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Greece’s Incumbent Party Leans on Social Media Ahead of Oct 4 Election

Greece holds national elections for its Prime Minister on Sunday October 4. This is a “snap election”, called by the incumbent Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis in what is regarded as either a savvy play to get a mandate, or a suicide electoral mission. This election was only called on September 2, giving the political parties only a month to get their candidates air time. ΝΕΑ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ (New Democracy) is the party of the incumbent, Karamanlis. Polls suggest his more conservative party will have a tough fight with the Socialists.

Walking through Athens, I was impressed by the display set up by the ΝΕΑ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ party. It was nighttime, and the ND party station was bright with blazing lights, blaring music and a modern look. Included in the station was this wall:

Greek New Democracy party social media

Check out those social media chops! Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube. The URLs are well-done. They redirect to the actual social media site account for the ND party, while making it easy to remember them.

And these aren’t “ghost town” accounts. The party’s Facebook page has nearly 9,300 supporters, and each entry in its news stream receives dozens of Likes and Comments.

I don’t know if Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis will regret his decision to call a snap election this Sunday October 4. But I’m impressed with his party’s use of social media. Perhaps they’re taking a page from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets: Week Ending 040309

From the home office in Detroit, Michigan…

#1: Tim O’Reilly talks about how every appliance has a unique electrical signature. Useful for ID/control. #w2e

#2: Nice shout-out from @jowyang on my move to Spigit http://bit.ly/1aqFO

#3: Writing my own bio for a press release for Spigit. I agree with @tacanderson http://bit.ly/FO7M I find it painful to do these.

#4: Perhaps a note of caution in any Twitter acquisition talks…YouTube may lose $470m this year. http://bit.ly/OxZrx

#5: Gartner predicts that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be standard in 80% of social software platforms http://bit.ly/4CFdRm

#6: RT @SameerPatel Add Your Twitter Blog to Technorati Directory http://bit.ly/1aEguw by via@labnol

#7: SocialText raises $4.5 mm, lays off six: http://bit.ly/Y3icM In line with the times. Nice fund raise.

#8: Great to meet @thomashawk last night at FriendFeed meet-up. Nice collection of pics of people that were there: http://bit.ly/r1pD

#9: Just finished touring the #w2e floor w/ @mediaphyter Great to meet in person!

#10: Using the word “users” in write-up. Alternative is “employees, customer, partners”, which is wordy. Or “people”, which describes 6 billion.

How to Integrate Social Media into Product Marketing

Recently, I’ve had former colleagues from a couple of my old employers ask me about social media. Specifically, how to get started in it from a professional perspective. They’re aware that social media can be powerful, but it can be daunting to figure out an entrance point and what you’re supposed to do with it.

Now I’m no Chris Brogan, but I do have hands-on experience. Specifically, I’ve been doing product marketing for a while now, with both Connectbeam and BEA Systems.  BEA Systems was great for traditional product marketing work. Connectbeam is great for social media-oriented product marketing work. I’ve learned some things that work for me.

In that spirit, I’m going to share them here. Here’s a summary of what follows:

  1. What is product marketing? messaging, customers, market trends, market visibility
  2. Leverage the work you’re already doing
  3. The 9 social media tools I’m using
  4. Twitter – narrate your work
  5. Blog – part product, part big ideas
  6. FriendFeed – tracking the flow
  7. SlideShare, Scribd – the post-webinar bang-for-your-buck
  8. YouTube, Google Video – incremental exposure
  9. Wrapping up – feel free to contact me

OK, let’s get to it.

What Exactly Is Product Marketing?

In the graphic below, I’ve put together a rough (and incomplete) map of the different functions one finds inside companies:

map-of-company-functions

I look at product marketing as having four primary goals:

  1. Positioning and messaging of the company’s products
  2. Steady voice and knowledgeable source for customer inquiries
  3. Staying on top of evolving requirements and ideas in the market
  4. Establishing the company in the market, with coverage among sources of information used by customers

I want to distinguish product marketing from other functions. Every function can use social media for its benefit, but the use cases vary. For instance, I’d expect engineering to use social media to tap peers who can help with coding or architecture questions.

