Two news items popped up this week that I’m liking and that indicate some interesting crossover not only in platforms but in online and offline audiences thanks to some new tools and some big name companies embracing user generated content.
While YouTube is moving away from the user generated content and organic discovery that made it so interesting (as is Cisco, with its closing of the Flip cam division that we discussed earlier this week), and that made it the powerhouse it is today in favor of commercial, channeled content paid for by corporations and syndicates, Apple, Netflix and Google are thinking far ahead of branded channels and embracing the user. Apple in particular is rumored to be building a video based model designed to compete with both YouTube and Google’s Google TV efforts [full article in Forbes].
One key comment in the article, that Agencies want curated channels, stands out for me. Agencies may want it, but users are crying out on social sites for a la carte TV and web video where THEY are in charge of what they watch, and where it is truly affordable, not some outdated Nielsen rating system or brand. Because of this, I think users will continue to flock to solutions that let them choose their own content, and that whatever company can pull it off well, and make it easy for them (as opposed to the high learning curve involved in creating your own a la carte television and video experience as it stands now with tools like Boxee and others) will win. This makes me excited to see Apple jumping into this arena – they are well known for making fabulous user interfaces and focusing on usable design – the geek in me can’t wait to see what they do with TV once they leave behind the idea of Apple TV, etc as a “hobby”.
With Netflix adding in a user generated component, the user could have some exciting choices coming up. Netflix has a bit more clunky interface than Apple and as yet no way to divide your account into family members so your ratings and recently viewed don’t get contaminated with other people’s tastes, but it has the advantage of currently being integrated into more places like PlayStation 3, etc. This could bring some interesting options to the table for the content generators that are willing to create semi branded content as opposed to full on content channels.
As someone with one foot in marketing, I know why brands want their own branded channels, but as a user as well, I think that is taking the easy way out. I’d be much more intrigued to see the brands that find a way to conquer the market with great content without having to hold the users hostage to one channel to do it. What is your favorite brand creating video successfully without holding users hostage to a branded channel right now? Can you think of any?
As someone who manually reviews each new follower profile to see what they are all about, I can attest to the importance of having a link in your bio. I know I am not the only one who is less likely to follow you back if I can’t see more information about you than a few tweets (And if you protect your updates and are not my social-media-paranoid real life friend, forget it. No follow.).
I use the link in your profile page to make decisions that your existing interaction level can’t answer. Others who are newer to social media use it to decide your trustworthiness and online value, or how interesting you are. Following someone has a bit of a cost to it as far as time – the landing page you link to in your profile let’s new followers know you are worth their time.
Many people panic when I tell them they need a link to a landing page. They don’t want to start a blog or host a web site. They don’t want to sell products online or fuss with a CMS system. They prefer more lightweight interaction online and don’t see the point in committing at that level. You know what? That is totally fine. Even so, you still need a place people can go to see another facet of who you are.
So how do you have a social media landing page if you don’t want to have a blog or web site? That’s easy – cross link to your other social media profiles, or to a social content site or social network instead.
Social content is probably the best way to handle the lack of a dedicated web site or blog. If you have a Flickr account for your photos, a Qik channel for short videos from your phone, or even something like an Utterli profile where you record your old, angst-ridden teen poetry, link to it.
If you don’t generate social content, you should. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s often free. It takes less time than a blog or web site, and it is maintained by someone else. You get a profile page in a very no fuss, no muss manner, meaning that updating feels more like play but is still effective in getting what I like to call “snackable content” out there for the masses to consume, discuss and pass along (with credit and link backs, is the hope).
If you are strictly a social network participant and have no desire (or time, in some cases) to generate any kind of social content, no matter how small, you can still make one of your social network profiles into your landing page. Just tweak the content a bit to make sure it reflects a wider amount of your personality or accomplishments, then link to the profile.
To make a FaceBook profile your landing page, you need to make the permissions on the profile public. That’s a scary thing for some people, and not without risk. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can create a fan page for yourself or your company and link there instead, thus controlling access to your private life.
Just because MySpace has lost its luster recently doesn’t mean it isn’t a great landing page, especially if you are a band/musician. The custom URL feature makes it easy, and you can upload links, content, videos, commentary and more with ease, keeping your content interesting for visitors from other sites, like Twitter.
Don’t overlook some of the lesser known or niche social networks either (iMeem, Strands, MOG, LinkedIn or even sites like FriendFeed). However you choose to get another side of your personality or your company out there, that link in your profile is key to getting more response to your social media activity. Layers are vital. Show yours off.
Today as I read through the top tech stories listed on Techmeme, I stumbled on a little nugget: an Adobe AIR social aggregator I hadn’t gotten my paws on yet! Called Skimmer, the AIR application aggregates users’ social streams from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Bebo and Flickr into a a single continuous flow. And aside from a few stylistic complaints, I’m impressed.
