Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’


Facebook got more visits than any other web property in 2010 according to an article in Computerworld.  Hitwise, an Internet analytics firm said that between January and November 2010 Google, which had the top spot in 2009 slipped to second with 7.19% of all visits compared with Facebook’s 8.93% share.

Also, for a snapshot in time, another research group, comScore said that for the month of August U.S. users spent 41.1 million minutes on Facebook compared to 39.8 million minutes on Google’s constellation of sites.

Now, on the face of it, that might suggest that Facebook is superior to Google and in some ways that might be true but which ways?  It is a bit of apples and oranges and we need more data to sort this out—data that might not exist yet.

Consider this, according to a Jess3 video, “The State of the Internet” 84% of social networking sites have more women than men.  I am not saying that’s good or bad but if women are more social, I wonder if they also ask for directions more than men and if that’s reflected in the demographic breakdown for Google.

I also wonder what these numbers have to do with doing business.  Are visitors to Facebook more or less business oriented than visitors to Google and all of its applications?  Also, what comparison can we make between Facebook and LinkedIn?  Is 41.1 million minutes—about 342.5 U.S. work-years—on Facebook in August a good thing?

 


The social media market reached a kind of saturation point yesterday when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced a new service that is not email but that looks suspiciously like it.

According to various reports, the new service assigns an email address to each Facebook user which provides a consolidated look at all of a user’s email, Facebook messages and SMS and chat as well.  The service can sort incoming messages into three groupings—all messages, full conversation history (regardless of medium) and messages you want.  Inside the inbox messages are sorted into “Messages” i.e. the good stuff, “Others” or the things you might get to and “Junk” where offers for cheap Viagra, timeshares and letters from foreign widows with millions of dollars to launder and bad spelling will be shunted.

My analysis

This may represent the social media market’s saturation, a kind of shark jumping, because it breaks no new ground, adds no new media or communication channels.  It simply consolidates digital/social communication and perhaps makes using it a bit faster.  Previously, if I received a new message on Facebook I would get an email.  I hope that doesn’t change because I don’t live on the service and I need another email address like I need another credit card whose offers fill up my snail mailbox.

Mike Isaac covered the announcement for Forbes.  Isaac’s blog post describes Zuckerberg as follows:

“Whenever I get the chance to talk to high schoolers, I always ask them what they’re using” to communicate with one another.  But it was the type of messaging they weren’t using that caught Zuckerberg’s attention.

“‘We don’t really use email.  It’s too slow,’ they told me.”  Zuckerberg found the statement “completely boggling.”

But most of us aren’t in high school and Zuckerberg’s attempt at high school relevance does nothing to help me see how this innovation can be germane to the business world.  As another form of email it is at best redundant and some of its deletions or “improvements” over email, such as not having a standard subject line, make me wonder how applicable it will be in a broader context.  I know there are several levels of sort within the messages folder but I worry that something might be incorrectly sorted like an order or an order cancellation.  Then how do you find it?

If I take my curmudgeon hat off for a moment, it’s just possible that this innovation in social media is simply a new solution looking for a problem to solve.  That happens all the time.  The early adopters, in this case kids, take it on and in a year or two you have something that hundreds of millions of people can make use of.  Facebook and Zuckerberg have proven adept at this so it’s likely prudent to reserve judgment.


David Nour, the founder of Relationship Economics, publishes an interesting and articulate newsletter.  I don’t always agree with him but even when I don’t we aren’t that far apart.  His latest post on “Tomorrow’s Social CEO” is an example.

Nour correctly observes (and laments) that few of the current batch of corporate leaders is socially connected.  According to his post, “Eric Schmidt (Google) is an infrequent Twitterer and not a blogger; Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) does not blog or have a Twitter account; Michael Dell is on Twitter but is not an external blogger.  It is also remarkable that neither Steve Jobs (Apple) nor Larry Ellison (Oracle) have a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or blog presence that we could find.”

My facile observation: Yes, and look where it’s gotten them.

Seriously, though, I agree that the executive of tomorrow will be much more of a social animal but as they say in court rooms from time to time, absence of proof is not proof of absence.  What I mean, and this is almost pure hypothesis, is that organizations are becoming more social but perhaps the right application hasn’t come along yet to enable a CEO to be more social in a professional setting.

To borrow a regrettable phrase, the CEO is the decider.  He or she spends the day making decisions for the organization so that it can continue on its mission of maximizing shareholder value and serving the customer.  Other people in the enterprise do the social work for the organization for a very obvious reason—doing it right requires capturing a mountain of data, analyzing it and only then taking action.  CEOs don’t have the time.