But let’s be clear what product marketing is supposed to do. It is an outward-facing function, with a number of responsibilities:

  • Articulate the value of the company’s products
  • Create messaging around the products, via website content, data sheets, white papers, presentations, etc.
  • Develop the business case for products
  • Put on webinars
  • Give customer presentations and demos
  • Do market and competitive analysis

The tools of the trade include: data sheets, white papers, newsletters, PowerPoint presentations, Camtasia demos, WebEx/GoToMeeting, trade show booths.

So how does social media play in all this?

Leverage the Work You’re Already Doing

The nice thing about traditional product marketing work is that a lot of it complements social media nicely:

product-mktg-source-for-social-media

The first bit of advice I want to impart is that if you treat social media like a foreign language, it will be. If you’re wondering where to start, look no further than the thinking and content you already do as a part of your job. That’s plenty good for starting.

There are three activities that the product marketer will engage in:

  1. Monitor: who is saying what of interest
  2. Engage: interact with customers, analysts, consultants, competitors
  3. Broadcast: create content, tweet original thoughts, post to SlideShare, etc.

In the sections that follow, you’ll see all three activities described.

Social Media: What I’m Doing

The tools: Here are the social media tools I use for product marketing:

Changes in latitude, changes in attitude: Attitude is the most important consideration. If you look at the various social media as a pain-in-the-ass part of your job, you’re likely not going to get much from it. It will be too much of a chore for you.

To excel at product marketing, you’ve got to be good at research and building persuasive arguments, along with a personality that engages customers well. It’s really not that hard to extend those traits into social media. And once you read a bit more below, I think you’ll see the value of engaging in social media.

Be a mensch: Do not spend your time running down competitors. It makes you look petty, and you’ll find yourself in entanglements with them which make no one look good. Focus on what your company is about.

Not tonight honey, I have a headache: I’m an ‘I’ introvert on the Myers Briggs test. Which means I tend to reflect on things. There are times I just don’t feel like twittering. And that’s OK. Because there are times I’m fired up. I will rattle off a series of tweets and dive into deeper conversations. Strike while the iron is hot.

Twitter

Twitter is the microblogging platform, and is my most valuable information source for tracking what’s happening in my industry. It’s really quite a simple platform, but it has a tremendously flexible set of use cases.

The basics: Here a few basics about the service:

  • 140 characters – learn the power of distinct thoughts in a limited space
  • Follow – you see the tweets of whomever you follow, and anyone following you might see your tweets
  • @Replies – the @Replies tab serves as an inbox of public tweets meant for your attention. Start a tweet with @[username] and it will end up in that inbox
  • RT – stands for retweet. When someone tweets something you like and you want your own followers to see it, you type ‘RT’ , then paste the tweet (with the @[username] included) and hit update.
  • DM – Direct Messages are essentially emails, limited to 140 characters. People use them all the time for private conversations.

Fill out your bio: Make sure you do the following with your Twitter account: use your real name, put your location, have a website of some type (your personal blog, company blog, company website), tell who your company is and what you do there, and upload a picture. This seems like basic advice, but if you don’t, a lot of people won’t follow you back. Which makes your product marketing job that much harder.

Also, before you start following people, get 3-4 tweets on your account so you don’t look like a spam bot.

Subscribe: You need to find others to follow on Twitter,  otherwise it’s a lonely place. But who? Here a three tips to get started:

  • Find prominent bloggers in your space, find their twitter account, and follow them
  • Look at who the prominent bloggers are following, and follow the same people
  • Run a search on twitter for industry jargon, see if those people are interested in your sector. Click here to go to twitter search.

A lot of those you follow will follow you back. This is how you start growing your own base of followers.

Narrate your work: Great, so you’re set up. Now what to tweet? Lunch menu? Here’s one idea. Narrate your work. Technology legend Dave Winer wrote this idea, and I like it. Tweet what it is you’re doing. But, let’s examine this a bit more.

