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It’s time to make your acquaintance with friendfeed

Exactly one year ago I blogged about a new trend with social media sites called  social aggregators.  While everybody was waiting for the next facebook, a new type of service was popping up that allowed people to aggregate all their feeds from facebook, blogs, flickr, Youtube, slideshare, twitter, Linkedin and many others into one stream through one main interface.

Social aggregators are like RSS newsreaders – but for all your social streams…. which we call your lifestream.  

The problem then was that outside of facebook, very few of my friends were actively contributing to other social media channels… so what was the point?  

Then something unexpected happened – twitter exploded in growth and popularity and everybody forgot about aggregators. 

How is that my friendfeed subscription requests have ballooned to 300 in a week? 


Quite simply, they added a utility that allows you to auto-find and invite your twitter followers to your friendfeed subscription. Twitter recently released updated APIs which make it easier for other sites to tap into the social graph of twitter.  

Having said that, it’s not like suddenly all my friends are contributing to multiple sources.  95% of my friendfeed subscriptions are just twitter streams as seen above. 4% are facebook streams, and 1% is mixture of slideshare, flickr, and YouTube.

Brands who publish to multiple sites (flickr, Youtube, twitter, facebook, their own blog etc…) have an opportunity to create an aggregate brand personality online with friendfeed that allows users to follow, comment, and interact with the brand in a user friendly and intuitive way. 

It’s like creating your own skittles site – but actually in the true spirit of what social media is all about. 

May 20, 2009   No Comments

How social media has changed the definition of friendship

A few weeks ago I was over at my Aunt and Uncle’s place helping them re-jailbreak a first generation iphone I had bought for them in Augusta last spring.

Our conversation drifted into why they both haven’t signed up on faceboook yet.  The short answer was – they are already connected to their friends.

Explaining the social graph and the benefits of digital word of mouth & expanding their network of friends online led to a very simple statement that really resonated;

Our definition of friendship is different from theirs.

How many friends do you have online? I’ve currently got over 600 friends on facebook, over 400 on Linkedin, nearly 400 followers on twitter and smaller amounts on slideshare, last.fm, friendfeed, YouTube, and flickr.  I’ve also got a few thousand followers who visit this blog every month.

Although most of my friends aren’t on all these platforms or even have as many “friends” as I do in each channel, some have many times more than me.

Can you really have 2,000 friends?

In 1992,  Robin Dunbar published an article suggesting that a person has a theoretical cognitive limit of about 150 “stable” relationship they can maintain.  This number is now referred to as the Dunbar number.

facebook recently reported that most users who have hundreds of friends in reality only really interact with between 5-10% of their facebook buddies. Women tend to interact a bit more than men (shocker!), but certainly the stats support Dunbar’s theory.

Is it time to unfriend / unfollow all but your 150 best friends in each social media channel?

The short answer is No.

Why? It’s about context.

Although my theoretical limit is 150 friends, based on my life stage, time of day, month, or year, my circle of friends change. In the Winter my circle of friends are primarily ski industry friends while in the summer my circle consists mostly of friends from one of my Ultimate Frisbee teams or can be classified as golfing buddies.

The same thing can be said for my professional life – depending on the time of year or what I’m focusing on, I will engage & reach out to different sets of business associates and friends.

Social Media has changed the definition of friends.  Just as media consumption and interaction has fragmented with new technology, so has our relationships and how we define them.

Best friends and trusted business associates will always be there for you – but social media has allowed us to cast a wider net personally and professionally – and thereby expanding or evolving who we consider a friend.

Knowing that relationships drive business results and other relationships – why wouldn’t you leverage social media to access & engage a broader universe of people?

The key for me is managing context.

Although some of my peers are spending time trying to get everybody to be on every channel, I recommend you manage your online brand carefully.