CEOs are great at analyzing data once it’s captured and presented to them.  I once knew a guy who could scan a balance sheet, no matter how complex, and in a matter of moments begin making cogent observations and recommendations.  He was murder on finding misspellings on a lunch menu too.

I think the blog might be the natural social medium for today’s CEO.  Since Reagan, even U.S. presidents have made weekly radio broadcasts—a social outreach, albeit one way—a standard part of the job.  My preference would be to change that to a weekly newspaper column though.  Written words are more accessible and longer lasting and enable you to elaborate a complex idea but that’s a subject for another time.

So, why aren’t CEO’s more social?  If it’s because the right social medium hasn’t come along yet, there’s good news on the horizon in the form of a new generation of collaboration software and I think of Chatter from salesforce.com as the example.  Though currently only available as a tool for filtering the social stream within an enterprise, I can see a day when that restriction is lifted.

A collaboration product like Chatter does the necessary work of filtering the social stream so that only what’s most important to the decider gets in front of him or her.  That makes socializing the CEO possible.

Eric Schmidt is on friendly terms with Marc Benioff, who is very much socially adept, and I don’t know if Schmidt has tried Chatter.  Michael Dell already has a Chatter deployment measured in the tens of thousands at Dell, which is a big Salesforce customer.  It’s hard to say if there’s a possibility of Steve Jobs adopting Chatter and, of course, Larry Ellison and Steve Ballmer will likely have their own brands of collaboration software before they’d use Salesforce.

So my mild disagreement with Nour is really one of timing.  Yes tomorrow’s CEO will need to be social and maybe collaboration software is the way they’ll get there.


The Face of Facebook

There’s an interesting article in the September 20 issue of The New Yorker on Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook.  Written by Jose Antonio Vargas it is a synopsis of a short life that includes a partial Harvard education — Zuckerberg dropped out a la Gates to run Facebook — and a whirlwind thereafter.  With the movie The Social Network coming out on Friday I thought it provided a good back story to the founding and evolution of this social networking site.

The main thing that struck me is how young one is as a college sophomore.  I had forgotten that, though I am sure those close to me would vouch for the fact that I have not progressed much from that point.  College is like work release from childhood for most of us.  We’re out in the world, more or less, but still tethered to a more or less structured life of classes, projects, friends, music, parties and the usual anxieties — Does she like me? Will I get into grad school?  Find a career?  Follow my dream?  What is my dream?

So getting a peek at Zuckerberg as a precocious programmer and accidental entrepreneur is sobering.  It is more sobering than understanding the exploits of another famous Harvard dropout, Bill Gates, who left to found Microsoft.  It’s one thing to build, buy or steal an operating system that will, if it runs well, be the equivalent of computer wallpaper and quite another to build and be the front man for a social networking application.

Unarguably, both men and their inventions changed the world, but it seems that Gates had just a little bit more space-time between him and the rest of reality in which to mature as a person before taking on the persona of a public titan of industry, or whatever you might call it.

While the article is, I felt, balanced and the writer interviewed Zuckerberg for the piece, the same can’t be said for the movie coming out.  The article indicated that the movie and the book on which it is based used no interviews with Zuckerberg to gather source material and it is unauthorized.  Now, I know this kind of thing happens all the time, but it makes one just a bit more sympathetic for Zuckerberg.

The article (and probably the movie) tracks the ups and downs of Zuckerberg’s odyssey from baby nerd programming applications for his father’s dental practice (his mother was a stay at home mom and psychiatrist) to Harvard kid helping other students develop a site that would become the progenitor of Facebook.  The article and the movie get into the lawsuits over the IP too.

That’s where I said, “Whoa horsey!”  I suppose there are plenty of people out there who are conniving enough to steal an idea from a fellow college student, but how many turn it into a franchise that, if the company ever goes public, will make him one of the richest people on the planet well before his thirtieth birthday?

Facebook’s founding is murky — who had the idea and who programmed it are largely established but what about the influences each had on others as the idea got hammered out?  Critical questions because they go directly to how much each should receive in a settlement.  Would the product be as successful with a different constellation of characters or different relative amounts of contributions from each?  Would it even have gotten off the ground?

The Face of Facebook is interesting because it brings these issues to the forefront, but it also is a tale of the very early twenty-first century when almost any idea can be commercialized and the time horizon on youth is shrinking.  It’s ironic that our culture, which celebrates youth, could now be forcing kids into adulthood almost before they’re ready.


