Posts Tagged: social

Looking To The Future Of Social Media

In which I discuss the need to look beyond the minutia of the daily and into the future, charity, and more.

(if you follow me on Twitter, you will see this twice – once direct from Utterli and once from the blog)

Do You Know Who Is Watching?

A continual point I try to drive home to clients is the importance of monitoring your presence on and off line. It doesn’t floor me when a new client reveals they have never monitored their online or offline presence – that’s to be expected, and part of why they seek help. Often it’s just a case of not knowing how to get started and how to strategize and maintain a monitoring plan.

It continues to amaze me how many fly by night pseudo “gurus” of social media don’t monitor who is keeping an eye on what shenanigans they are doing online, however. There are so many people trying to jump on board the bandwagon of social media now that it is reaching mainstream proportions, and they are willing to do anything shady to get client attention. I’ve covered a few tips on avoiding scam artists and bad strategy in previous posts, including one on avoiding “twinfomercials“, one on “stunts vs experiments” on Twitter, a post about false metrics distracting your from your goals in social media, and many more.

I didn’t blog last week. I was wrapped up in several large and exciting things – the launch of the Twitter for Dummies book I wrote with Laura Fitton and Michael Gruen, a television interview about it, new clients (including new film Crooked Lane, a radio interview on LifeTips and more. Just because I’m not blogging on occasion doesn’t mean I’m not listening. I monitor my business and my clients daily. This means that I see scammers in real time, if someone is trying to pull a fast one (it also means I see good things too, but this post is about the issues surrounding fly-by-night hustlers).

It is not uncommon to see people scraping my content from one of my many blogs and calling it their own, to see people creating false RTs on Twitter crediting me and other social media types with things we never said, or to see people trying to pawn off something I said in a presentation as an original idea of their own. I handle all of this on a case-by-case basis. Last week unearthed a variety of interesting and annoying things surrounding the book, however. My personal favorite was the woman with a horribly designed Blogspot blog who is “teaching” a “Twitter for Dummies” class and sending people to Amazon to buy the book with the implication that she wrote it. She was very surprised I commented in a very tongue in cheek manner before the ink was even dry on her post. That’s the value of monitoring – being able to nip issues in the bud quickly.

The point I’m getting at is that you should use reverse monitoring to check out your social media consultant. There is some fantastic advice on this in a post over here (Caveat Emptor). I recommend checking out the “guru”‘s social media presence. Look at Twitterholic to see how long they have been on Twitter (it should be at least since Twitter was in early stages in 2006 – 2007) and what their activity looks like (should be an ever increasing stream of activity and follower/following interaction). Check them out on Google and see how many of their other social media profiles come up, and then go to their pages to see how they interact – are they a link farm? A spammer? Or do they really converse back and forth with people and offer good information and help. Look at their offline activity – do they do more than attend the party-style events? Do they run events to help businesses? Speak? Teach classes? Remember, monitoring works both ways, and you can ensure you are getting a good consultant or presenter if you do a little bit of legwork first!

Blackberry, Windows Mobile Join the Apps Store Fray

All you Blackberry and WinMo users out there that have been dejected, watching iPhone and G1 users download fun and practical applications from each phone’s respective application store, finally have something to smile about. This week’s big mobile news, at least thus far, has been the announcement of an application store for both Blackberry phones and Windows Mobile phones.

Why all the fuss? Well, obviously this means that a much larger number of handsets around the world will have mobile access to a wide selection of mobile applications. RIM and WinMo phones make up the vast majority of handsets in the corporate world, and although the corporate world doesn’t revolve on having a wide range of apps for various tasks, it does mean this: all those business users who, for whatever reason, haven’t adopted handsets like the iPhone that already have apps stores, they will now have the access to apps they will want to use in their personal time.

And aside from those users that have chosen to sport two phones, one for professional use and one for personal use, most folks prefer to pack only one phone on a day to day basis. So most folks will now be able to download mobile apps to whatever phone they’re tied to.

Again, for many of you, so what? Application stores mean that users have access to a wide array of social applications; beyond that, developers compete aggressively to produce the most intuitive and powerful applications every day, and to offer them at the best price points. Right now there are certainly aren’t enough applications for the most popular social platforms, but we’re going in the right direction. With the added stores for Blackberry and Windows Mobile, even more developers will be drawn to projects for mobile platforms. I can almost taste the quality to come.

