April 27, 2010
Yesterday morning, at the Intracom Conference in Quebec City, Jean-François Pitet presented the attendees a very dark picture of the last 10 years on the Internet. Pitet called his presentation “What lessons can we learn from our mistakes” but, other than talking about the Web’s big problems (spam, bad use of social media, etc.), I felt he didn’t offer many suggestions to improve the Web going forward. I did find an interesting nugget of information when he talked about the Nestle/Kit-Kat debacle. For those who are not familiar with the story that happened last month, Caroline McCarthy from CNET.com explains: “Environmental activist group Greenpeace has long been putting the pressure on Nestle to stop using palm oil, the production of which has been documented as a source of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and endangered species loss.” Greenpeace created an online video for their campaign but the debate quickly moved to Nestle’s Facebook fan page. McCarthy continues:
These days, just about every brand has a public forum in the form of a Facebook fan page, and Greenpeace supporters–whom the activist group had encouraged to change their Facebook profile photos to anti-Nestle slogans that often incorporated one or more of the company’s food logos–started posting to the Nestle fan page en masse. Nestle countered with a mild threat: “To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic–they will be deleted.” A Nestle rep diving into the comments of the thread with responses like “Oh please…it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments” didn’t calm things down.
Sufficed to say, the situation quickly degenerated and turned into a PR nightmare for Nestlé.
Back at the conference, Pitet explained that the main problem is that Nestlé created a fan page for the corporate brand (Nestlé) while in fact they should have focused on product brands (Kit-Kat, Nescafé, etc.). In a consumer social site (Facebook), consumers should interact with consumer brands when the corporate brand is secondary. That makes sense and this tells me you need to think before creating a Facebook page for everything…
Following the presentation, Denis Boudreau, one of the attendees, suggested I read this ReadWriteWeb France article to learn more about the case. They suggest the following tips to avoid a similar debacle:
- Plan ahead of time for potential conflictual situations (any skeletons in the corporate closet?)
- Understand that you can’t control a Facebook fan page (you need to understand the specifics of the Facebook culture)
- Put in place an experienced social media team (don’t use the intern!)
- Prepare and simulate scenarios
- Write clear rules for your community managers and users
- The worst strategy is not being present
- When it happens, recognize the situation, offer a specific space to discuss it and open the dialogue
- Have an option to go 24/7 in case of crisis
- You will find all your enemies on the Internet
April 23, 2010
In essence, everything that Facebook announced at F8 ultimately belongs in the browser, not through a single connection to a proprietary service. And the great thing is that not only is that the better solution for proponents of the open web, but it’s also even easier than Facebook for users of the browsers that eventually gain these features. Facebook has always won the war for identity based on convenience, but nothing is more convenient than the tools built in to my browser of choice.
What it means: More thoughts on this week’s Facebook announcements. I suspect we will see two social “standards” emerge: Facebook and an open one. This begs the question: “where does Twitter fit in?”. I need to think about that some more.
Update re: Twitter. Dave Winer suggests Twitter could lead the “open” charge.
April 23, 2010
When all likes lead to Facebook, and liking requires a Facebook account, and Facebook gets to hoard all of the metadata and likes around the interactions between people and content, it depletes the ecosystem of potential and chaos — those attributes which make the technology industry so interesting and competitive. It’s one thing for semantic and identity layers to emerge on the web, but it’s something else entirely for the all of the interactions on those layers to be piped through a single provider (…)
What it means: additional must-read from Chris Messina to understand the implications of the recent Facebook announcements. Already, an open protocol around “liking” things has emerged at http://openlike.org. The strategist in me admires Facebook’s strategy and current execution. It’s brilliant and Machiavellian. I would have done the same thing. You just need to be aware of the potential positive and negative consequences if you implement their technology.
This morning at the F8 conference, Facebook announced the launch of a distributed or deportalized “Like” functionality. Techcrunch explains how it works:
The Like button works exactly like it does on Facebook (and other sites like FriendFeed): it allows users to show their approval of any piece of content on these sites with one click. You can also include a little note saying why you like the item. (…) These likes are then transported back to Facebook and integrated into users’ profiles. Notably, if you like a movie on IMDb, it will be pushed into your favorite movies area on your Facebook profile.