The platform is attractive in its simplistic presentation. When scrolling through my stream on my Macbook Pro, the application reacted smoothly, and I’ve yet to experience any hiccups or delays in any functions. One of my biggest complaints with some AIR applications, such as Twitter platform Twhirl, is that they tend to be a little slow on the pick up and reaction time. No such issues here.
The platform allows you to work in a large-screen mode or in a “widget” mode, which shrinks down the feed to the bare necessities. Coming to my first issue with the platform, the smaller widget really isn’t what you’d call small. Though you can change the height of the window, the width is fixed. That wouldn’t be a big deal if the widget mode changed the size of each update displayed, but it doesn’t…and each update is sizable in display.
In fact, the whole platform, for all its clean simplicity, is a bit bulky in its presentation. There’s a lot of unused space that could be eliminated, making the platform more streamlined and aesthetically-appealing. For those of us with limited screen real estate, using every centimeter of space is crucial. Skimmer doesn’t have any skin or display options to change; if it did, I’d love it. But on a positive note, that’s my biggest gripe with the platform.
Moving right along, Skimmer allows users to update their various accounts from the platform…no suprise there. But unlike some platforms, where updating your status on a platform linked to multiple accounts doesn’t allow you to update each account differently, Skimmer lets you select which account to which your update will be posted. Or, if you like, you can post the same update to all accounts. Personally, my activity on Facebook is different than it is on Twitter or Youtube, so I like to update each individually, but to each his or her own. This feature earns a big check-plus from me.
Users can also filter their feeds easily, selecting which accounts they’d like to incorporate into their streams. Sometimes I just don’t care whether my friends are updating their Facebook profiles, or what they have to say. Uncheck Facebook from your stream directly the Skimmer application, and you’re set.
I particularly like that Skimmer renders pictures and videos uploaded to all the different services it supports right in the window. I won’t drop names, but I watched a particularly..unique..rendition of the Disney song “A Whole New World,” a YouTube post, right from Skimmer. If I’d had anything constructive to say, I could have commented on the video directly from Skimmer as well. Nice.
Continuing with more cool features, you can filter your stream down by keyword, friends, and platforms. Skimmer does display your friend avatars (or profile pictures, whichever you like), and next to the images are small little platform icons, indicating which platform the update is coming from.
I’ve just started using Skimmer, so I’m certainly not fully familiar with all of the platform’s features, but I will certainly continue using it. If you’re out there, nice folks at Skimmer, you’d have one very happy customer if you let me skin the thing or make the appearance a little less bulky. Pretty please?
UPDATE: Still, I guess Skimmer is really delivering on exactly what it claims to do. As far as viewing your social stream, the platform excels. But when it comes to communicating, such as sending messages on Twitter, the app is lacking. For instance, when I received a tweet from a friend, there was no indication that the entity in my feed was in any way different from the rest of the noise. Lucky I saw the tweet as it came in; otherwise, I would have had no clue that I’d been contacted.
Skimmer is just that. But, if the team over at Skimmer was to add in a bit of functionality that focuses on communication, such as differentiated postings so users can know when they’re being contacted, then we’d have a serious application on our hands. I think it is a contender against my partner Leslie’s preferred tool, Strands, or the tech crowd’s favorite, FriendFeed.
We had a great podcast, during which we touched on themes of implementation of social media in a bureaucracy, the push for transparent government, the push back from outdated systems, how the President-elect may be hampered by existing rules and how he might effect real change and cause a trickle down effect. We also touched on privacy issues, who and what government people and entities are active in the social media space around the world, and ways the public could help install transparency, as well as realistic expectations of the roll out of government 2.0 as a reality. Please listen to the entire podcast for the full effect – my guest panelists Leslie Bradshaw, Triston McIntyre, Justin Herman, Andrea Baker, and Alan Silberberg were fantastic! I have included the file here, and have put the unedited links from the chat room and podcast below the embedded audio for you to check out.
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.
I talked about Evernote in my last post. It has truly become an essential tool on my desktop, online and on my phone. I think it was Ari Herzog who pointed me to the “How Do I Use Evernote” You Tube project (I could be wrong – I can’t find the Tweet, IM or email now), and I loved it. I actually found it hard to state only one way I use it, it’s become such an integral part of my toolbox. I replied, and you can see my unedited, no-make-up, just woke up response here, or you can view the initial video below and hit the “Reply” button underneath to put your own response on YouTube for all of us to see. Also, related to this project, I like how YouTube is doing some Seemic-style conversation threads, but have to say that Seesmic does it a bit better as far as tracking the conversation that flows from it.