Do not tweet, “Opening up Microsoft Word” or “Heading into a meeting”. Yes, that’s your work, but it’s nothing anyone cares about. Rather, you might be reading a good article about something relevant to your industry. You like it? Tweet it! A simple tweet like this is great:

Reading: [article name] [shortened URL] [optional - a bit of personal color]

Because of the 140 character limit, typical article URLs are too lengthy for a tweet. Use a URL shortener, like bit.ly. And if you have a pithy thought on the article, tack it on at the end of the tweet.

@reply to people: When someone you’re following tweets something of interest to you, engage them. Ask follow-up questions, agree with them, challenge them. This is the type of thing that puts you “on the map” in Twitter. Done well, you will gain new followers by doing this. Just avoid being a troll. When people @reply to you, make sure you give them the courtesy of a reply back.

Broadcast: Once you’ve established credibility and a set of followers on Twitter, don’t be afraid to broadcast updates. These may be product releases, blog posts, new white papers, conferences you’ll be attending, etc. All that is fine. Unless that’s all you’re tweeting. Then it’s not fine.

And don’t be bashful tweeting successes.

Be an information hub: One observation about @reply tweets. They are the conversational currency of Twitter. Personally, I want to make sure maybe 60% of my tweets are conversational. But I don’t want them too high. As a product marketer, you’ve got a message to impart. Nothing wrong with creating tweets that others like. What are some non-@reply tweets? Retweets, passing along links to interesting information, personal observations as you do your work, or personal life things (such as funny things about your kids).

People will be attracted to twitters who pass along valuable info.

Blog

Check any job description for product marketing, and you’ll see that good writing is a requirement. We do this for data sheets and white papers. And these papers we write are for public consumption. Of course, they do tend to have a fairly structured approach.

Which is what’s nice about blogging. You’re still writing. But the format restrictions of “official” documents are loosened. Language is less formal, you can inject personality and include pictures, videos, polls etc.

What to write: On the Spigit blog, I like to mix it up. I will cover product releases. But I won’t just re-state the data sheets or press releases. I write more of the background, the “why” for a product release or feature.

I cover larger  issues  as well. This is particularly important for smaller companies. When you’re smaller, you don’t get automatic attention the way Google, Microsoft or Oracle do. That means just writing about your product will result in people not reading your blog posts.

But what do smaller companies have? A different way of looking at the market, and the advantage of generally being more leading edge. For instance, this Spigit blog post, Eight Principles of Enterprise Innovation Management, clearly describes what the burgeoning field covers.

Bloggers love links: When you write these company blog posts, link to other bloggers. For your readers, it’s a great way to show how your thinking ties into issues others are grappling with. For yourself, it’s a good way to memorialize a post you liked. And in case you didn’t know, bloggers love links.

When you link to another blogger, they get a notification of that link. In terms of attention, this is even better than an email. It means you took the time to read their post, and built on it. See who the industry thought leaders are, subscribe to and read their blogs via Google Reader and incorporate their analysis, opinion and observations in your blog posts.

Foreshadow things that are coming up: You know your product roadmap: the features and timing. Prior to those releases, get some posts out that lay down the rationale for the releases. Not in some ham-handed fashion, but as a thoughtful look at the problems or opportunities there are. Pull in research, include excerpts from articles and other bloggers. You then have a good basis for announcing the new features.

Practice makes perfect: Don’t wait until you’ve got a sense of what the perfect blogging style is. Just get in there and do it. You’ll learn over time what subjects resonate, and how to craft an argument that gets attention.

Engage those who comment: People will leave comments on your blog. Make sure you take the time to respond to them. That’s a good way to ensure they come back, and you’ll learn something from the exchange. It also leaves a trail of commentary for others to read.

Blogs are a source of high quality traffic: The Spigit blog is a source of traffic to the Spigit website. Not the biggest, but a meaningful source. Visitors from the blog spend more time, view more pages and have a lower bounce rate than many traffic referral sources. And visitors from other blogs exhibit the same tendencies.