I’ve tried it on IMDB, the movie database site, where I “liked” the Peter Sellers’ movie The Party. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you will see on the right-hand side of the page the fact that I “like” the movie and my Facebook avatar. You can click on the Like button to signal you like the movie.
The action is then broadcast to the Facebook newsfeed, where your friends can click back and see the information on the IMDB site. Please note that you can’t “like” or “comment” on that activity inside Facebook, only on IMDB.
The new “Like” button is part of a new suite of social functions available for third party Websites. That suite called Open Graph includes the Facebook login (formerly Facebook connect), social plugins and a toolbar.
What it means: Wow. What a sexy concept. It’s easy to implement, it’s easy for consumers to use and it promotes your site within Facebook. Sounds like it’s a no-brainer. Everyone should implement it, no?
Let’s think about it for a second before moving too fast.
The future of the Web will be all about “structured data” and “social”. It will be about analyzing human interactions and surfacing relevant content in a sea of information/noise. If you want to build value in the future, you need to make sure you’re able to extract the social interaction data and analyze trends. That’s what Facebook is doing. They’ve managed to build a great identity system and are now building a a graph of people’s interest using external content and traffic. Facebook is building the ultimate social utility.
Will you be able to capture trends and surface relevant content if you “outsource” some of your basic social functions to Facebook? I’m not sure. You need to be able to tie social actions to your core structured data. I still believe it’s critical to use the Facebook identity system (log-in and social graph) but be careful of other social plugins. You might be giving away the future of your business to the social network giant. And by the way, you can probably create your own “Like” button that broadcasts to Facebook using the Facebook login…
In the local space, Yelp has just implemented the whole social kit from Facebook but note how they’re using the “like” button: “A use-case that we’re all excited about: perhaps you see a 3-star business and you’re unsure of whether you want to try it. But you see that several of your friends have “liked” it so you give it a shot and it’s really a 4-star business in your book. So now you can write a review telling people how great it is! “. They’re using the Facebook Like button as a backup system to their own rating system. They’re not surrendering their main social functions to Facebook. They understand their core business and are leveraging Facebook’s identity system and social graph. That’s smart. Make sure you’re as smart as Yelp when you start implementing these new tools.
Update: ReadWriteWeb has some concerns has well and write “At first blush, it’s hard from a user’s perspective to find anything to criticize Facebook for in today’s announcements. Those criticisms will no doubt start to form once people wrap their heads around all the particulars. On principal, though, there’s going to be so much more Facebook around the internet that it feels like a real cause for concern. Centralization is a dangerous thing and Facebook is a young company that’s proven willing to break its contract with users in the past”
Via Gigaom.com this morning:
Finally, it is widely expected that Facebook is going to announce some kind of location capability at f8. By adding place tagging, in one fell swoop, they could gain the largest single userbase for updates tagged with location. The check-in behavior popularized by the likes of FourSquare would become more easily usable for its more mainstream audience. This was the approach Twitter announced at its own developer conference last week.
But as users start adding location context to Facebook data, there will be more opportunities to make use of social actions married to geo-location. Aggregating people around location will make it much easier for people to socialize and interact offline. It also opens up the opportunity to go after the lucrative local market, another place to compete directly with Google. Facebook could soon have pages for every local restaurant and hair salon, accompanied by user likes, shares and comments and enabling offline businesses to have closer ties with their users. That would give Yelp a run for their money, too.
What it means: There goes the neighborhood. Om Malik clearly spells out the local revenue future for Facebook and interestingly enough, Malik says Facebook will “compete directly with Google”, not directory publishers…
Update: AllFacebook.com doesn’t think Facebook will introduce anything related to location.
April 17, 2010
Google is going after local search in a big way, especially with mobile and enhanced place listings. Now it is pushing more local searches through its auto-suggest feature on Google.com. When you start typing in a keyword, the suggestions that you see are now geared to your location. Previously these were already specific to a country, but now they are by city.
What it means: Google continues its march towards a “local” Web. As I’ve stated before, they’ve won the “utility” war from a search perspective. The opportunity in “local/social” still remains open but for how long? Twitter’s announcement this week that they’re going to enable “places” as a geo-location proxy is important and I predict Facebook will announce something “local” at the F8 conference next week. Traditional local media companies are not innovating fast enough.