My social media lens looks like the following:

  • Linkedin for my professional network. If you work in my industry (or related), I will almost always accept your connection request.
  • facebook for the people I already know. Although i wouldn’t necessarily invite all my facebook friends over for a dinner party, I know all of you and would stop to say hello if we bumped into each other while walking down the street, waiting in line at the ski hill etc… I’m careful on what I post to facebook – but it’s certainly the most personal channel
  • twitter for all the people i would like to get to know better. following peers, industry experts or even Lance Armstrong – because I find the tweet feed interesting.  Although I may share some personal insights, I’m very careful of what i post here both because all my tweets are searchable by strangers and because I don’t know everybody who is following me back. If you follow me – I will almost certainly follow you back – as long as you aren’t obviously a spammer, wacko or combination of both :)
  • All other channels – I use them more for personal media consumption and don’t have the time to engage in new / separate friendships. I use friendfeed as my social life stream aggregator – but it’s a bit overwhelming for me at times – and this is part of what I do / what I am.  I can’t imaging my super cool Uncle trying to manage a social media life stream.

What about you – has your definition of friends or friendship changed or evolved as a result of your social media consumption habits?

March 5, 2009   19 Comments

2008 Predictions – how did I do?

Around this time last year I made some outrageous predictions about what was to come in 2008.  Let’s take a quick look back and see how well I did: 

  1. SMS third party advertising will take off.  Didn’t really see this take off in Canada and with the mobile web / and mobile widgets taking off, I can’t see this as a big focus in 2009. Having said that, there are more services popping up that allow media planners to venture into SMS as well as the Mobile web.
  2. Mobile Web Advertising will become part of your media buy. This definitely happened in 2008 in Canada with Quattro and Yahoo offering a good mix of inventory to buy. This will only continue to grow in 2009. 
  3. MMS Common short codes will arrive. This did happen in 2008 – although not all mobile aggregators are able to facilitate this for you. MyThumb mobile was the first to offer MMS short codes and now you can also go through Magnet Mobile too. 
  4. Mobile payments will start to emerge as a new payment medium. There was a great conferences this year on the subject in Canada facilitated by the Canadian Institute.  RBC and Visa launched their pilot program for contactless payments in Canada. Visa also recently launched 4 new international pilot programs. Mastercard also announced this past May that they’re launching a pilot to extend their pay pass program to mobile. 
  5. The iphone will finally arrive in Canada. It sure did – and I was right that they waited until the 3G version came out. I also predicted that other retailers may offer the device – which didn’t happen… although both Walmart and select Sam’s Club stores will be selling them in the near future.  Best Buy and Future shop also announced that they would be carrying it. 
  6. Fixed or low-cost data plans will be universal. Although not as low as we’d like, we finally have affordable plans in Canada. Yah! I was paying $80 for 500 megs last year and now I’m paying $45 for 500 megs and includes a voice plan. 
  7. Mobile web will catch fire. I was partially right here. Thanks to smartphones like the iphone, more consumers discovered the mobile web, but more specifically mobile widgets that grab data from the mobile web have really taken off thanks to the iphone app store. 
  8. New mobile carriers will be announced. This happened and was blogged about here.
  9. Google will launch their own phone (gphone) with their own operating system and buy U.S. spectrum. The first two happened, but they decided not to aggressively pursue spectrum… this time. There are other auctions coming up in 2009…
  10. Social Networking will make the leap from desktop to Mobile as a primary interface / access point. We definitely saw a huge leap in 2008 to mobile – with facebook, linkedin, hi-5 and twitter all offering great mobile options through widgets and mobile web. Twitter saw over 600% growth and a big part of this can be attributed to mobile.  Mobile only social networking sites such as itsmy.com also saw big growth in 2008. They even partnered up with my favorite mobile and social search tool taptu to enhance their member services. 
Overall it would seem my predictions weren’t that outrageous at all!

