A Manifesto for Mobile and Location Based Social Networks

Mobile is hot. Untethering from computers is the next generation of the web and I’ve said it for awhile.

FindWhere CEO Jaap Groot and my friend and DoC co-host Geoff Livingston have co-authored a white paper (they call it a manifesto) for mobile and location-based social networks outlining eight requirements for a successful mobile endeavor.

The true local, mobile and social breakthrough requires a completely converged product that will be so intuitive and robust that community members won’t have to wrestle with such a service. Instead, it will be so easy and fun, online community members will clamor to be a part of the craze. They will actively engage, and voluntarily spread the word about their experiences, in hopes that their friends will join them online. The winning service will be so compelling that it will be viral.

They go on to describe the eight factors:

  1. Provide a base offering free of charge. Today’s social network user does not tolerate paid-for services.
  2. Work on a wide selection of phones.
  3. Offer an intelligent, simple user interface for accessing information.
  4. Use GPS rather than force users to manually enter their location every time.
  5. Integrate intelligently into existing social networks rather than further inundate people with a new one.
  6. Allow users to share and use their location data in as many ways as possible.
  7. Enable individuals to set various levels of privacy control for personal security.
  8. Monetize in an intelligent, non-intrusive way

Some of these factors are implemented better than others and some are not technically possible with the mobile client and telcos the way they exist now. Things need to change within the four walls of the carriers.

Twitter Brightkite Facebook Mobile
Free Yes Yes Yes
Phone Support Yes Partial Some
Mobile/iPhone Interface Partial Yes Partial
GPS Compatible* No No No
Existing SocNet Integration Partial Yes No
Location Data easy for Users to Use Yes No Yes No
Privacy/Security Controls Yes Yes Yes
Low Impact Monetization No No Yes
*GPS is carrier-sketchy. Verizon Wireless, for instance, disables in phones

As with all white papers, it is a call to action. A spotlight on gaps in the industry. One day, all of these items will be inherent in the social offerings but it could take 5-10 years to see that occur.

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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.

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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!

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