Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Future of Social Networks: Like air

First, the title of Charlene Li's talk seems right. Social media misses the's really about social networking. People use media for a purpose...networking for instance.

But I'd expect Charlene Li to understand that. Formerly of Forrester, her title now is Thought Leader at Altimeter Group, her very own company.

So where is Social Networking headed? Well, ladies and gentlemen, Charlene Li's take [with my comments in [brackets]:


Tim Berners Lee designed the web as a social tool, not a technical one. (From his book Weaving the Web).

What's a social site? Bebo, Orkut, LinkedIn? Habbo? Twitter? Here's a prediction [wait for it...]:

Social networks will be like air [so, she's selling the network's importance, not the tools (i.e, the sites)...true, but not an investment tip!].

[What about media like TV? How does that get 'social'? ]

It's all about seeing your friends...or people in your neighbohood. A company called Integra5 inserts chats via set top boxes around tv programs 

[any shared activity can be a social media acitvity though, yes? A multiplayer game online, thru the TV using XBox Live for instance?]

Three things that matter in a social network:
  1. Identity-who are you? [you get to manage the definition of you...not marketers]
  2. Contacts-who do you know? [but what is the depth of friendship? Is friending a brand on Facebook really about intimacy?]
  3. Activities-What do you do? [marketers  have access to much of thie behavioral data online]
Two sets of standards emerging in social networking toolset:

Facebook + Open Stack.

Open stack, consortium of companies like Yahoo, Microsoft, Plaxo and others. Includes: 
  • OpenID
  • XRDS Simple
  • Oauth
  • Portable Contacts
  • Open Social
Not a war between these standards. 

Some key components of any social networking system include:

  • Identity Management:Identities, likewise, reflect the myriad identities of the individual. OpenID enables your vairous identities to be managed, but which do you select?
  • Friend Management: expanding level of intimacy is embedded in how much access you give...and which tools you use to manage the relationship. [Not everyone gets your mobile number, but you might allow thousands of followers on Twitter.]
  • Privacy + Permission Management: Easier to manage: always a tradeoff though. An example of automated tools that determine who you email most often to autofill the "to' that a violation of privacy for the email system to do this for you without your permission?

Why social ads don't work

Leveraging realtionships to target ads and offers: Most social ads require an explicit action...whether its gifting or vibing, you're asking a user to spend time doing something. That's a challenge [we all have a limited amoung of time each day...its the same 24 hours no matter who you are].

A better way? Using network neighbor concept. A company called Media6 maps who is closest to you...using non-personally identifiable information in a cookie. [The you get remarketed based on the idea that wherever you neighbor goes, you're likely to go...isn;t this just birds of a feather? How to account for the human to desire to be different in some circumstances vs fitting in?]

The rise of the Personal CPM: 

Augmenting the CPM with social influence, behavior [I think this would be the CPP...cost per person, not thousands of persons...and isn't this Google's entire premise in search, without all the assumptions about influence and friends?]

Success factors for business:
  1. Where does Social [The noun!] make sense?
  2. Get your backend in order [backend data, that is.
  3. Integrate social networks into your org chart with the customer at the top [it would be even 'cooler' if the cusotmer was at the center of the organization].
Why so hard for organizations to embrace? Because it changes the power dynamic in the organizational relationships to the customer...customer contact is the most important role int he organization.

Twitter: @charleneli

Slides at

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