Also, one of my biggest problems with the nature of mobile social networking to date was that social media really can’t be mobile until every phone is able to partake in the community. Until now, that wasn’t possible; when you rule out Blackberrys and Windows Mobile phones, you’re left with just a piece of the pie. Now we can at least say that we’re at the right staging point from which developers can now start working on truly intuitive cross-platform apps that allow everyone to connect, regardless of their carrier or handset.

This is big. Get excited.

iPhone 3.0 Update Brings Proper Mobile Social Networking Closer

The iPhone’s next update, 3.0, was just unveiled yesterday.  For all of you that don’t own iPhones (which includes me), you might very well be wondering how I can connect the progress of a single phone to the advancement of mobile social networking as a whole.  I’m going to explain, so try to keep up.

Like it or not, the iPhone boasts the best platform and App store for mobile social media and networking.  A couple worthy mentions should go to Google’s G1, and maybe even Samsung for its latest batch of TouchWiz-equipped handsets.  

Working from that assumption, I’d point out that iPhone sales have soared recently, even considering the fact that AT&T, a carrier not known for its shining quality, is the only service that can claim the iPhone.  The mass adoption of the iPhone coupled with the success of the Apps store is making the iPhone the best platform for real mobile social networking to occur.

As I’ve said so many times before, there’s quite a ways to go before we reach true mobile social networking.  But, if you believe as I do that the iPhone will most likely be the platform to boast true mobile social networking, you’ll have to agree that a couple of updates announced yesterday certainly go a good way towards brining true mobile social networking closer.

First up: push notifications.  The iPhone (and iPod Touch) will now automatically receive application updates even if the app in question is not running.  You might be thinking, “Well, gee, why didn’t they already have that?”  A very good question.  

Now that apps can receive updates automatically (that is, without a user having to open each individual application, such as Mail, Twitterfon, Loopt, Facebook, MySpace, etc.), users will be alerted of updates to their different social accounts real-time.  Being aware is a huge tenet of social networking, and having your apps note updates displayed as they come in without having to update each app individually will help users streamline their online social activity.  

Second: maps access inside other apps, and turn-by-turn directions.  I consider both of these to be big steps towards advancing mobile social networking.  Loopt, perhaps the best mobile social networking aggregator app out there, allows users’ locations to be visible to other Loopt users on a map.  What better way to help users connect with each other on-the-go than to provide mapped, turn-by-turn directions to activities or your friends?

Let’s say you’re in the city.  Your friend updates her status on Facebook, raving about this band that’s about to play live in a venue across town from you.  You aren’t familiar with the quickest way to get there, so you open Loopt and use your current location and your friend’s location to generate turn-by-turn, GPS-rendered directions, which get you there before the second opening band comes on.

I can’t say as to whether the Loopt team has any designs on integrating the functionality I just described, but my point is the technology is there, and it is now possible.  Talk about a very real way to bridge your online social presence with your real world social life.  THAT is what mobile social networking is about.  

Third: data tethering.  Yes, that sounds quite lame in comparison to what I’ve detailed above, right?  Though I’m all about having everything you need in the palm of your hand, the fact is we just aren’t there yet.  Failing those advancements, there’s not much better than whipping out your Macbook wherever you are at and doing some surfing or social networking when you’re out of WiFi range.

 If mobile social networking still isn’t quite realized (and I’d say that it certainly isn’t), then why not use your familiar and powerful, computer-based social networking tools wherever you’re at by tethering your iPhone’s data to your laptop?  It’s social networking made mobile, is it not?  A bit cumbersome, but it fits the description.  

There you have it: three updates to the iPhone that will further the cause of mobile social networking.  

P.S. – If you weren’t aware, Loopt isn’t just limited to the iPhone…it’s available on the G1 and Blackberrys, just to name a couple prominent handsets.

Mobile Social Spreading, but Still Stunted

I just got my first iPod Touch, and suffice it to say that I’m officially hooked.  In fact, I’m more than hooked.  In less than 24 hours, I’ve effectively decided that lugging around a Blackberry Curve with the wonderful Touch is too much, and that I need an iPhone.  Leslie called the iPod Touch a gateway drug, and I couldn’t agree more.

