How the Web is Becoming a Big Word of Mouth Machine

The day started with Robert Scoble discussing how “social graph-based search” (Mahalo, Techmeme, Facebook, etc.) is going to beat Google and other search engines.

Scott Karp summarizes Robert’s points:

  • Humans can judge what’s missing from an aggregation of information on a topic
  • The key to effective human filtering is leveraging a “fabric of trusted individuals”/”people who are trusted and credible”
  • By connecting these trusted people through a social network, you can leverage that resulting social graph to validate trust and create network effects

Then, Karl Martino added:

(…) there is a growing role for “Trusted Human Editors In Filtering The Web”. Our friends, our families, our communities. Not just machines and algorithms. My favorite and fellow bloggers, Slashdot, Salon, the home page of the NYTimes, Philly Future, Shelley Powers, Scott himself, my news reader subscriptions, are all trusted humans, or representations of trusted humans, filtering the Web for me. So it
still comes down to trust – What organizations do we trust? What systems do we trust? What communities do we trust? What people do we trust?

What it means: I believe the web is slowly transforming itself into a big word of mouth machine. Social will eventually be embedded directly in the fabric of the world wide web. Media companies have an advantage today as they are a trusted source but those that resist the “socialization” of the web will be left behind. In the directory business, there is a saying that word of mouth is the biggest competitor out there. I think it can become the biggest opportunity in local search.

Social Media Saves Business 2.0 Magazine (for now)!

Just got an e-mail from my friend Colin. According to Owen Thomas from Valleywag, it looks like Business 2.0 magazine is saved for now! Owen writes:

Business 2.0, up until late yesterday, was unquestionably in the process of shutting down. Columnists had been told not to bother turning anything in for October. Staffers — both those whom Time Inc. hoped to retain, and those not on the favored lists — had been seeking other employment. And a squad of higher-ups at Time Inc. had set travel plans to fly out to California to finish shutting the magazine down.

And now, most of those travel plans have been cancelled. Employees have been asked to stay to work on the October issue, and freelancers have been assigned pieces. And, I can only imagine as the fellow who used to write these things, hurried revisions are being made to a valedictory editor’s letter. It’s good news of the exceedingly inconvenient kind.

As of last night, Time Inc. execs have decided to enter into some form of due diligence with prospective buyers, and keep the magazine alive while it considers the dozen or so offers it’s received. (Want to buy a magazine? It’s not too late to throw your hat in the ring: send email to Maurice Edelson, the VP who’s running the sale process.)

The question, though, is why? Did social media save the magazine? Perhaps so, in a roundabout way. The Facebook group “I Read Business 2.0 — and Want to Keep Reading!” numbers more than 2,000 people, but that’s hardly enough for Time Inc. honchos, who deal with magazine circulations numbering in the millions to pay notice. But Facebook, with its early-adopter audience, may have proved an ideal way to get the attention of serious prospective buyers.

What it means: Wow! Time Inc. just realized they had tremendous assets with this magazine, the writers and the readers. Did social media save Business 2.0 magazine? It’s too early to tell. Did social media give Business 2.0 a reprieve? I believe so. I think social media (in this case Facebook, blogging and Techmeme) played an important role as an amplifier (see my chronology of events here). Thanks to everyone who joined the Facebook group and posted comments in the Wall. Thanks to every blogger and journalist out there who relayed the news. Without you, Business 2.0 would not be publishing its October issue. Thanks again!!!

Silicon Valley is Abuzz about Facebook

Silicon Valley is currently crazy about Facebook. Robert Scoble has captured some of the discussions:

John Battelle asks a compelling question: why Facebook and why now?

Scott Rosenberg of Slate follows up with another point: that Facebook’s friends definitions are all messed up.
Over on TechMeme everyone is talking about how Facebook’s advertising isn’t working.

Robert also offers some explanations about why this is happening:

First, why does Facebook’s advertising suck?

Because it isn’t tied to people or applications. Everything I do in Facebook is about interacting with people. For instance, at the top of my Facebook inbox right now is Ryan Coomer. The advertising next to him says “Try Forex Trading Today.” There is absolutely NO connection between who Ryan is and the advertising that’s put next to him.(…) Translation: Facebook needs an advertising platform and it needs one in the worst way. I’m not going to even look at the ads until the ads are tied to the people on Facebook. Facebook knows what we’re into, put ads for those things onto our profiles and messages.

Second, how could the friends definitions and ties be improved?

1000 ways. I’ll be honest, I don’t use them at all. I just add you as a friend and don’t put any details in there about how I know you. For one, adding that kind of detail is a competitive advantage for me and for PodTech and not something I’m really anxious for other people to know.(…)

Finally, why Facebook, why now?

