I Will Not Be Your Twitter Whore

There’s a lot of uptake on Twitter in recent months. The service that allows folks to tell the world what they are doing in 140 charachters or less has become the new playground of marketing types looking for the next big thing. Now let me say that I love Twitter. I love finding out what my Twitter friends are up to whether it’s a new aspirations or what they really think about a topic.

The great thing about Tweets like this is that it makes you feel like you know the person on the other hand. It’s a vast global playground where people are swinging on swings and sliding down slides and just having fun. They are having conversation.

We had this big global conversation a few years back when marketers were trying to figure out how to leverage this new blogging fad. It was so raw and real, and folks were transparent. It challenged traditional PR types to think differently. The problem is that these same PR folks may have learned about blogging but instantly regress to old habits in other forms of Web 2.0.

In the end, the conversation is still the important thing.

Lately, Twitter marketers have taken to using this global instant messaging service to promote their products, their political candidates, their new service without much thought to those of us who were on the ground floor of Twitter (defined here as pre-SXSW ’07) and using it for it’s purpose.

Robert Scoble said somewhere that he loved Twitter because it was where he could have a window into the minds of early adopters. And this is true. In the end though, traditional marketing types have failed to realize that it’s not the tool that matters. Use a blog, use Twitter, use MySpace. I don’t care! The tool matters not. What matters is the conversation.

Treating my time and my focus as a cheap trick is not winning me over to your thing. I don’t care if John Edwards is using Twitter. I will not come to your event if I have to see it promoted on Twitter. Period. End of story. I am not your whore. If you want my trime, at least buy me a drink and lets spend some quality time first.

You may use Web 2.0 tools, but Web 2.0 is not the answer to marketing. Conversations and relationships are. Use Twitter for what it was intended.

Yahoo Could Have Owned Social Networking

Get this. Yahoo owns tons of social networking sites. They own MyBlogLog, Flickr and Del.icio.us. They own Upcoming.org. They own Konfabulator, now known as Yahoo! Widgets which is not social networking but adds features for potential social networking applications. They own Jumpcut, the upstart video platform.

Yahoo partners with Zillow to provide estimates on real estate to Yahoo! Real Estate users. Single handedly, Yahoo dominates the fantasy sports market, a demographic that is fiercely loyal and extensive use type users.

To cap it off, Yahoo could have owned Facebook if it wasn’t for management dropping the ball. Given Facebook’s recent emergence, a $1B investment in Facebook would probably return to Yahoo 3-5 times over in the next 2 years in terms of Facebook valuation.

The problem with Yahoo, of course, is not Yahoo. Yahoo has certainly not helped itself. But as Elise Ackerman at the Merc points out, “…that Yahoo shouldn’t try to out-Google Google“.

Google is the king of search. It is the king of remnant advertising in terms of pure marketshare. It is the king of web-based productivity tools (Gmail, Documents & Spreadsheets, Calendar). Yahoo can’t compete on Google’s turf.

However, they can beef up their social networking and become the king of that niche. Web 2.0 is all about the mashup so Yahoo’s challenge is figuring out how to actually integrate all these social networks they own into a compelling product or group of products.

Incidentally, the buzz today is that Fox Interactive may be in talks with Yahoo to trade off MySpace for a 30% stake in Yahoo. There be dragons in those talks. Watch closely!

Is MySpace Dead?

Last week, I asked Facebookers “Is MySpace Dead?” The answers were very interesting. There seemed to be as much neutrality as there was bias one way or another.

Scott Matthewman says: It still seems to be as busy as ever from where I’m sitting. But the whole customisation thing is reminiscent of late 90’s Geocities — all those animated backgrounds. My eyes!

Jon Phillips says: Its soul is old world and fb folks tell me that mass migration from myspace to fb is happening.

Rachel Clarke says: Not yet. There is a definite move towards facebook for some but MySpace will remain and have uses because of its more public nature.