February 2, 2010
Robert Scoble reports this morning that he’s now “heard from three separate Google employees that Google will release a news feed that will compete with Facebook and Twitter”. He gives an excellent description of the products that will serve as building blocks for that feed: Google Profiles and Google’s Social Circles Connections. Scoble says it’s a serious threat to Twitter.
On a related note, ReadWriteWeb makes the case that Facebook could soon become the world’s leading news reader because of the enormous size of the social network and the ease of sharing/commenting information.
What it means: yet more proof that my prediction that we would soon consume all local content in a real-time activity stream format will come true. Traditional media companies: when Google launches this newsfeed, don’t say you were not warned in advance. Embrace the real-time Web and the newsfeed format. It’s becoming a de facto Web standard.
Silicon Alley Insider revealed this morning that Facebook is working on a “check-in” functionality similar to the one you can find in Foursquare or Brightkite (and now Yelp). When they reached Dennis Crowley, Foursquare cofounder, he said:
For his part, Foursquare cofounder Dennis Crowley told us he fully expects Facebook and others to launch “check-in” functionality, making it “commodity by the end of the year.”
What it means: if you’ve been following my recommendations closely, you know that “check-in” is one of the features of the perfect local media company of 2014. It’s already becoming a “commodity”, a must for any local media company mobile products. Check-ins also represent interesting data that should be added to merchant profile Web pages (like Yelp is doing).
January 28, 2010
One of the first things you learn when you launch your own startup is to actively monitor opportunities in the market and move quickly to leverage them. In my case, it happened three times in the last three years.
The first strategic move happened back in the fall of 2006 when Sylvain Carle, Harry Wakefield and I founded Praized Media to help local media companies leverage the rising force of social media and online word-of-mouth. I also started blogging about what I call “local 2.0,” the intersection of local search and social media. At the time, most people believed that this convergence would not happen. Three years later, it’s one of the hottest sectors.
We made the second key move in fall 2008. Having launched our first social local tools (for WordPress, Movable Type, Facebook and our hub site) a couple of months before, we were approached by a few major media players who signaled to us they would be interested in using the technology we had built within their own online platform. This gave us the confidence to develop white-label enterprise versions of our social local media software, which has been in the market since spring 2009. Building on the popularity of our initial module, we developed many more enterprise modules described here.
The third strategic move is happening now. Last fall (what is it with fall???), we were approached by two US investment banks who aspired to represent us if we ever wanted to find a strategic partner for Praized Media. A few companies also hinted to us that they might be interested in investing in or acquiring Praized Media. Based on that enthusiasm, Sylvain and I (along with our board) discussed the pros and cons of going to the altar with a strategic partner vs. continuing alone.
The market is super-hot for technologies like ours. In the last three months, there has been a flurry of acquisitions and funding events in the “social local” space (we’ve created a document listing them if you’re interested). We could go on the road and raise new VC money to fuel our growth, but anyone that has raised those kinds of funds before knows that this is a brutal process, even when your market is hot. It takes a lot of time and energy, and for small companies, the process forces you to take your eyes off the product/company development roadmap. At the core, Sylvain and I are product/technology guys and that’s what we want to do. In the last two years, we’ve built world-class real-time social local search technologies. We’ve assembled a five-star (pun intended) social local technology development team. We’re notable thought-leaders in our space.
The future of local media will be centered on Aggregation / Discovery / Social / Search and our technology stack enables that. We believe what we’ve built (team and technology) represents the cornerstone of the next-generation local media company (traditional or pure play), and we want to focus on building that vision with a larger organization.
For all those reasons, we have decided to hire [praized subtype="small" pid="858569eeccb433824aca7193236f55ce" type="badge" dynamic="true"], an investment banking firm in Los Angeles that specializes in digital media, to represent us in our search for a strategic partner. We’re obviously supported a 100% in this decision by our board and the whole team is excited by this new move. For our current customers, collaborators and service providers, it is business as usual as this does not impact our day-to-day operations (actually, it frees up more time!). Given current market conditions, we are extremely confident we will find the right strategic partner.
If you’re interested in discussing more the opportunity, you can contact Siemer & Associates at (310) 496-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.