Of course, now that I have an Apple Touch device, my first move was to jump on the Apps store and look for all the mobile social networking applications I could find.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed.  There just weren’t the plethora of applications I expected to find.

That isn’t to say I didn’t find some great tools.  First off, the Facebook app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is simply stunning.  It is far superior to its counterpart for Blackberry.  If I wasn’t already a Facebook junkie (and I was), I’m probably a lost cause, as it will now be fused to my hip in waking and sleeping.  

I also found a fantastic Twitter platform called TwitterFon, a FREE app that, in my opinion, bests any offering I’ve seen thus far either for mobile phones or computer platforms.  You’ll probably hear me harping on “free” for quite some time, as I’m sure there are many great mobile apps available for all mobile phones, but it seems some developers feel the need to charge for their creations.  I’m all for paying for apps that are well-developed, but there aren’t any trial opportunities for many apps that could be very good…in that sense, developers lose out because many won’t be willing to pay for something they’re not sure of, and consumers lose out because they’re more apt to stick with free apps than apps that might very well be superior. 

Also, I installed the Yelp! app to my iPod Touch.  Though it’s far from perfect, it’s a nice addition to anyone’s mobile device as it offers great search and localizing functionality for finding activities, restaurants and businesses in your area.  Today I searched for Starbucks, and found one 1.5 miles away; when I clicked “Google Maps” to get directions from my house, Google didn’t know the location existed.  Luckily I already knew where it was.  The point being, it isn’t perfect but it’s better than not having it.

And yet, I still find myself less than enthused with the current plight of mobile social networking.  Why?  Because, dear friends, the mobile social networking world is in serious need of multiple cross-platform social aggregators.  By cross-platform, I mean available with every major cellular carrier in the U.S, and by social aggregator, I mean a platform that ties in most of the best and most popular social networking and media sites like Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and others.  Though it’s all well and good to update each application separately, it just isn’t time effective to type out the same message for all your different services. 

I was surprised to find no evidence of a FriendFeed application for the iPhone/iPod Touch.  Though it isn’t my favorite computer-based aggregator, I think it would be a huge hit on mobile platforms. I’m familiar with what is currently the most widely-used aggregator for the iPhone, Blackberry, and other platforms — Loopt — but I find it lacking.

It does seem to be a perfectly fine social locator that integrates Facebook and Twitter, but if that’s it, there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.  If you can use it, give it a try and see whether it fits your needs.  But it isn’t the be-all end-all to me.  

There are options, and mobile social networking has certainly come a long way from where it was even a couple years ago.  But competition between developers, and more so carriers, has effectively stunted the growth and restricted the adoption of universal mobile social networking.  For now, the best offerings seem to be available on the iPhone and the G1 (T-Mobile), and some of Samsung’s latest phones with the TouchWiz interface have some interesting (albeit limited) social applications.  For now, Facebook and Twitter seem to be the two big platforms, and your best bet is to find an app that suits your needs for each of those platforms.

Facebook Ties up Loose Contractual Ends and Everyone Cries Foul…Why?

Today the blogosphere is all a’tizzy about Facebook’s move to claim all rights, past and present, to user-uploaded content.  And perhaps the reaction is justified; didn’t we already deal with Facebook on the privacy front just a short while ago with the whole invasive advertising debacle?  

If you haven’t heard, Facebook updated its terms-of-service so that all user-generated content, be they photos, videos, links or annoying graffiti art, essentially belong to Facebook, not the creators.  Certainly, in theory it sounds ominous and invasive.  But at the nuts and bolts, it really isn’t in much different from the norm, whether we’re talking Facebook or any other social media or networking site.  

Aaron Brazell over at Technosailer.com concedes, “This is fundamentally not all that out of sorts from what most services do when licensing user content,” but then goes on to state that he’ll be advising others to abstain from uploading content to Facebook, perhaps only excluding links.  That sort of play-it-safe attitude might suffice, but it seems counterintuitive to the ideals and goals that many of us in the social media world share.  

