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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

CNN’s live Obama inauguration stream will make facebook the new twitter

Twitter was the social media darling and top story in 2008 with over 700% growth.  It even trumped the news that facebook had finally caught up to myspace for overall traffic.

Then came the news that facebook was offering $500 million in cash and stocks to buy Twitter.  Twitter declined. Thanks to a flexible API, there are now over 150 tools that leverage, integrate and build on the Twitter platform.

It seems like nothing will stop Twitter’s rise to world social media dominiation. Except maybe facebook.

CNN and facebook have teamed up to offer live facebook status streaming during Obama’s inauguration on January 20th.  Point your browser to http://www.cnn.com/live and then update your facebook status which will then stream to the CNN live page as pictured above on the 20th.

What’s interesting is that facebook is turning what was a closed broadcast system (your status update to your friend network) into an open broadcast system – like Twitter.

The end result could fundamentally change the way people use facebook while trumping Twitter’s momentum.

facebook could be the new twitter – and the story of 2009.

They’ve already trumped friendfeed (a personal social media stream aggregator) by copying their unique features into facebook’s homepage, so this doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

facebook also has something that twitter doesn’t have – critial mass of non techno-geeks.

That $500 million offer may look pretty good afterall.

January 14, 2009   10 Comments

The impact of Social Media on Meetings & Events

As promoted on this blog previously, I’ve been given the opportunity to present the impact of social media on meetings & events at this year’s Incentive Works conference – Canada’s largest meeting & event show.

I really enjoyed pulling together this presentation as it builds on last year’s topic of “meetings 2.0” and really shows how far we’ve come in one year in terms of leveraging and incorporating technology in our lives – and in our work place.

Here is an outline of what is being presented over 90 minutes on August 19th:

  1. Creative opening (thanks to Michael Ofarrell for some of the visuals!)
  2. Introduction to Social Media
  3. Defining & introducing the tools
  4. Impact on meetings & event planning
    • Before the event
    • During the event
    • After the event
  5. Measuring Social Media’s impact
  6. Pitfalls of Social Media
  7. Top 6 things to remember
  8. Questions and Answers
  9. Obligatory self-promotion of the company I work for, my blog, and the other blogs I contribute to (onedegree.ca & canadianmarketingblog.com)

Specials thanks to Craig Ritchie for providing some of the foundational content and context.

I’ll post a link to the presentation on slide share sometime next week. PDF version also available upon request.

August 19, 2008   2 Comments

Proof that this interweb thing is just a fad!

Internet is just a fadLast month I sacrificed an entire weekend to start a Masters Certificate in Marketing Communications Management.  The first module covered such topics as internet advertising, new media channels, public relations, consumer promotions, sponsorship marketing and direct response marketing – topics that consume my every work day.

I figured there wasn’t much to learn…

Imagine my surprise when one guest speaker who claimed to have been part of the creative process that resulted in Tim Horton’s famous “roll up the rim” contest proclaimed this Internet thing was misleading, full of lies and largely ineffective as a communication channel.  Was he talking about television?  

Apparently not.

It led me to wonder if I had been led astray with this whole interactive marketing thing.

I remember being suspicious as far back as 1994.

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March 24, 2008   No Comments

Yahoo set to announce biggest layoffs since the dotcom bubble burst – Social Networks are to blame

yahooA few months ago I blogged about the impact of facebook on traditional print media. 

Many promoters had stopped printing flyers and started leveraging the power of the social graph available through facebook in order to reach and promote their events.

As reported by Yahoo last week, Yahoo is poised for hundreds of layoffs this week as advertising revenue has dropped significantly. 

Social Media sites have become everything Yahoo used to be – but simpler.  And easier. And more open.

Marketers have followed consumers to popular social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace. It would appear that facebook has moved on from eating the print shop’s lunch to eating the lunch of Web 1.0 sites.

Who’s next?

January 29, 2008   14 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

facebook should pay their advocates before they become badvocates

The biggest complaint I had about the facebook Ad / flyer program was the inability to target specific user attributes beyond their subscribed network.  Metrics were weak and performance was well below industry standard for banner ads.

Enter Social Ads. Launched last month, marketers can now target users very specifically – or on pretty much any attribute found in their profile.  Expect clickthrough rates to improve.

Social Ads are also a bit controversial. Your social actions are now fair game.  Now when you create a facebook beacon on blockbuster for example, facebook could serve an Ad that matches your social action. The Ad is published in your newsfeed and therefore will be visible to your entire social network of friends, family, and vague acquaintances.


What makes this controversial is that you now appear to be an advocate or  spokesperson for the brand, product, or service that appears in your newsfeed.

Call it the celebrity effect.

Just as people are influenced by their favorite sports hero or movie actor, facebook assumes that you have your own celebrity status within your social network. It’s like adding spam to word of mouth marketing. I can’t imagine that tasting very good.  This type of non-endorsed sponsorship is bound to turn some facebook users concerned about privacy into badvocates.   

Now here’s a nifty idea – pay your facebook celebrities.  