Well, I compare it to LinkedIn (which is the competitor that comes up the most in conversations), Twitter, Pownce, and Jaiku. All of which have a social network component where you can keep track of your friends. First, Facebook has far better contact management than Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku. If I look up someone on all three networks Facebook shows me more, brings it up faster, and has a better look into their own social networks. That leaves LinkedIn to compare it to. I dropped off LinkedIn a year ago cause the expected useage model there is to have your friends do things for you. Pass along resumes, give references, etc. (…) There is no such expectation on Facebook.(…)

To tell you the truth, the reason Facebook is the better networking tool is BECAUSE it’s personal. (…)

What other reasons are there for Facebook now?

Quality of people on the network. When I say my Facebook contact list is like a who’s who of the Tech Industry, I’m very serious. And I’m still adding more people to my friends network. I’ve been on Facebook for about a month and I’ve already gotten 2,452 friends. (…)

But, that brings us to the grand daddy. Facebook’s application platform.

This is the real reason why I turned on Facebook. I don’t really care about the social network piece. There’s already other places I can get that. (…) But now my social network brings me cool applications. Well, some cool ones, like iLike and Zoho. But a lot of really crappy ones. It’s interesting to see what people add to their profiles, though. I wish I could see when people remove things from their profiles, in addition to adding them. (…)

Anyway, it’s the application platform that got me interested in Facebook and THAT is where I expect to see the hot new advertising models pop up.

What it means: I’ve recently heard (or read) that you have to have a Facebook profile if you want to be taken seriously in the Valley and that it’s slowly (or quickly!) replacing LinkedIn as THE networking site for business. BTW, I’ve been beefing up my network recently and if you want to add me as a friend, click here. 🙂 I think that what’s happening is that personal and professional online social lives are merging. But I also think we’ll need to be able to create closed networks for friends & family as you don’t want to share everything with everyone. Finally, I think the fact that Facebook is a “closed” network (closed to search engines, that is) with a lot of traffic & social interactions makes it a credible threat to Google.

Beyond Google: Social Media Engines First, Other Search Engines Second

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land dropped a bomb on the SEO world last Wednesday by firmly putting a new stake in the ground:

“…over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself more and more thinking that if you want to go beyond Google as a search marketer, the other search engines that matter first are the “social media search engines.” After them come the other major general purpose search engines like Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.”

“Search marketers should tap into search engines — and that includes the social media search engines. Neil Patel’s Forget ABCs – The Social Media Alphabet Is DNRS (…) is an excellent introduction to some of these players, for those not up on social media search engines and social media optimization. (…) They are traffic powerhouses you can’t ignore.”

What it means: Wow! Social Media (Digg, Techmeme, Del.icio.us, possibly MySpace, etc.) are now considered to be the second biggest source of traffic after Google for certain types of sites (news, blogs, etc.). Which means Social Media Optimization (discussed in the Praized blog in November) should now be a key element of your traffic strategy. Are you properly leveraging these sites?

What’s More Important: Social or News?

I was just reading Scott Karp’s post about the demise of Findory, a personalized news service created by Greg Linden (which strangely enough I quoted in the Praized blog yesterday)

Scott cites Om Malik : “Despite being drop dead simple, Findory never realized its true potential as an information discovery engine. It has all the makings of being a personal memetracker, something a lot of folks have been clamoring for. In contrast the general purpose memetrackers that follow conversations, like Techmeme and Tailrank keep growing. ”

Scott then ponders: “I wonder whether the great success of TechMeme (and Memeorandum, Gabe Rivera’s other site on politics) and Digg , vs. the failure of Findory to catch on, is evidence that news is a fundamentally shared, social experience. Despite all the hype about the “user in control,” purely personalized news may be too much control, a slippery slope that leads to solipsism. The proverbial “water cooler” is symbolic of our fundamental need to share the news, to validate our experiences by sharing them with others. How can there be “conversation” if we’re all talking about something different?”He continues: “There’s also the advantage of constantly pushing the boundaries of your personal interests. Users depend on TechMeme and Digg to show them interesting content that they never would have thought would be interesting to them — it’s the power of serendipity and discovery that comes when you ride along with a larger community of interest. ”

He concludes by asking: “is news a fundamentally shared, social experience?

What it means: after realizing that social might be more important than local in the context of social local search a week ago, it looks like social might be more important than news in the context of social news sites. Has the Web 2.0 world unleashed a social genie? I strongly believe that the “discovery” element of new social media is a key success factor for any new venture in that field. Unleashing the value of the network becomes as important as unleashing the value of the content and it creates a killer combo. Aristotle was right: “man is a social animal; he requires the companionship of other men and cannot find happiness if he leads the life of a recluse. “