June 14, 2012

Brands: How to cut your exposure to Facebook business risk

Will Facebook stick to its core competency or be waylaid?

This is third of a three-part series on Facebook as an investment. Also see:
Facebook’s biggest barrier to enormous wealth? Trust
Facebook will remain king, but social pure plays will fade

Christopher RollysonMany brands are boosting their investments in social business platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest with every passing quarter, but CMOs are too often focused on next quarter’s numbers. They fail to insulate themselves against platforms’ business risks. Facebook’s IPO will likely cause the company to change its behavior in surprising ways, and without warning, by changing its policies and features. Here, I’ll address how brand executives can insulate themselves from Facebook’s — or any platform’s — fortunes by moving to make their relationships and networks portable.

Seeing beyond the platform

Pure play firms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have defined language, behavior, features and the very concepts of digital “social networks,” but they are quite expendable when brands manage their investments appropriately. However, brand leaders need to follow the digital ecosystem closely and be ready to adjust quickly.

Here are some principles for avoiding surprises. Specific action steps follow.

Assume pure plays’ gradual obsolescence

Watch the ecosystem’s major players, and the interactions among them, but the trend will be specialist sites maximizing value from “social networking” and fading dominance of pure plays. The latter will continue to exist, but they will not maximize value because they are designed for “socializing” (which people can’t resist), not doing things. Moreover, I use “ecosystem” intentionally because it indicates a pervasive, real-time network that increasingly interoperates. Because it’s digital, it’s more dynamic than any human market we’ve ever experienced. Here are brief comments on some of the players:

Buying RIM won’t help Facebook enough to warrant the distraction — not even close.

Facebook is so entrenched globally that it may remain the dominant general social network for many years. However, there is a big caveat. Facebook’s management team looks like it’s losing focus due to the IPO and too much time with Wall Street bankers. It’s “using the money it raised” for M&A, purportedly considering entering the hardware market (buying RIM). If Facebook’s management team and core competencies included M&A (like, say, Cisco), I would be confident. But they don’t. If Facebook buys RIM, I would seriously question Facebook’s medium-term relevance and long-term survival. Making phones will not help Facebook sell more mobile advertising. Not even Apple’s best-in-class iPhones will likely display much advertising due to user backlash. The device wouldn’t help Facebook enough to warrant the distraction — not even close. Continue reading

June 13, 2012

Facebook will remain king, but social pure plays will fade


Facebook collage by Jennifer Daniel

Look for the rise of sites with deep social features

This is second of a three-part series on Facebook as an investment. Also see:
Facebook’s biggest barrier to enormous wealth? Trust
Brands: How to cut your exposure to Facebook business risk

Christopher RollysonFacebook will remain the dominant popular social network in many markets for many years, and it won’t have to worry about being “displaced” by another social network the way that it displaced MySpace. In the near term, this lack of competition will give the company some breathing room, but a more daunting threat awaits: the waning of social network pure plays’ influence by 2017. Nonetheless, the fate of pure plays should be top of mind for serious Facebook investors: to produce the fabulous returns that current investors expect, Facebook will have to move far beyond adverts.

In part one of this series, I argued that Facebook had a significant trust gap with users that would inhibit its ability to monetize its most unique and valuable assets, and that the trust gap was recently compounded by its “IPO irregularities.” Below I’ll take a different tack and analyze the investment prospects of Facebook the platform.

Social networks’ disappointing investment results

Pure play social networks (Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn) have not lived up to investors’ ROI aspirations, despite the fact that people (‘users”) have loved the networks and lavished mind-boggling amounts of time on them. The Web 1.0 logic behind investor expectations held that the more time people spent on the sites, the more ads they would see and the more they would click. #fail

In retrospect, it is understandable that pure plays’ management and investors didn’t appreciate social networks’ social context. It turns out that very few people understand the intricacies of “sociality,” much less how to wire it into a value proposition or a business ROI. Continue reading

November 23, 2011

Amplify your good message with GaggleAmp

http://www.nevillehobson.com/wp-content/uploads/gaggleamp.jpgChris AbrahamIn order to keep on the cutting edge of social media I tend to play a lot. Experimenting keeps Abraham Harrison au courant. Several months ago I received a Twitter DM from Shel Holtz asking if I would help him promote FIR for him via my social networks. The link popped off to a companycalled GaggleAMP. Continue reading

August 31, 2011

Twitter success demands both top influencers and everyone else

Do you focus on the most popular and ignore the rest in social media?

Chris AbrahamToo many colleagues, organizations, and companies are keeping their circles of influencers small, believing it is better to invest limited time and resources on the most influential, the most popular, and the most celebrated. Happens in DC all the time. I’m rocking the latest dinner party, parlaying attendees with my wit and banter, when someone snazzier and trendier enters. Immediately I’ve lost my audience’s attention. The idea easily transfers to Twitter.

Other users focus exclusively on networking within their own space, effectively limiting scope and reach by preaching to the choir. If you’ve invested in running with the A-list, fine; however, that’s an old model reminiscent of old PR, of the golf club, the lodge, and the private club.

The Internet created something that not enough social media consultants and coaches support and advise: the ability to expand circles of influencers, to engage with anyone and everyone. Only recently has the Internet become ubiquitous and global in a real way. Previously, the digital divide was a barrier to not just many Americans but quite a few developing nations becoming part of the global conversation.

The value of the Internet is proportional to the number of connected users. It’s also living proof of Rule 34. No matter how obscure, vertical, or arcane your material may be, there’s an audience for it. Someone will show it love and attention. Online social networks have made all of this even easier to the point where it is becoming less of a potential and more of a promise, an eventuality. In short, there is real value associated with connecting to as many followers and collecting as many “Likes” as is humanly possible. For real effect.

There’s also a psychological benefit of large numbers. I have won contracts and business on the power of five-digit followers on Twitter, which is modest compared to most of my peers. However, for someone who only has a couple-hundred followers, 38,000 is a lot and suggests mastery. To be honest, I wonder how long it will take these “less is more” social media consultants to realize that it’s not good business to dismiss what the client wants out of hand. Continue reading

August 24, 2011

Build Twitter followers using the theory of everyone

Look to the Long Tail to recruit brand ambassadors

http://mariosundar.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/500x_rodolex-hlarge.jpgChris AbrahamWell, as regular readers of this blog know, I am a Cluetrainian. This means I put more trust in the value and impact of the online influencer long tail than I do in the impact of the couple of dozen top influencers that most social media consultants and digital PR teams recommend. This is the Internet, an efficient platform allowing easy access to what’s called the network effect: The value of your social network is dependent on the number of others using it.

While it may well be important to have the top 100  influencers on any particular topic following you on Twitter or Facebook, it is not essential. You can make up for it by attracting, retaining, and activating everyone else. In short, anyone who shares her time, talent, and experience online is an important online influencer and potential brand ambassador for my clients.

How do you get lots and lots of people to follow your brand? Don’t know where to start? First, make sure you share your Twitter and Facebook information everywhere your brand exists in the real world or in cyberia. You could spend months and months developing these lists and groups of followers, encouraging folks to retweet your content and so forth. Continue reading