Make sure your company blog is indexed: The search engines can deliver great traffic. Make sure your blog is part of their search index database. For instance, here’s the Google page to submit your blog URL: http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl

FriendFeed

FriendFeed is a lifestream aggregation service, which lets track all manner of information about other people from 59 different services. There is a good social aspect to FriendFeed, although the company is still pretty early in its lifecycle. So it’s likely that people in your industry aren’t yet active there.

But beside the social aspects, FriendFeed also has incredibly powerful information management tools. And it’s these tools that are valuable to the product marketer. I’m going to cover them below, but a more detailed description is available on this blog post.

Subscribe to people: Just like on Twitter, you can subscribe to people on FriendFeed, if they have an account there. When you do that, you’ll see there tweets, plus other useful information like Del.icio.us bookmarks, new blog posts, Google Reader shares, etc. You get a fuller picture of what is happening with those in your industry.

Subscribe to imaginary friends: Some people don’t have an account on FriendFeed, but they are active on some other site, like Twitter. But you can still stalk follow them on FriendFeed. You’re doing this not to interact with on FriendFeed, since they don’t have an account there. But I use FriendFeed as a master aggregator of people’s activity streams.

Track keywords in a Group: FriendFeed lets you create Group. Groups are containers into which you can pipe content from elsewhere. Use a Group to track keywords that relate to your industry.

For example, I’ve created the Innovation Management Group.  Into that Group, I’m piping tweets with keywords I want to track, and SlideShare presentations and Del.icio.us bookmarks with tags I want to track. One centralized place to stay on top of what’s happening in my industry.

Put it all together into a List: FriendFeed has a feature called Lists. You can categorize the people you follow into different Lists. Then you can focus specifically on the activity streams of those people. I’m currently tracking the activity streams of 61 people associated with the Enterprise 2.0 industry. You can also add your keyword notification Room to your List. So you’ll see who’s talking about your industry beyond just those people you follow. As I wrote before, Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone.

Track it in real-time: Once you have your industry List set up, FriendFeed provides a nice option. You can follow the activity streams in real-time as they hit the FriendFeed database. I find this to be important for two reasons. First, there are time people you know are tweeting something you care about. There’s an opportunity to do one of those @reply engagements. You don’t want to wait until the end of the day to see that, because the moment is lost. The second reason is that stuff collects, and if you wait until the end of the day you’re less likely to catch things of interest.

As I wrote in another post, it’s really not that distracting to track activity streams this way. An alternative people use for real-time flow and user groups is Tweetdeck. It’s only for Twitter, but many swear by it.

Connecting the dots: Once you’re set-up with with your List + keyword tracking Room + real-time, something amazing happens. You will start to understand what people are buzzing about more. You’ll see recurring themes. You learn who people in your industry are paying attention to. You see the relationships that exist among industry folks, via the @reply conversations. You’ll know which conferences and trade shows are most talked about.

SlideShare, Scribd

SlideShare and Scribd are the two leading social document sharing sites. Social document sharing? Huh? What you do is upload a document to these sites, and others who are doing research can find and read them. Document types include:

  • PowerPoints
  • Word Documents
  • PDFs
  • Spreadsheets

These are great places to share the content you’re creating. Let me give you an example of how this worked for me.

In November 2008, I put on a webinar titled How to Double the Value of Your Social Software. Afterwards, I put the presentation on SlideShare. In the two months since it’s been there, the following has happened:

A more recent presentation for a Spigit webinar, Tapping Communities to Accelerate Corporate Innovation, has been viewed 1,508 times.

I recently added the social software presentation to Scribd, and it now has 586 views and two Likes.

I assure you, the after-webinar action is much greater than that which occurred with the webinar itself. The effect of all this is to get your company’s point of view into the market. You are a contributor to the industry dialogue, and your company is very relevant in the thinking about the industry’s future. As I said, this is particularly important for smaller companies, who cannot rely on a huge market presence to ensure getting people’s attention. But even the big companies benefit from this.

This  is product marketing, social media style.

Considerations for SlideShare, Scribd: As you can see, the webinar presentation can actually multiply in value when it’s on these social document sharing sites. I know Guy Kawasaki has the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. Consider that a philosophy, not a rule. What I take from his blog post is the advice not clutter up your slides with too much.