Gary Grant says: It may still have some life left for the kids. It never came alive for me though, not addictive like FB.

Justin Heim says: The life line is slowing down, and it is proving to be a slow and painful death… But it is still kicking!

Brian Layman says: Yes. It is packed garbage. + too many people never joined it because it was always just a place for pre-teens. With WordPress making it so easy to create real sites, it doesn’t even have that going for them. Now Facebook offers a mature social network.

Mark Jaquith says: Not yet. But I suspect that the exodus will be as swift as the rise, if not more so.

Jessica Doyle says: I never used myspace at all so therefor it didn’t exist to me. If it was never alive then it can’t be dead.

Laurarose Dunn says: Nope. I use myspace more than facebook simply because I have more friends from over the years on it. ALthough I am finding that facebook is pretty cool too!

Rico Mossegeld says: Never tried it, so it was never alive for me.

Devon Rutherford says: I know lots of 20, 30 and 40-some-year-olds that still use myspace (not just teens). Yes, the interface sucks, but non-technical individuals typically aren’t that discriminating when it comes to selecting a social networking interface. Facebook FTW! :)

Scott Allen says: Nope – that’s still where my kids (age 12-25) are. They don’t even know about FB. MS ate Friendster only indirectly because of the interface – the musicians and artists were too restricted by Friendster, so they migrated, then everyone else followed.

Kimberly Williams says: i don’t think so but i prefer facebook over myspace any day because the things on her are better than myspace and i think you can do more.

James Joyner says: I’ve never really used it. Then again, I’m not their target demo.

Robert Barac says: I bloody well hope so… I think MySpace is the old black.

Sasha Manuel says: What is MySpace? :-P

Travis Seitler says: Not yet. Maybe in two years…

Chris Cree says: Never got into MySpace. Skipped right past it, I guess.

Minic Rivera says: Yes.

Facebook or MySpace?

My Art of War entry the other day caused quite a stir. Notably, it caused a stir with the readers of b5media blog BuzzNetworker where Kevin Palmer, the author who has developed a professional public profile using MySpace takes issue with my sentiments regarding Facebook’s success. He has successfully stirred the pot and many more commenters came out in support of MySpace than Facebook.

I’ve issued a challenge
. It’s really simple. Record a video and tell me why you prefer MySpace over Facebook. Keep it under a minute.

If I get a significant amount of input, I’ll publish the results as a video and you can say you were made into a movie star because of this blog (yeah, right!). Just to clarify, I need an actual file emailed to me. Feel free to publish to YouTube but if I don’t get a file, I can’t use it. :)

Writing for B5 Media – Come on over to Startup Spark

Hello all, just wanted to let you know that I have been offered an opportunity to write for a great blog on the B5 Media Network.

The blog is called Startup Spark and is similar to Venture Files but is a broader version on all types of entrepreneurship.

I invite you to check it out and subscribe. This blog will continue but in the coming months I will be focusing this blog more on innovation topics and will be unveiling a new design.

So keep reading Venture Files and add Startup Spark to your feed reader and your daily viewing.

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HP Victory: One Small Step for Bloggers, One Giant Leap for the Blogosphere

The other day I posted about a friend, Thomas, who was caught in a customer service nightmare with HP. I won’t rehash the story as it was told here. In fact, I can tell you that much information was omitted (mostly inadvertently) and I don’t regret the story going to the front page of Digg at all. Sure, the Diggers were horrible in their behavior and I’m making a week out of that topic alone. However, I knew that that would probably happen going in as I watched the Digg numbers climb to the promotion threshold.

However, the point was to get eyeballs at HP and we did. Digg was the means to the end and though it was hard, there was no better way of making sure HP saw the story.

Recapping the story, Thomas misinterpreted the ship date on his HP laptop and did not realize the computer would be shipped on February 28 (today). This set him back but he figured that he could have HP change the shipping method to overnight in order to get the computer before he headed out of town on Monday. In communicating this wish, HP did not in any way accommodate him and in fact, threw up walls to push him off to other departments and representatives.