I published a second list in August as part of a mobile insert at Strategy Magazine.  We’ll take a look at those ones in my next post before making some super crazy predictions for 2009 :)

January 7, 2009   5 Comments

6 recommendations to make Linkedin a better utility

Just because I’ve admitted that I find Linkedin useful as a professional networking tool, that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied  with the entire experience.

Here are 6 things I’d like to see implemented to make this a truly great professional utility:

  1. RSS feeds for more than network updates. The news is often useful… but let me have it through RSS! Same with my inbox. And Answers. All site updates should be RSS enabled
  2. Talk / chat feature. Facebook added it… wouldn’t it be great if you could engage people who are online right now in linkedin instead of waiting for their email response?
  3. Better widgets – we should be able to add a twitter widget for example to our profile page. While you’re at it, drop the ridiculous revenue sharing conditions you’ve placed on developers. No wonder nobody is developing on your platform!  
  4. Leverage groups– it’s great we have badges to show off group status… and getting access to ppl in that group is pretty super awesome, but why not create the ability share information in a social / collaborative setting? It could be an extension of the answers utility.
  5. Extend interface. Social aggregators are all the rage right now… why not become the professional social aggregator and allow people to extend and personalize the interface? A stickier interface is one that can be more easily monetized too…
  6. Add SMS alerts to the system. Email alerts are great… but email is for old people.

What would you add to this list?

July 21, 2008   8 Comments

Linkedin in plain english – ahhh now i get it. i think.

I haven’t been the biggest advocate of Linkedin in the past.

I’ve even posted a few articles suggesting that people should link out of linked in. Here are two of my favorites:

Although some of the stated shortcomings have since been addressed – like a fancy mobile site and a decent value proposition with the answers & experts area, there are still some things that need to be addressed – like the overall user interface.

Having said that, I admit that I’m using Linkedin now and have found it somewhat useful from a professional networking and ecosystem engagement perspective.

Thanks to the good folks at commoncraft who just released the “linkedin in plain english” video to explain simply that the tool is more than a digital contact list for professionals. Check it out here:

Commoncraft used a small business owner to illustrate the power of linkedin.  I totally get that – but what about everybody else?

I would be interested in hearing from others on how they value linkedin as a business tool.

Next up – 5 or so things I would like to see implemented to make it a better experience.

July 18, 2008   8 Comments

Goodbye facebook, hello social aggregator?

socialthingJust as marketers are finally figuring out what the heck facebook is and why they should be embracing the platform as a way of reaching & engaging their customers and potential customers, there is a new trend developing that may impact facebook and other social mediums…

Enter social aggregators.

Aggregators won’t replace facebook – but much like RSS feeds have supplemented users visting websites directly, social aggregator services could mean marketers looking to reach and engage people through social media sites like facebook will find a smaller direct audience to engage with.

I’ve signed up with socialthing and others are raving about feedfriend. Both do about the same thing – they take updates from all your social media sites like flickr, facebook, twitter, yelplinkedin and stream them as one interface in something called a “lifestream.”

The idea is great – instead of checking for updates on multiple sites, you can get them all at once – much like how i use Netvibes or Protopage to aggregate all my RSS feeds.

Personally I get everything I need from Netvibes. 

I can add twitter or facebook status updates to Netvibes… and i don’t really care for the extra features social aggregators include such as comments on the different feeds. When I also consider the fact that most of my friends aren’t as geeked out as I am on ‘web 2.0′, it makes even less sense. Just getting my friends on facebook was a monumental task.

Having said that, the mobile interface for Socialthing is a thing of beauty.

They also have an optimized interface for the iphone which makes checking out lifestreams on the go a pleasant experience.

I have a hard enough time keeping up with my RSS feeds (270 currently) – I’m not sure I have enough time (or care enough) to follow the lifestream of every person i know. Having said that, it could be really useful if you are stalking following a few choice people…

How can marketers get in on this?

Websites got around a similar issue when RSS feeds became popular by not including all the content in the feed – so users who liked the lead content were driven back to the site… where sponsored ads could be displayed in all their glory.

