonymity and Privacy: Two Endangered Species


By actiance,   December 6, 2010

From Jae Kim – Director of Social Media Products, FaceTime Communications

    “The mission of the company [Facebook] is to make the world more open”
    – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

As social networks grow in popularity and entrench themselves into the social fabric, many people have embraced Mark Zuckerberg’s message of sharing. Some knowingly, while others begrudgingly, to stay connected within newly emerging social media. Whichever camp you belong to, one thing is clear. There’s much less anonymity and privacy on the Internet today than ten years ago.

Are We Sharing Too Much?

If you are unsure how much information you’re sharing, one way to find out is to Google yourself. But, as we talked about, Google is still struggling to fully integrate social media into its search engine, and unless you are a public figure, Google will bury your information in its mountain of search results. A better way to search is Spokeo. Spokeo pieces together all public social network information and creates demographic reports of who you are.

Another is using youropenbook.org as I covered earlier. It searches publicly shared status updates and displays them in chronological order, using nothing but Facebook APIs. Remember that it’s not your privacy settings that matter, but rather, the privacy settings of the page where you post to. For example, if you are writing to your friend’s wall and he has selected the default “share-with-everyone” privacy setting, your status update is open to everyone.

If You Don’t Feel Like Sharing, Government Will Help

Just five days ago, it was uncovered that the FBI is seeking to expand the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) so as to mandate all US telecommunication carriers to provide a way to wiretap all communications, including encrypted traffic. With the US government leading the pack, United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, and Indonesia have already threatened to ban BlackBerry use. BlackBerry is targeted because of its end-to-end secure encryption where BlackBerry Enterprise Server encrypts messages to BlackBerry devices. For the time being, UAE and India have extended the deadline for the BlackBerry ban to take effect to next January 2011, but don’t expect the US government to lead by example in advocating for “secure” flow of information.

Facebook Doesn’t Want Anonymous Users

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know there have been many fake and anonymously created Facebook accounts just until a couple of weeks ago. But, thanks to Michael Arrington impersonating Eric Schmidt on Facebook, Facebook is now visibly stepping up its efforts to combat fake accounts. All of the fake accounts that were reported earlier in my blog seem to have been taken offline.

Barry Schnitt, Policy Communication Director at Facebook, made it clear on TechCrunch that Facebook intends to move to real identity-based social networks.

“Who Watches The Watchmen?”

All this points to one thing: anonymity and privacy are becoming two endangered species. But should we care? After all, wouldn’t using real identities and sharing more be better for society as a whole?  Wouldn’t real identities lead to fewer Internet trolls, less downmodding, and less bullying because people are now taking responsibility of their deeds on the Net?

True. I agree with all these points. I do see clear benefits of introducing real identities into social networks and the Internet in general. But who watches the watchmen?

If we have learned any lessons from the early 20th century experiment with totalitarianism, it’s that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Making all information public and leaving no room for us to be anonymous and private will be a very dangerous proposition because there’ll be no checks and balances against entities that watch over us. We all know everyone is capable of making mistakes; governments and authorities are no exception. If we allow every piece of information to be known about us, we’ll be enslaved by the information, not be enriched by them.

We’ll have to strike the balance between our private lives (i.e., our anonymity and privacy) and public lives (i.e., identity, openness, and social responsibility). That applies to social networks and the Internet as well.  Case in point:  FaceTime Communications.  FaceTime’s platform enables organizations to “strike a balance” between letting employees use these social networks while at work, but also monitoring and archiving the appropriate content so as to remain compliant with any applicable regulations for that organization.

So, who’s going to counterbalance Facebook? Well, so far we have 4chan defending anonymity. Anyone care to join?

Facebook Chat and Unified Communications


By actiance,   June 17, 2008

A few weeks ago, I read an interesting blog post by Mike Gotta, a principle analyst for the Burton group. I’ve been mulling it over and wanted to share my thoughts – but let me give you a recap first.

 

Gotta writes about Facebook’s use of Jabber/XMPP for Facebook Chat and how he thinks this will impact enterprise organizations that are planning to roll out corporate instant messaging/presence platforms that are based in SIP/SIMPLE. Short term, Gotta does not expect Twitter’s nor Facebook’s use of XMPP to impact business decisions, but he predicts that XMPP in the near future could lay the groundwork for Unified Communications in the enterprise.

 

Gotta makes a couple of observations about IBM and Microsoft’s position in the UC market. Here is an excerpt from his post:

 

For IBM, I would expect someone from IBM’s unified communication and collaboration team to realize that this is a great marketing opportunity. At some point, I expect IBM to aggressively pursue interoperability between Facebook’s XMPP system and the Lotus Sametime Gateway. 

 

For Microsoft, this news presents them with a problem – they are in a position that is almost impossible to defend. There is absolutely no technical reason why the current Microsoft gateway does not support XMPP today. It is simply a political decision (in my opinion), by the folks at Microsoft as they compete with Google. Granted, GTalk does not have the market share of other public networks (Yahoo!, AOL), but even so, the strategy is clearly not customer-focused at all.  

Gotta makes a good point, but I’m not convinced the onus lies with the Microsoft gateway provider.  The Microsoft gateway doesn’t support XMPP… ok, so what?  You can make the case that Facebook (in which Microsoft invested $240 million) and other sites will need to add a SIP gateway to support connections from OCS.  It’s not a mandate, but one or a few sites may take the plunge and make themselves easily accessible to the millions and millions of (eventual) OCS users — the others will have to follow suit.

Or Microsoft bites the bullet and adds XMPP support to their gateway but restricts it so that can’t connect with their arch-rival Google.  That’s possible.  But again, will a company looking at OCS say “Gee, sorry I liked the solution but chose Sametime instead because it can connect to Twitter”?  Maybe that day will come, but not any time soon in my opinion.