I made a big deal about that kind of behavior on this blog. To me, customer service does not always say that the customer is always right, but does work with the customer to find a tack that will please, primarily the customer, but also the service provider. In this process, that did not happen.
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The Digg Bury Effect

If you’ve got praise for Microsoft. If you endorse Republican policies. If you believe in helping people optimize their website using SEO. If you have anything positive to say about Netscape, Reddit or Yahoo! Suggestions – it’s time to stop relying on Digg for traffic.

Digg has come under increasing fire as they continue to tread deafly through the internet world. Kevin Rose inspires the entire organization to arrogance that carries through to corporate policies and down to the Digg Mob that buries stories it doesn’t like simply because they don’t like them.
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An Entrepreneur's View: 5 Things Digg needs to do or it will die in 2008

I was guest blogging for my friend Aaron Brazell who writes Technosailor. We live near each other and run into each other at Starbucks living the Bedoin lifestyle.

We talk alot about the techology scene and I made the comment that Digg would be dead or made irrelevant by next year. So he challenged me to write about it on his blog.

The original post is here.

I did a repost below to read the article as an alternative:

The Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference this week and Kevin’s presentation “The Future of Crowd Generated Media” got me thinking about how long Digg might last or stay relevant.

Granted, Jason Calcanis wrote a month ago about how Digg would “die a death of 1000 cuts”. He is right that they own the “Young Tech Male” or YTM demographic and it is hard to go beyond that group. I subscribe to Netscape and the quality of articles are dramatically different. Netscape has far fewer votes but the news is real and relevant (their interface just needs work).

The death of Digg will not be 1000 cuts but because of its failure to extend and protect its brand. So much time has been spent on covering them and how cool they are that they have ignored the fact that there is no reasonable way it can meet its revenue goals.

Jason does a good analysis of the deal and I agree on the valuation. To quote directly:

“The real challenge for Kevin and Co. at digg now is that they probably raised their $8.5m round at 60-80M post-money. That means that the latest round of investors are going to look for 10-20x that amount as an exit. That’s a 600M -1.6B exit. That means they have to get to $30-50M in revenue. That means that Kevin is right when he says they have no interest in selling the company–they’ve got 4-5 years of work to get to those revenue numbers… start building the sales for now because to hit those numbers you need a 20-person sales team.”

Kevin Rose says that they have not interest in selling and that is smart. Unfortunately, in 4-5 years Digg will be irrelevant so he has about 1-2 years to make it work for an exit. You are seeing the beginnings of chinks in the armor. Friends list or no friends list, spammers, censorship, gaming the system and a lot more. Digg did not invent “social voting”, Slashdot did and Digg only got popular because the YTM saw this as a better venue to troll and trash each other. Their community is powerful (900K as of this writing) and the “Digg effect” is far reaching for what geeky things they find interesting.

In fact, every new site that adopts “social voting”, Netscape included, has been profiled as “taking the Digg approach”.

So is Digg going to become a verb like Xerox or Tivo and lose its brand equity?

In order to save this company and keep it going here are the five things I would do in the next 12 months to maintain Digg’s leadership:

#1 – Don’t fight the Digg Clones – Own them – There are Digg clones popping up all over the place. Why not screen them and make them niche sites within the digg community. Similar to a blog network (like B5 Media). This will create a niche army of targeted sites. Digg has created a brand for the Young Tech Male so it is going to be near impossible to break away from that perception. It needs this to stay on top.

#2 – Do a deal with MySpace – These are your future users and huddled masses looking for ways to make MySpace more relevant. The Digg model for artists, MySpace blog entries and news could add a whole new dimension to the ugliest site in the world. The revenue share could be gigantic.

#3 – Create a relevance metric for contributors – We should know that there is more weight on a submission from a 50 year old PhD with expertise in that topic than a pseudo-intellectual 16 year old.