One suggestion – build your own branded social aggregator…. and include your own relevant content as one of the feeds.

I could see this working really well for Automotive, Financial, Pharma, Retail… well pretty much any brand looking to participate in & influence a person’s lifestream.

May 20, 2008   6 Comments

Sharing is caring – the future of social media

dataportability.orgSocial Media has really evolved over the last 12 months. 

Arguably it started when facebook opened up their platform to developers.  

The number of applications went from 8 to hundreds within weeks and the level of user engagement increased and accelerated.  

Many other major social media sites followed facebook’s lead and announced plans to open up their platform too… most notably Google’s Open Social announcement near the end of the year which had the promise of portability of applications and widgets across multiple platforms.

Many other sites that were struggling to match the pace of facebook’s growth declared that they would also join Open Social so that collectively they could change the landscape of social media once again (maybe this time in their favour).  

There was just one major barrier 

facebook’s social graph meant that people would not easily or quickly leave facebook for another platform – not after investing so much time and effort into creating networks and connecting to friends, family and colleagues. 

As blogged on this site (see links below), it’s unlikely that consumers will abandon or share their online social media time with facebook until their data assets built within facebook became portable to other sites. 

Enter dataportability.org 

Their philosophy is that you own your own data – so you should have the right to do with it as you see fit…like export or port it to another platform, tool, or application. Check out their mission statement here

As of now, the group is no more than a round table of smart people looking for a way to materialize a vision…. but what’s interesting is who has joined the round table discussion.  As of today, key people from LinkedIn, Flickr, SixApart, Google, facebook and Twitter have joined the conversation.

If this turns out to be more than a PR stunt, this has the potential to be the biggest story of 2008 as true identity portability means we can take our social equity and use it however we see fit – and where ever.

That’s what I’d call Social Media 2.0

Or Identity 2.0

Whatever you want to call it – this is a significant signal that the digital social media space will continue to evolve at a rapid pace this year and we all stand to benefit from this.  

Need to catch up on the conversation? Here are links to some of my previous articles that referenced portability of identity and identity 2.0:  

January 11, 2008   1 Comment

4 reasons why LinkedIn is out of touch with their new platform

facebook vs. LinkedIn

As reported by Michael Garrett at profy, LinkedIn plans to release a developer API platform that would allow people to create new widgets or applications for LinkedIn – similar to what facebook did this year and what other sites such as MySpace and Friendster have announced they will do in order to slow down user migration to other social networking sites.  Although there are some great potential outcomes of this announcement, there are a few reasons why I believe their strategy needs further evaluation: 

1) Creating a walled garden within a walled garden. Applications developed on the new API platform must first get reviewed and approved before they can be made available to the community. This will stifle innovation. Let developers build what they want and let the community of LinkedIn users decide what is relevant or not.  

2) Developers will have to share revenue with LinkedIn…which is the opposite of where the industry is going. Given the user migration to facebook from other platforms in the last 8 months (LinkedIn included), why would a developer focus energy on a restrictive environment when they can create professional based applications and reap all the benefits from it on facebook? facebook is not just about sending electronic hamburgers… it’s increasingly also about professionals connecting in a simple, user-friendly environment where they make their own decisions on what is relevant or not.  Developers should be rewarded for their innovation.  

3) LinkedIn is not about engagement. Or community. As quoted on profy, they are not trying to get users to come back to the site multiple times a day. If you’re not trying to create engagement you aren’t going to increase your social graph. Isn’t social networking about engagement? If you are marketing a product or service, would you rather integrate it within a community like facebook that sees nearly 50% of their users return every day for at least 20 minutes, or with a site like LinkedIn that doesn’t care if you come back with any regular or predicted frequency?

4) Charging for premium services. Information should be free. LinkedIn still charges for their premium services. Free is a business model.  People are making money by giving stuff away and profiting from the engagement created.  Mitch Joel highlighted this in a recent post here.