The real question I think we should take time to answer before storming the castle with pitchforks and torches is this:  what does it change?  If Facebook is just now putting to paper what has been largely accepted by everyone until now, what’s all the hulabaloo for?  

Let’s say that Facebook used user content in the past without having the express rights written into the terms of service (which I’m sure has happened).  If the user in question wanted to fight it, they could take it to litigation, and they’d certainly have a case.  But I haven’t heard much from upset users bemoaning abuse of their content.  And the only reason we’re hearing anything now is because it seems like a huge privacy issue, when in fact it isn’t. 

Facebook is nailing up a loose end that could have been the source of endless grief, and one that could have been exploited by a savvy user looking to make a buck off the social networking behemoth.  Twitter user @Nazgul makes a very good point in saying, “Just wonder if wasn’t issue of ‘How do we keep from having to pull an ad just because it shows screenshot of a deleted user.'”  I would add, how do we keep from getting sued when the odd situation arises in which a user objects to having his or her content used?  Express terms in contracts save a lot of time and money.

The way I see it, if you want to use Facebook, you need to know up front that Facebook could use your content.  But I’d venture a guess that most folks aren’t reading the terms of service as it is.  It’s only the social media and internet privacy people sounding the warning siren.  

And while it’s our responsibility to make it unequivocally clear what will and won’t fly to the less-than-visionary Zuckerberg, I don’t think this is one of those battles that needs to be fought.  Furthermore, what kind of job would we be doing by discouraging people from uploading their content to Facebook?  Are we really saying, “Yes, Facebook is the biggest and most-used social network, and you should definitely participate in the interests of advancing social media and your own brand/image…but scrapbook your photos and have get-togethers in your homes to share your video content instead of uploading it.”  

We talk about clouding and cross-network integration, and how amazing it could be if we just got the support of the general public behind it.  I use my Blackberry to update my favorite social networks all at once, and  I’m not going to stop doing so simply because Facebook did what any good business would do and put pen to paper to protect itself.  And I certainly won’t be advising anyone to hole up in a bunker socially just because Facebook’s looking out for numero uno.

Does Social Media Transcend Personality?

A while back I conducted a very informal little study over the course of several days. This informal study of MBTI, Dunbar numbers and Twitter follower and following counts was meant to be a stepping stone to further studies I plan to do. To that end, I flew a bit fast and loose with the controls and parameters – I wanted to keep it simple and see where the numbers led me for launching future analysis.

My basic premise, and the reason for the data collection, was a belief that unregulated social media tools such as Twitter would allow people to transcend personality if they were naturally introverted and enhance personality if naturally extroverted. I also wanted to see if personality had any correlation to social interactive limits, such as the theory of the Dunbar number (A theory I think is bunk, by the way – most personal networks far exceed the Dunbar number of 150. But I digress).

I asked people to comment here on this blog and on FriendFeed (which feed to this blogs comments and can be tracked) with their Twitter handle, MBTI type, and follower and following count at the time of the survey. It took me so long to find time between clients to correlate the data that I ended up going into Twitter this evening and updating each respondents follower and following count for accuracy as of 2/7/09. (One thing I know going forward to the next set of data collection questions is that I will be using a more controllable poll system where data is input in one location and set for a certain time frame)

I was expecting the extroverts to have larger numbers for interaction in general. What I was pleased to find was an indication that social media tools like Twitter do seem to allow introverts to have more interaction than they normally might choose in real life. It was also interesting to read the comments – most of the comments expressing discomfort with the loose structure of the very informal survey came from introverts. Most comments that expressed excitement for the next step following the preliminary survey came from extroverts. Also, I was pleased to see that no one’s counts offered clear support for the Dunbar number theory. While there were some low numbers, it seemed to have more to do with involvement and engagement than a choice to limit contact.

Interesting to note, the introverts outnumber the extroverts slightly, coming in at 23 respondents to the extroverts’ 21. This survey is serving as a spring board to me for a more formal round of data collection. I wanted to see what questions assembling data on personality and use of social media would generate for me. Just looking at the results of this survey I already know I want to find out more about the nuance of the MBTI types and actual microblogging use. Other questions I want to answer in a more formal survey include age, gender and other demographics.