#4 – Hire topic editors – Now, we don’t want to run the risk of paying Digg members to submit. This is quite the opposite. We want new people who can help monitor and own a topic to add value, prevent bias and . Social voting is great but there must be oversight or the “Wisdom of Crowds” will turn into the “Wisdom of Mobs”.

#5 – License the Digg software to major news outlets and Fortune 500 companies – Let’s face it, traditional media can’t keep up. Some are just now finding blogs and a limited few are experimenting with the Social Voting/Digg approach. Why not have Digg show them how to do it and take ad money and license revenue from the deal? Dell’s new site should have been running a Digg system feeding back to the mothership. In this case, it just borrowed the concept, baked it up and served it to customers. Digg not included….

Otherwise, if things like this are not done in the next 12 months, Digg will be outdone by a site that is cooler and sucks the core “Diggers” to the new site.

If you were the entrepreneur in charge of Digg, what would you do?

I look forward to everyone’s feedback.

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5 Things Digg needs to do or it will die in 2008

The Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference this week and Kevin’s presentation “The Future of Crowd Generated Media” got me thinking about how long Digg might last or stay relevant.

Granted, Jason Calcanis wrote a month ago about how Digg would “die a death of 1000 cuts”. He is right that they own the “Young Tech Male” or YTM demographic and it is hard to go beyond that group. I subscribe to Netscape and the quality of articles are dramatically different. Netscape has far fewer votes but the news is real and relevant (their interface just needs work).

The death of Digg will not be 1000 cuts but because of its failure to extend and protect its brand. So much time has been spent on covering them and how cool they are that they have ignored the fact that there is no reasonable way it can meet its revenue goals.

Jason does a good analysis of the deal and I agree on the valuation. To quote directly:

“The real challenge for Kevin and Co. at digg now is that they probably raised their $8.5m round at 60-80M post-money. That means that the latest round of investors are going to look for 10-20x that amount as an exit. That’s a 600M -1.6B exit. That means they have to get to $30-50M in revenue. That means that Kevin is right when he says they have no interest in selling the company–they’ve got 4-5 years of work to get to those revenue numbers… start building the sales for now because to hit those numbers you need a 20-person sales team.”

Kevin Rose says that they have not interest in selling and that is smart. Unfortunately, in 4-5 years Digg will be irrelevant so he has about 1-2 years to make it work for an exit. You are seeing the beginnings of chinks in the armor. Friends list or no friends list, spammers, censorship, gaming the system and a lot more. Digg did not invent “social voting”, Slashdot did and Digg only got popular because the YTM saw this as a better venue to troll and trash each other. Their community is powerful (900K as of this writing) and the “Digg effect” is far reaching for what geeky things they find interesting.

In fact, every new site that adopts “social voting”, Netscape included, has been profiled as “taking the Digg approach”.

So is Digg going to become a verb like Xerox or Tivo and lose its brand equity?

In order to save this company and keep it going here are the five things I would do in the next 12 months to maintain Digg’s leadership:

#1 – Don’t fight the Digg Clones – Own them – There are Digg clones popping up all over the place. Why not screen them and make them niche sites within the digg community. Similar to a blog network (like B5 Media). This will create a niche army of targeted sites. Digg has created a brand for the Young Tech Male so it is going to be near impossible to break away from that perception. It needs this to stay on top.

#2 – Do a deal with MySpace – These are your future users and huddled masses looking for ways to make MySpace more relevant. The Digg model for artists, MySpace blog entries and news could add a whole new dimension to the ugliest site in the world. The revenue share could be gigantic.

#3 – Create a relevance metric for contributors – We should know that there is more weight on a submission from a 50 year old PhD with expertise in that topic than a pseudo-intellectual 16 year old.

#4 – Hire topic editors – Now, we don’t want to run the risk of paying Digg members to submit. This is quite the opposite. We want new people who can help monitor and own a topic to add value, prevent bias and . Social voting is great but there must be oversight or the “Wisdom of Crowds” will turn into the “Wisdom of Mobs”.