Treat users like the celebrities that they are within their social network and pay them a nominal fee each time a social ad is served in their newsfeed. It would be just like adding Google ad sense to your blog or website. Its only made Google a few billion dollars – so that model is already proven.

Here’s another nifty idea – instead of paying cash, reward users with points.

Reward facebook users with points for being advocates and spokespeople and allow them to redeem for merchandise from sponsors…or for invitations to special events… or special applications or status within facebook. Or how about redeeming those points for travel? Who needs Air Miles now! 

If the loyalty program is designed correctly, facebook could have the most powerful loyalty program in the world overnight.

I would be an advocate of that program.

December 4, 2007   2 Comments

facebook beacon is a whole lot of bacn?

baconmaker.jpgA month ago I presented an overview of social networking as a marketing platform to a Canadian Bank as way for them to reach different customers differently. 

In Canada that conversation will almost always become a conversation about facebook….which it was.

Last week I was invited to attend a morning presentation in downtown Toronto for an overview of facebook’s improved marketing platform.  Suddenly 50% of my last presentation was out of date.  It’s a good thing I took notes… notes that I will share with you this week.

If you’ve been underwelmed at the flexibility, reporting, and performance of facebook ads (flyers) and sponsored groups, I’ve got great news for you – four new marketing tools from facebook look promising with new relevance, insight, and flexibility unseen before in a social networking site.      

beacon_48.pngLike the facebook newsfeed when it launched a year ago, the new beacon product has generated a lot of discussion in the blogsphere and in the general media over the past few weeks over it’s interpretation of consumer privacy. 

Newsfeed is the most important tool on facebook for creating and maintaining the social graph. Beacon has the potential to have a greater impact. With beacon, you will now know what your friends are up to…outside of facebook.

It works like this – you go to your favorite website not named facebook and do something. That something can now get posted to your facebook newsfeed. For example, if you were to post an item on ebay for auction, that action and item with a link back to ebay will appear in your newsfeed. Now your entire social network knows you have an item posted on ebay.  

There’s only been one problem.

facebook made this “feature” opt-out.  Having an opt-out policy is marketing code for “we can SPAM you or what you do until you tell us to stop.” Since you actually asked for it, you are in fact sending a steady diet of facebook bacn to your facebook social network.  

Since most of us have short attention spans and rarely read or notice opt-out clauses, you end up broadcasting things you probably didn’t want broadcasted – like when your mother notices that you are selling last year’s Christmas present on ebay. Ooops.  Should we call that re-gifting 2.0? I’ll leave that one alone.

This past Friday, facebook updated the rules around beacon to “opt-in” – meaning you need to click to give facebook permission to publish that action in your newsfeed. This change aligns beacon with accepted practices employed today in other channels such as email.  

Marketers managing consumer brands take note – it’s super easy to add beacons to your existing web properties. It’s as easy as adding three lines of code to enable your product or service to be promoted virally through the social graph on facebook.  Want more info? Do a google search or start here.

facebook Social ads go a step further.   That will be the topic of my next article.

December 3, 2007   1 Comment

Measuring web 2.0 & Social Media – time to update your KPIs!

Traditional Marketing Dashboard

Traditional marketing campaign dashboards look really pretty.  Taking a stack of data and graphically representing how a campaign is doing against key performance indicators (KPIs) is part art and part science. 

How are you measuring the success of your campaign in today’s web 2.0 environments? If you are showing your clients page views, clickthroughs and unique visitors you are only showing them part of the picture.It’s all about engagement. With your audience. Between your audience. It’s about the social graph. It’s about the social equity of your online brand and what you are doing to increase it.

Your investment in time and / or expense in Omniture or Google Analystics are safe…but you need to ensure that visitor frequency and advocacy are placed near the top of your dashboard as they are leading indicators on engagement.

Measuring frequency should go beyond how many return visitors you have. Take a longer term view (not just the day or week the campaign hit) and measure time between visits and length of visits – and whether or not each is getting shorter or longer. When you have a high percentage of users returning every day, you know you’ve got engagement. facebook for example gets over 50% return visitors every day and users spend on average 20 minutes on each visit! If you are not sure what is good or bad engagement…start by figuring out a consistent process for you to measure it. Once you have your baseline number you can start tracking net gain / decreases.

Measuring advocacy is a little less tangible. Although a frequent visitor is a leading indicator that you may have an advocate…. that visitor has to go from lurking on your site to contributing to your site…or telling others about your site. Advocates will link to your site by blogging and / or tweeting about you, your post, or your site. To figure out how many advocates you have, start by googling your website URL, brand name, product or service and see how many sites are linking to yours. You may be surprised at what you find! Also search social bookmarking / media sites to see if people are tagging your content on Del.ici.ous, Stumble Upon, Digg, Technorati, and through RSS subscriptions.

Traditional marketing campaigns often use the cost of customer acquisition as part of their return on investment (ROI) assessment.  To provide better insight in today’s web 2.0 digital environments, look at your cost of engagement and your return on engagement (ROE).

Which campaign would you rather invest in – the one that drives one time traffic to your site, or the one that creates customers, advocates and longer term awareness, affinity or loyalty to your brand?

October 8, 2007   No 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