Please note that I am of the firm belief that time on a network does not matter to results of any survey. How long you are on Twitter, for example, won’t change your inherent comfort level as far as number of followers and following – your ratio would remain consistent over time. Take Beth Kanter, for example. Her introversion shows in how many people she follows, but her profession shows in how many follow her – she keeps her level consistent as possible to her comfort zone and manageability. I, on the other hand, have no problem keeping up with or following back most of the people who follow me – I am both social and pretty good at multi tasking, though my approach isn’t for everybody!

The next phase will be a formal survey over a longer period and reaching a much broader audience. I need to find a survey tool that can handle and correlate data from multiple questions, including MBTI, network counts, and more. I’m actively seeking that tool now. I may ask at Media Makers tomorrow morning if someone can make one for me – I’ll keep you posted on that. What questions does this survey bring up for you that you’d like answered in my next, more formal, round of collection? What are your thoughts on this round?

Could Becoming Social-Media Savvy Really Help the GOP?

A recent article on CNN.com, written by journalist Leslie Sanchez, suggested that Obama”s success in garnering an impressive following of young voters demonstrated that for the GOP to succeed, the party will need to match Team Obama”s savvy use of social media in future elections.  Though John McCain”s team certainly didn”t match the efforts of Obama”s in social media, there is a much more significant reason why McCain and the GOP as a whole won”t succeed in winning over the young vote, which runs to the very core of the party.

Not-So-Mobile Social Media

Here’s a little secret from me to you regarding mobile social media and networking: if it is too frustrating or time consuming for people to access social content from handheld devices, they will simply stop trying.

I’m a Blackberry user.  You might even say that I am a Crackberry addict.  I won’t say it, because that means I have admitted that I have a problem, and experts tell me such admittance must preclude a recovery of some sort.   But for better or worse, you might say my life revolves around the shiny little Blackberry Curve Sunset that never escapes my person.

Standardizing Mobile Websites Equals Happiness In My Pocket

There are days when I wake up to the same blase stream of information filling my feed reader, and then there are days when I am genuinely excited about what’s flowing through the web of tubes known as the internet.  Yesterday was one of the latter category.  

You see, along with the many various hobbies I entertain, I’m a self-proclaimed gadget geek.  Full blown.  I read somewhere that my Myers-Briggs personality analysis explains my need to have a new shiny gadget in my pocket at frequent intervals; thank you, whoever managed to connect psychology to my gadget addiction.  I now effectively have a doctor’s note to wave around at loved ones who wonder why I can’t stick with a cell phone for more than a year (at most) at a time.  

With that said, I’ve been somewhat disenchanted with mobile web browsing until just recently.  The iPhone was the very first device that actually made me want to use the internet on the go.  I don’t have an iPhone, though.  All the folks who browse the internet on Palms, Blackberrys, HTC devices or any other smart phones probably can relate when I say that mobile browsing can be a bear.

That isn’t necessarily the fault of the handset or operating system manufacturers.  The biggest problem is that there really aren’t really any rules or established guidelines for websites to follow when it comes to designing mobile-friendly pages.  Text can appear all jumbled up, you have to scroll every which way like you’re playing a game of Snake to navigate —  no rules usually translates as anarchy.  

I said a quiet prayer of gratitude yesterday when I read that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) finally laid out its first set of guidelines for creating mobile websites.  Anthony Ha of Venture Beat writes, “The consortium, commonly known as the W3C, is the primary international body that develops standards for the web, and now it’s turning its attention to the mobile world. The idea is to have a set of guidelines that developers can follow so that their sites can be viewed without difficulty on any device.”  If that doesn’t excite the pocket warriors amongst you, I don’t know what will!

With standardization of rules that demand mobile websites be accessible by any web-friendly mobile phone, more consumers will get on board with mobile browsing.  As more consumers become connected on the go, there will finally be the boom of users necessary for mobile social networking to really take off.  The scope and potential is huge!  With browsers being packed into every purse and pocket, we’ll see a huge boost in dependence on mobile social communities, and you can bet your britches it will change the way we think about mobile social networks and the devices we choose.

If, at this point, you still haven’t quite grasped how exciting this is (at least for me in my gadget-driven geek frenzy), I suppose you could imagine me doing an Irish jig in my office.  That’s not something I necessarily recommend.