#5 – License the Digg software to major news outlets and Fortune 500 companies – Let’s face it, traditional media can’t keep up. Some are just now finding blogs and a limited few are experimenting with the Social Voting/Digg approach. Why not have Digg show them how to do it and take ad money and license revenue from the deal? Dell’s new site should have been running a Digg system feeding back to the mothership. In this case, it just borrowed the concept, baked it up and served it to customers. Digg not included….

Otherwise, if things like this are not done in the next 12 months, Digg will be outdone by a site that is cooler and sucks the core “Diggers” to the new site.

About Steve Fisher: Editor of the blog Venture Files and a veteran of the dotcom bubble and bust, Steve Fisher is a serial entrepreneur with one successful venture and one spectacular flame-out under his belt. He has the scars to show anyone who asks. Steve is currently CEO of The Slipstream Group, a a software firm focused on providing social networking and supply chain technology for the travel industry. He is also doing research for a new book on how people and teams innovate within an organization by finding the rebel within themselves. He can be reached at Steven_Fisher@Yahoo.com.

Related Digg Week Entries

Social Networking 4.0 – Meta Social Networks

Social Networking has gone through three phases so far and I firmly believe that we are at the beginning of the fourth phase.

I refer to these first three phrases from Dave Hornik’s seminal blog entry “Social Networks 3.0” written in December 2005. I accept his interpretation of the first three phrases as follows:

Social Networks 1.0 - Group communications (i.e., AIM, ICQ, eGroup)
Social Networks 2.0 - Basic and Broad Social Networks (i.e. Friendster, LinkedIn)
Social Networks 3.0 - Experience based and more niche focused

Unfortunately, this has left us with a multitude of social networks that just make the noise much louder and they will surely fail because the are selling to the echo chamber and not doing something innovative.

So where does that lead us?

With Om Malik’s post “Are Social Networks Just a Feature?” it got me thinking as to how things are starting to froth to the point where they either need to converge, consolidate, commit suicide or connect. Marc Canter is one person that has it right and has put the tools in place to enable your personal social network or define a niche one with a white label solution. Now this could contribute to the noise, but on the other hand it could allow people to be in one place and aggregate their social network memberships and relationships.

With the recent press coverage of social networks finding new growth with APIs there is the beginning of a ground shift that over the next 18 months will lead to Social Networking 4.0.

So what is Social Networking 4.0?
Social Networking 4.0 is what I call Meta Social Networks. Om is right that tools that build this as a feature will exist but I don’t think many have the desire or sufficient motivation to build a MySpace. I believe that this will lead to increasing the value of intranet systems and back a few years ago when “portals” was the big buzzword, we used to call this concept “Enterprise Expertise Portals”.

The extension of these API’s will allow not only wicked cool Mashups (that is for a later post) it will allow some smart enterpreneur (HINT: FREE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY HERE) to create an identity portal that allows you to manage your profiles on each network and all the details, yet respecting the dotted lines – FOR EXAMPLE: keeping your Goth Emo profile on MySpace separate from your professional business resume on LinkedIn is a necessary thing. Unless you wanted to let your business colleague know about your penchant for black and finding everything so depressing. Then again, they might already have a clue….

So eventually your “Identity Portal” could use various plugins and mashup API’s to take the social networking sites to another level.

This actually leads us full circle to Om Malik’s post of social networks becoming a feature. But in my opinion they would be called foundation and not just a feature.

Still, there are some challenges to overcome:

  • Multiple Identities – This could be overcome with an identity portal but standards like OpenID could help move this along.
  • Social Network API standard – It is good some are opening up. But there should be some standardization of basic profile data so it is easier to work with when connecting to profiles.

I look forward to hearing the communities thoughts on this and if it might work, what other challenges and what “Identity Portal” you might build.

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