When people are viewing your PowerPoint, they will not have the advantage of your voiceover. You can’t provide a spare slide with just a picture and hope everyone gets what you’re saying. In the webinar, you’ll have a nice narration for the slide. In SlideShare and Scribd, each slide has to stand on its own. Here are my tips:

  • Minimize the times custom animation is a requirement to talk about the slide. Because customer animation doesn’t work on these sites.
  • Pictures and graphics – these break the monotony of endless bullets and text
  • Each slide should have two messages: (1) the point/data of the slide; (2) a way to provide your commentary to that point/data
  • Assuming multiple sections, recap the slides of each section – make sure the point is made

And don’t forget to tag, tag, tag your presentations. Don’t be chary with the tags. People will use them to find your documents. Of course, make sure your tags actually reflect the material in the presentation.

As you go into a webinar, think about your presentation being consumed by an audience many times bigger than the number of attendees to the webinar.

YouTube, Google Video

Videos are a popular way for people to view content. A part of your product marketing job may include producing canned demos of the product. These can be on your company website. And they can go on YouTube as well.

I’ve uploaded three demos for Connectbeam to YouTube. In total, they’ve gotten 380 views. Not quite the same as the SlideShare or blog posts. But it’s nice incremental exposure for something you’re creating anyway.

There are countless stories of videos going viral, and it’s a holy grail for marketers. But I don’t spend a lot of time on that. If you happen to have a particular strength in entertaining videos, by all means take advantage of it.

One limitation for YouTube is that videos’ running time can be no longer than 10:59. For basic product demos, this should be more than enough time. But for webinars, which can run an hour, YouTube doesn’t work.

Google Video supports much longer videos. It’s where I uploaded the recorded webinar from November.  It’s not nearly as social as YouTube, but it does come up in Google search results.

Unfortunately, Google is going to stop accepting new uploads to Google Video in a few months.

However, assuming you do get a video to Google Video or you upload shorter media to YouTube, you can embed these videos in a blog post and give them color commentary to spur viewing.

Use high quality resolution when embedding YouTube videos: The normal resolution of a YouTube video is rough. This may be something that happens when you convert a Camtasia video to a YouTube-acceptable format. But you should know about this, because it hurts the viewing quality of the video. Those web screenshots can be hard to read.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this. When you embed a YouTube video on a web page or blog post, you can alter the embed code to force the video to view in high resolution. The hack described in this blog post works. It will ensure that the video’s fidelity is much higher, making it a more enjoyable viewing experience.

Wrapping Up

A site that I think could be more valuable to engage in is LinkedIn. There are groups and questions that people pose. I haven’t been very active there, but it’s worth a look. Depending on your industry, Facebook may also have value.

I hope this post has been helpful. I seriously could triple the size of this post, but it’s long enough. If you want to talk more about this, feel free to reach out to me on email: (hutch <dot> carpenter at gmail <dot> com) or on the phone 415-377-3610.

Finally, here are a couple relevant posts as follow-up:

I encourage you to get out there and start experimenting. It’s the best way to learn.

Early: Companies Deputizing Their Employees as Brand Managers

For the longest time, social media enthusiasts have noted that employees represent their companies, whether they realize it or not. This becomes more apparent every day as more people take part in the Grand Conversation.

Two tech behemoths have in recent weeks released their social media guidelines for employees. I’ll describe them a bit below, but I think it’s worth noting what milestones there are. Historically, large companies haven’t really encouraged employees to talk out in the market. But then, historically all you had were newspapers and trade magazines.

Companies have had to figure out how to handle social media. Some are advancing well, others are stuck in the 1990s. Here’s a spectrum of ways companies can handle employees and social media:

spectrum-of-trust-for-employee-social-media

Social media sites blocked: This is an ongoing issue. More companies appear to be enlightened, but there’s still a persistent, old school strain that blocks them. Hard for your employees to engage in social media if they can’t get to the sites.

Only marketing engages social media: Also known as the YouTube Strategy. Social media is a thing that you use to go viral. Other employees may be out there, but they probably need to keep their company identity a secret.

