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?
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.
We’ve launched four specific areas of focus (although you can always suggest more). Will 2011 be . . .
The year location-based services go mainstream?Thus far, checking in from real-world locations has been an activity reserved for early adopters, but this behavior is growing, being spurred on by innovation from foursquare and Facebook. Will this be the “hockey stick” year for foursquare, where growth kicks into hyperdrive? Or will Facebook roll over foursquare as it did MySpace? And what will it take to hook the masses in the check-in craze?
The year of trust?Trust has always been an important brand attribute, but in 2011 it will become crucial for brands to earn followers, affinity and advocacy. How will brands earn trust in social media channels? How will trust be measured? What happens to brands that lose on trust? What steps will Facebook take to earn more trust as the social network continues to integrate itself into consumers’ surfing, social and mobile habits?
Six weeks ago, Forrester published a report some found shocking: "A Global Update Of Social Technographics®" noted that “social behaviors that require creating content have seen no substantial growth in adoption since 2009; in fact, some behaviors have experienced attrition.” After years of tracking demonstrable year-over-year growth in consumers' social behaviors, it seems the social train has ground to a halt. I created a blog post on the topic, but this didn’t seem nearly sufficient for such an important change in the most significant trend to hit marketing since the Internet went public in 1995. So today Forrester is publishing the report, “Fight Social Media Stagnation.”
The data speaks for itself — since 2007, every category of Social Technographic behavior (other than Inactives) demonstrated constant growth each year, but in 2010 that trend changed. Why? In part because we’re now reaching a point of social media saturation. With Joiners (those who maintain a profile on a social network) currently encompassing 59% of US online adults, it is inevitable that the growth of social behaviors would slow. The social media battle for the hearts and minds of US consumers has been fought and won!
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.
Twitter watchers have long awaited (and some feared) this moment: Ads are coming to your Twitter timeline. Twitterers thus far have supported and shown little concern over Twitter’s Promoted Tweets program, so long as those paid tweets were easily differentiated from unpaid tweets and stayed within search results or at the top of the Trends list. But now Twitter is taking the next step that many expected and inserting promoted tweets into users’ Twitter streams (see image below), and that means comingling authentic, unpaid tweets with paid, advertising tweets.
This is the riskiest move Twitter has ever made. There is a big difference between displaying paid tweets at the top of search results and inserting them into the timeline — just ask search engines, which for a while in the early days of the Web struggled with their own monetization models. Search engines experimented with comingling paid search ads with organic search results, but the backlash from consumer advocates and users was sufficient to force a different model. Today, paid search ads are not just differentiated with words, colors and fonts but are substantially and consistently separated from organic results into special portions of the screen.