Having said all of the above, there is great potential for LinkedIn to create something special and of value by allowing developers to create LinkedIn widgets that can be exported to other websites (even to facebook) with no restrictions, review processes, or threat of revenue sharing.

The future of social networking includes the idea of portability of identity – to other mediums (like mobile) and to other communities. Creating easy to export widgets that go beyond linking to somebody’s profile page on LinkedIn and creates true engagement based on permissions and profiling could create a massive increase in LinkedIn’s social graph….which they can profit from without taxing developers or their commmunity users. 

Understanding that LinkedIn has some specific goals with their new platform, they can still achieve them more transparently by offering rewards or incentives to developers for applications or widgets that meet specific criteria or goals in line with what they think people want.

Image credit: Pulse2.0 

October 16, 2007   5 Comments

Time to link out of Linkedin?

Social GraphLinkdedIn has sometimes been referred to as the “facebook” for professionals as the majority of registered users are over the age of 30. Now that facebook has grown up and grown beyond college social networking, is LinkedIn still relevant?  

With over 14 million subscribers in over 400 economic regions (as defined by LinkedIn), at first glance it would appear that the site is doing pretty well… although when put into perspective with a site like facebook that has nearly 40 million users as of September 2007 with the vast majority being at least weekly or monthly active users, LinkedIn seems less relevant.  A survey of my LinkedIn network reveals that most of my contacts rarely access the site and have found little value overall in being a member of their network. The reason?  LinkedIn was a good concept, but it was never a great website or experience. Now that we’ve all built up our social equity in other sites such as facebook, LinkedIn no longer seems relevant.

5 reasons why LinkedIn is no longer relevant (or 5 things they can do to regain relevance):
People Map
1) It’s not a community site by today’s standards. Where are the community tools? It would be nice to see RSS feeds and more ways for user generated content to be incorporated into the site.  How about a people map to visually link people in your network together? I’ve seen / experienced this done to great affect in other tools such as those offered by Leverage Software. If the tool is all about making connections or finding professinal matches, offer a visual way to see who is in your network…and offer filtering tools to change the view based on your preferences. The site needs to be more than a business card scan repository if you want engagement and relevance.

2) There is no mobile website – which is ridiculous when many “business” users have a blackberry or other PDA device and are already using the mobile web to access information and mobile email to keep in touch with contacts.  Having a mobile website that is built for the mobile web is now table steaks for any social networking site.  There are also no SMS alerts for when people in your network ask questions, send email & request updates etc. 

Phil Barrett LinkedIn profile
3) The current user interface and overall user experience is dated. The UI needs to be more intuitive. Give the site a new look, add some personality and make it easier to move around the site. A better user experience = more engagement which will lead to more social equity in the site.

4) Fee-based system. The free service is not bad…but why make the best features available only through the pay model? This restricts usage, engagement, and it’s social graph.  Web 2.0 sites are giving away everything away for free…so why pay anything for what is essentially a contact management website?

5) No unique or compelling offer. As marketers, we know in order for a campaign to succeed we need a strong call to action to get somebody’s attention – but if the product is not unique, people will not stay engaged. Try putting lipstick on a pig… people will still see that it’s a pig – albeit a more attractive one?  LinkedIn offers a way for people to look for jobs, find answers to their business questions and build their online reputation. The problem is that other sites do a much better job at this too – like monster.com for jobs and yahoo answers. Create something better…something unique and the social graph will get better.

If you believe like me that it’s time to link out of Linkedin…you better get started as it may take some time. Unlike other social media platforms, there is no automated way to disable your account and remove your profile from the LinkedIn system. You have to submit a customer support ticket to be removed. 

At least they are consistent.

UPDATE 9/25/07 – Just came across an interesting article on this topic over at brand and market blogspot

UPDATE 9/27/07 – Check out book on LinkedIn entitled “I’m on LinkedIn…now what?” by Jason Alba

September 23, 2007   3 Comments