Last week in New York, I began some field research in social CRM that will result in a longer paper later this fall. One of the things that interested me was the level of frustration and, well, anger that some customers have for some of their vendors.

It’s a mixed bag, really — some people take great umbrage at Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX), others at a social networking site, and still others target their ire at oil companies, their colleges or even retailers.

In my research, there isn’t a single industry — or vendor, for that matter — that doesn’t have a group of antagonists.

This should surprise no one, but in the age of the Internet, some people might stew in their own juices over a problem or slight — either real or imagined — that happened just yesterday or one that goes back several years, but many others take action by airing their gripes online. If this is the age of transparency, it is not simply about vendor transparency — customers have a lot to say on the idea and they do.

Everyone Has Their Enemies

For part of my research, I relied on the highly subjective and unscientific international expression of annoyance and resistance to corporate affronts — I searched on the phrase “[insert name here, please] sucks.” Dear reader, I understand your delicate sensibilities, and I assure you that my interest in this research and the use of this mild form of profanity is not at all prurient — it is used in the furtherance of science. Think of me like a doctor or a photographer for National Geographic.

My reasons for beginning this quest are not germane to this piece but will be explained in the paper. Nonetheless, the more I searched, the more I realized that any company you can think of that serves the mass market has its detractors. These detractors have reached a personal level for frustration or loathing sufficient to cause them to invest many hours of their time to initiate Web sites and blogs to drive their points home and to invite others to likewise vent their frustrations.

In all but the smallest number of cases, searching on “___ sucks” brought to the screen not thousands or tens of thousands of hits but hundreds of thousands, and in many cases millions of them.

Dissatisfaction on 2 Levels

Here’s where it gets interesting. It is no surprise that some people have problems with corporations that supply them with life’s necessities. I can’t say that I have read or analyzed more than a small speck of the rants online, but after spending several hours with these for a, I feel safe in stating this preliminary conclusion: People are less dissatisfied over products or services than you might think. They are much more likely to have problems with their customer experiences.

But saying the customer experience is an issue really understates the point, which is that it appears there are at least two levels of customer experience to contend with. Moreover, it is the second level that gives many corporations agita, or at least it should.

The two levels? Thought you’d never ask.

Level One is the customer experience that the company knows about and in many cases designs around.

Level Two is the customer experience expectation that has developed in the customer’s head.

A company may not even be aware of Level Two — how could it be? It’s completely subjective. But level two is where companies falter, often badly, because of the impressions they have unwittingly encouraged to take form in their customers’ crania. More on Level Two shortly.

A simple example is all we have room for here, so it will have to suffice until the paper is ready. Note there are loads of variables in this data that are unaccounted for, and controlling for them will probably inform the work of thesis writers for the next generation. You are welcome.

Starbucks is the example. Searching on “Starbucks sucks” brought back 335,000 hits in 0.15 seconds — the number of hits seems large but broader research proves it to be middling at best. If you want some really scary numbers, try “BP Sucks” — about 2,510,000 results (0.38 seconds), according to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), or “Facebook sucks,” clocking in at a whopping 24,300,000 results (0.19 seconds).

Case in Point: Starbucks

Reading the posts on these sites provides a clear understanding of Level Two. To be sure, there are Level One critiques of products and services — the absence of non-dairy creamer or the extra charge for soy in espresso drinks, for example. But extensive reading shows that many more of the complaints deal with Level Two and aspirations.

For instance, the reason many people patronize Starbucks’ shops is the vibe. People want to associate with Starbucks because it reflects the image they have of themselves in a Gatsby-esque way — it shows how they want to see themselves on their best hair days. They seem to see themselves as kind, ethical, caring and nurturing people.

So when Starbucks has a disagreement with African coffee growers over trademarks and the price of raw beans, people complain. They also complain about the wages and low level of tipping for the baristas and they are happy to supply reports from Oxfam on the African situation and information about a successful lawsuit over tips in Los Angeles by baristas against the chain. Two sides play this game — consider the Starbucks water brand “Ethos.”

These and many other examples of Level Two failures point out the downside of living by the customer experience. It seems to me that many large companies have taken the approach of doing their best on Level One customer experience and of working to ensure that Level Two never gets totally out of control, a la BP (NYSE: BP).

What can a company do about it? Plenty, as it turns out, but it requires a different kind of thinking and another column. Next week, part two of this piece on how to approach the Level Two customer experience.


