I love social media. I appreciate the way it's allowed me to stay close to family and friends, even though I live 2,200 miles from my hometown. I'm grateful for the constant flow of amusing, helpful and interesting information it provides. I am thankful for the many interesting people I've met and gotten to know via social media (including but not limited to Jeremiah, Steve, Anna, Amber, David, Ian, Ben, Stefano, Brian and others). I love the professional opportunities it has furnished to me, particularly my role here at Forrester. And I especially value the way social media is changing the world -- making it flatter and more transparent, challenging the ways we conduct business, elevating the importance of relationships and affinity and encouraging more listening and responsiveness.
But there are some things I'm sick of in social media. Do you share these dislikes? Any you'd care to add?
I'd begun to think of LinkedIn as a sleeping giant -- a company that had achieved success and was resting on its laurels, and those laurels were resting on increasingly thin ice. LinkedIn has become the de facto standard for professional networking and recruiting, but what had it done lately? Its groups seemed spammy (a problem that weakened Monster, once the undisputed leader in recruiting), and at least outwardly LinkedIn wasn't assertively innovating (an ailment that caused the downfall of Myspace). But with a burst of new features, it seems the professional networking site isn't sleeping any longer, and I am particularly impressed with Signal, a new intelligence tool currently in beta.
Today, Facebook and MySpace announced a collaboration. MySpace users can now log in using Facebook and leverage their collection of Facebook "Likes" to instantly create a highly personalized entertainment experience on MySpace. On the one hand, this is hardly earth-shattering news: MySpace already announced and launched its new entertainment-focused mission, and Facebook has been integrated into more than 1 million Web sites. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything interesting about today's news:
MySpace is reinvigorated and innovating rapidly. For a site that hadn't changed much in years, MySpace is suddenly looking awfully innovative. Of course, it needs to be; News Corp. has made it clear that MySpace quickly must demonstrate success, and MySpace is taking this challenge very seriously. In the past three weeks, MySpace has announced its new format, launched it and already rolled out its first major innovation with a partner.
Facebook made yet another big announcement today. The company introduced a new communications systems aimed at enhancing digital dialogue between friends and family. It isn't yet live, but you can request to be an early user of the new system here. To get a sense of what Facebook's new messaging platform is about, check out its official 4-minute video at the end of this blog post.
Since it involves a new Facebook.com email address, some people shrugged the new functionality off as a weak email tool. They're right — but that's like complaining an apple makes a poor orange. The new platform is a poor email client because it isn't intended to be an email client. Instead, this is a new form of communications; as Mark Zuckerberg said (more than once) "This isn't email," and he's right. Here's why it's worth paying attention to the new Facebook messaging platform:
It's a Gmail wounder. There's been a lot of buzz about Facebook's messaging platform being a "Gmail killer." It isn't, but it's certainly going to wound Gmail and other popular email clients. With the combination of individuals’ social graphs and Facebook’s new functionality, Facebook will succeed at pulling away some time and attention from Gmail, but it won't kill Gmail or other email clients. Facebook isn’t interested in being a management or response tool for your flood of bills, email newsletters or other communications; instead, it’s about facilitating and enhancing your personal relationships. Facebook wants to be the platform for personal communications and leave the boring stuff to Gmail and others.
Forrester estimates that in 2010, $80 billion of leisure and personal travel will be bought online – an amount that will increase to $110.7 billion by the end of 2014. Our research also shows that more than 7 in 10 online leisure travelers in the US use social media. Naturally, we’re seeing many firms begin to offer social trip planning solutions. The latest group looking to make a run at the prize is “Gogobot,” a self-described “social recommendation platform for travel” scheduled to launch in beta test on Tuesday, November 16.
Gogobot recently briefed Forrester. In opening up the conversation, Gogobot’s CEO Travis Katz (a MySpace alumnus) stated that “friends, not strangers” are what help to make a trip enjoyable. Hokey, but he has a point: we value advice from people we know. Gogobot allows us to leverage not only the wisdom of the crowd, but also our existing social networks in order help with the discovery and inspiration we value, but is often lacking from most mainstream travel sites, including those belonging to major online travel agencies and travel suppliers.
The key to Gogobot is its ability to help a user find not just advice and content, but relevant advice and content. Gogobot users can sign in via their Facebook account – making Gogobot convenient – and discover which of their friends have recommended a particular restaurant or hotel in one of thousands of locations. Yes, I know –pass the popcorn, we’ve seen this movie before. Where Gogobot’s true benefit becomes apparent is the control it extends to its users.
In a blog post a week ago, I stated that Auto Direct Messages (Auto DMs) on Twitter are unwelcome. Many agreed that these preprogrammed messages sent to all new followers are annoying, but others vehemently disagreed. To bring clarity to the topic, we conducted a survey that was completed by 336 individuals. The results are unequivocal: People hate to receive Auto DMs, think less of those who send them, and are quite likely to unfollow the senders or even report them as spam.
My recommendation based on the survey results is short and sweet: Don’t send Auto DMs. There may be exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. This is because the actions of many others have already destroyed people’s expectations of and attitudes toward the medium of Auto DMs. Auto DMs are the unsolicited email spam and telemarketing of the social media world; sometimes those discredited tactics work, but usually they spark response from very few recipients while damaging the senders’ reputation and influence among many, many more.
No matter how much you rationalize that your Auto DM is more welcome, personal, social, authentic, or helpful than everyone else’s, the data from this casual survey speaks for itself: By a margin of 40 to 1, survey respondents who have an opinion on Auto DMs indicate they find them unwelcome and usually do not get any information of value in the Auto DMs they receive. Almost three-quarters of respondents chose, “I find Auto DMs to be unwelcome because they usually do not contain information I find valuable,” versus 2% who said, “I find Auto DMs to be welcome because they often contain information I find valuable.”
Today Facebook announced three mobile enhancements for Facebook Places, including new functionality that developers of mobile applications may incorporate into their products and a powerful new (and free) platform for connecting mobile consumers with relevant ads for nearby businesses. Today's pronouncements demonstrate the ambition and vision Facebook has for itself in mobile computing and socializing over the long term, but in the immediate future Facebook now is poised to bring the wonders of checking in to the masses.
Chances are, you are NOT reporting your location (aka "checking in") to your friends and followers in social networks. According to Forrester data from earlier this year, just 4% of US online adults have ever used location-based social networks on their mobile phones. Simply put, there hasn't been enough WIIFM ("What's In It For Me") to entice and retain the typical consumer. Now, Facebook is set to change that, lowering the bar and improving the WIIFM for a wider range of consumers. Average Facebook users who previously felt "checking in" was better suited for narcissists and techies can now realize benefits from location-based services (LBSes, also known as geolocation) via a larger and richer set of offers and deals.
My last blog post generated more heated comments than I anticipated, and ironically, they had nothing to do with the primary theme of the article. Writing about how Facebook is intended for "real" relationships and not as a means to collect virtual ones, I mentioned that Auto Direct Messages (Auto DMs) on Twitter are unwelcome. Some agreed that these pre-programmed messages sent to all new followers are annoying, but others vehemently disagreed. So, this topic seemed worthy of further exploration.
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