Jan 19 2010

Tweeters Get Rung on The Social Technographics® Ladder

by Andrew DiFiore

When Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff — co-authors of Groundswell and analysts for Forrester Research — created The Social Technographics Ladder as a tool for analyzing social technologies, they apparently didn’t anticipate the explosive growth of micro-blogging. There was no rung on their “social ladder” for people who regularly participate on Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous, or FriendFeed; people whom they’ve dubbed conversationalists. That is, no rung until today.


So, one third of the US (adult) online population are having “conversations” at least once a week via sites like Twitter and Facebook. According to Forrester they’re most likely to be female (56%), hold a college degree, young (70% are 30+), and earning about $2,100 more than the average online user.

It will be interesting to see how this group evolves over the next 12 months as the US economy and unemployment rate shift.

Sep 4 2009

Fake Friends, Love For Sale

by Andrew DiFiore

Recently, Michael Learmonth of Advertising Age did a post about uSocial selling followers and friends to give the impression that a company’s Twitter or Facebook page are wildly popular. Sort of if you can’t make it then fake it.

I know this is nothing new; affiliate marketers have been doing this for decades. I guess for some, the perception of popularity is good enough.

I suppose this type of service was inevitable and we’re likely to see more companies like uSocial crop up. But, as many of the commenters of Learmonth’s post point out, tactics like this fly in the face of what social networking is all about. And the danger to social networks like Twitter is that they become irrelevant to the people who matter most. And the truth is: there is always another social platform around the corner; maybe its Posterous or Netlog or Lifeblob.

There is an inherent risk when a social community becomes too big.  As more and more “marketers” (and I do use the term loosely here) jump aboard the Social Media bandwagon (e.g. Twitter grew 1,444% over last year as of May), the more they clog these communities with useless tweets and mindless blog-babble (or blabble). The personalities that make these communities worth the effort of participation move on and you’re left with PR agencies pitching to other PR agencies.

To be fair, I see how tempting it is to “game the system” with so many competitors vying for the same eyeballs and clients growing impatient for results. Who has the time to build meaningful relationships… lets just buy ‘em. The problem with this line of thinking is it is self-deluding. If your goal is to generate real conversion then obviously paying for followers or friends fails to do this. Of course, you might be thinking: I need to appear popular in order to attract real conversion. Maybe but this is a slippery slope (and one I plan to put to the test and report back on in a follow up post). If enough people are gaming the system then these “stats” become meaningless, visitors will catch wise and assume any high number has been jerry-rigged.

The wonderful thing about the Internet is that it is a self-correcting system. Whenever there is a flaw in one product, a new product comes along and fixes it. For example, lets say you are following 5,000 people on Twitter but most of the time only 20% of the tweets are useful and you don’t want to miss them. You can use tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite to group and prioritize your Twitter feeds, making your social media life easier and more efficient. There are more tools like these going beta every month, designed, in part, to address these types of unintended uses (or abuses).

Jul 22 2009

Blogging is Dead, eh?

by Andrew DiFiore

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440. It would be roughly 550 years when some “digiterati” declared: Print is dead.

It took only 10 years for Wired magazine to declare the same thing for blogs (note the irony).

Every year since there seems to be a rehashing of the subject. Most recently Steve Rubel announced (6/25/09) he is no longer writing for his popular Micro Persuasion blog. Instead, he is going to feed his audience smaller, extemporaneous nuggets of insight via his Posterous site he calls The Steve Rubel Lifestream. Okay. Nothing wrong with that. Hey, I love real-tine free-flowing conversations as much as the next guy and platforms like Posterous, Twitter, and FriendFeed are great for this (and getting better with every iteration). But lets not over inflate a non-issue. Impromptu dialogs are not a substitute for well-organized, thoughtful commentaries.

Having worked in the publishing industry for a number of years (albeit as an interactive evangelist) I can safely say: The true value of print was never the “paper” but rather its meaningful organization of information. Lets face it, the biggest challenge with the Web is that there is just too much information scattered about with little confidence of its accuracy or authority.

zenbotA Glimpse into the (Near) Future

Media will be ubiquitous; available anywhere anytime. Seamlessly! The ultimate state of technology is to be so seamless that we are scarcely aware of its presence. There will be zero learning curve, it will just work!  And the Geek Squad will have to find a new vocation.

Integrated circuits can be painted on to any semi-durable surface (including paper but I suspect that we will be environmentally responsible and use synthetics), allowing programmable media to appear virtually anywhere. From cereal boxes to contact lenses to windshields of cars. Imagine, your home entertainment center will appear as a blank walls (or as murals of gamboling wood nymphs if you choose) when “off” but transforms into a full-blown interactive multimedia theater instantly with a single command.

You can experience anything that has ever existed in human history from the World Supra-Internet Database. I write “experience” because data will be multi-sensory. It will include immersive sights, sounds, and smells beyond anything that exists today, plus, it will be capable of responding heuristically. Not quite the holodeck of Star Trek but perhaps the precursor.

Of course, speech recognition and multi-touch screens will be perfected but they will not be our primary human-to-machine interface;  it will be our thoughts. Advances in neuromarketing have been touted for years and once perfected and reproduced cheaply, it will be as ubiquitous tomorrow as solid-state technology is today. Most likely, interaction will be a combination of voice, gestures, and thoughts depending on the application. Have you seen Project Natal Xbox 360?

The Return of Print (Sorta)

So, what’s the point? Three things:

1) journalistic institutions (some new, some old) will reclaim their rightful positions as reliable agencies of record

2) a delivery technology as cheap and convenient as paper (but much more permanent) will replace the “printed” newspaper, magazine, and book

3) blogging and bloggers will continue to evolve

With every new advance in tech there is a lot of experimentation. This is a good thing even if a specific experiment is not. Think of the Web right now at the stage of black-and-white television sets… Technicolor and Dolby Sound are just around the bend.