Chatter, Salesforce.com’s social collaboration tool goes GA today — that’s general availability for the acronym challenged among us.  I think it’s a good thing for many reasons.

Chatter is new, perhaps a new category of business software and that’s something we haven’t seen in a while.  It took the company only eight months to go from concept to today, a great performance for any software vendor but even more so for not only building but inventing something like this.  It’s a tribute to the people involved but also the Forcce.com platform, which underpins the new application.  I’ll let you read some other writers to learn more about Chatter’s functionality and, instead, skip to the thing that I think is most important.

Chatter is arguably the first bit of social business software that was built for the unique demands of the business environment.  Prior to Chatter we have a raft of software that was built, in some cases in a dorm room, to enhance the personal social outreach of its users.  While those tools are good and worthy and most of you reading this already use them, you have to admit that in a business context they leave a lot to be desired.

Applying personal social software to business reminds me of early attempts at building a flying machine — like those grainy black and white movies with syncopated piano music backgrounds of early test flights.  They could have been scripted — an inventor straps wings to his back and jumps off a bridge.  You know what happens.  To me, that’s what personal social media in business has been, great hopes, an adrenalin rush and cold water in the face.

The lesson here is that you can’t invent simply by emulating an old paradigm you have to think anew.  Salesforce saw this clearly, analyzed the need and built a product for the need it saw rather than simply copying something that worked in another context.  In other words, Chatter has no feathers.  Now, it must be said that the comparisons with the Facebook user interface are many and Salesforce leads the comparison parade.  That’s fine because the result is more than a UI.

The business process that Salesforce saw and sees has been in our faces for a long time though we were stumped over how to address it.  How do you foster a contextually rich and running dialog between relevant parties over company business in a dynamic and evolving setting.  email didn’t work, portals had limited appeal and voice mail?

The number of point to point connections in a company of even ten people can be big and in a company with five hundred or five thousand it’s just not possible.  Chatter supports an always on human network that ensures that the necessary people stay in touch over relevant issues.  That’s what is important about Chatter and what’s a bit different about it from personal social media.

We might be witnessing the beginning of an important new era in business software and in a future that I think will require business to build more sustainable business processes — defined as processes that are more efficient and that incorporate customers as a renewable resource — I think products like Chatter will play an important role.


In addition to knowing about the demographic make up of your community members and making sure they participate in your community not just hang around reading other people’s contributions you need to know something about the demographics of the social sites you want to work with.

I just read an article by Tom Stein about how small companies are giving up on Facebook as a marketing tool because they haven’t seen any returns on their efforts and some of the companies cited had been at it for a year or two.  So is Facebook’s time in the sun ending?  Maybe, but it will take more than a few anecdotes to make that call.

Consider this.  According to a resent survey by Pingdom (www.pingdom.com) concluded that 16 out of 19 (84%) of the most popular social sites have more women populating them than men.  The super geek sites Digg, Reddit and Slashdot have more men on them but the more popular sites including Facebook, Linked-in and Twitter all have more women visiting them.  The average ratio of all sites surveyed according to Pingdom was 47% male, 53% female.

That’s fine as far as I am concerned because women spend the bulk of family budgets.  But this neatly illustrates the flaw in the assumption that social media is a universal good.  One of the companies that Stein references as being dissatisfied with Facebook happens to be Blank Label, a company specializing in custom shirts designed and bought over the web.

So, the question that leaps to mind now that we know all this is how many custom shirts does the average woman buy annually?  Go ahead, think about it, I can wait.  Bingo!

So at least in the case of the shirt maker, the over reliance on Facebook is an example of not understanding the delivery medium.  It used to be so easy with print.  Magazines publish detailed statistics on readership, subscriptions, demographics and more so that potential advertisers can make educated decisions on their marketing spend.  The same kind of information is available from other sources on the web but you’ll need to do some work to find it and maybe collate it.

The point is that social media is just a tool.  There are many kinds of social media some tools are great at blasting out messages to friends but other tools focus on collecting information from your community.  The focus on inbound data often gets lost with the result that we continue to “spray and pray” using social media as if it were direct mail or email marketing.  Social media is powerful and easy to use but we still need to pay attention to how we use it.

The shirt maker might have a friend list of only men but and here’s the difficult part men might not go to Facebook looking for information specific to shirts.  The fact that so many women use it suggests to me that men who go there have other things on their minds.  So we see that just as in print advertising, lead generation is a fine art partly made up of the offer but much consideration should also go to placement.