Only approved employees engage: This is actually a company warming up to social media. It knows there is more than the YouTube Strategy. It wants employees to participate.

EMC found some good natural blogging talent internally that it promoted to be EMC’s external voices. And that has paid off well in terms of market engagement. [See update in the paragraph below - EMC is actually deputizing its employees as well.]

All employees are deputized: This is what IBM and Intel are doing. They are treating every employee as an individual brand manager out on the Web. They are deputizing them by giving them guidelines, setting expectations, and then letting them act on their own. It’s a wonderful way to let employees both (1) engage the market about their company and their work; and (2) learn from others as to the state of their fields.

UPDATE: Per the comments below, EMC is actually another proponent of deputizing all employees.

Everyone does their own thing: Not having any type of policy is the policy. This is the default position. And companies still benefit tremendously here. They just may have some employee behaviors they wouldn’t want to see.

Oddly enough, I’d say most companies are on either extreme. They either block social media, or have no policy. But IBM and Intel are pointing to a new thinking about how companies and their employees are engaging social media.

A Look at IBM and Intel’s Guidelines

IBM released its social media guidelines several weeks ago. Intel’s came out last week. Both do a great job of mixing corporate interests with a hands-off approach that defines authentic social media engagement. The documents are pretty good reads, and surprisingly similar. Looks like Intel was a good student of IBM’s guidelines.

I’ve pulled together highlights from each companies’ guidelines below:

table-of-ibm-intel-social-media-guidelines

Lots of respect to IBM and Intel for their guidelines. These companies are trendsetters, and I look forward to other companies joining the fray.

*****

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Atlassian’s Confluence Wiki Gets Social: Embed Your Favorite Social Media

Zoli Erdos has a nice write-up of enterprise software company Atlassian, titled Business Models and Right-brained Geeks. In it, he notes the culture of Atlassian is different from many enterprise software companies:

Atlassian is a “different” company in so many ways… no wonder they are still hiring while the rest of the world is busy downsizing.  But one thing I’ve not realized until now is they have a backup business plan. They could quit Technology tomorrow and become a Creative Agency overnight.smile_wink Need proof?

We use Atlassian’s Confluence wiki in our office, and I’ll bet a lot of you do as well. It’s easy to use, and I’ve become a big fan of it versus using Microsoft Word.

So it’s no surprise that the latest release, Confluence 2.10 has a really cool feature: the Widget Connector. Uh…come again?

The Widget Connector. It is a lightweight way to embed content from 16 different social media sites:

atlassian-confluence-connector-widget-supported-sites

I have to say, that’s pretty cool. The ability to embed media created elsewhere is a wonderful feature for any site. I’ve embedded my recent SlideShare on the About Page for this blog. And the ability to embed Vimeo videos was great for a recent post where I talked with MADtv’s Chris Kula.

LinkedIn recently started doing this as well. You can add content and applications from 10 different sites to your profile. It’s a smart play for companies. By letting you bring content from elsewhere, these sites become valuable platforms for getting business done.

Considering the Widget Connector in a Business Context

The interesting thing here is that these sites are indeed social. So the content that will be included is likely to be that which is OK for public viewing. Which means some sensitive internal content won’t be found on these sites. I know many of these sites allow private, restricted access content. It’s unclear whether restricted access content can be embedded though.

But a lot of what businesses do is perfectly fine for public consumption. Well, make sure you embed it in the wiki! Conference presentations, product demos, marketing media, product pictures, etc. In fact, the bias should be to have this content public and findable unless there is a real concern about loss of confidential information. Being a presence in the industry means getting out there with information and ideas that you share. Of course, not everything should be accessible. For instance, a webinar should be public, while a customer presentation will stay internal.

The reality is that companies are expanding their presence on social media sites, even if it is happening in a halting fashion. Turns out consumers are starting to expect it. As use of these various social media sites expands, having a central place to view and track the content on them makes a lot of sense.

Another use I see for this is collecting information from various services and users to build out research on:

  • New product or service initiatives
  • Competitors
  • Customers
  • Regulatory and standards development

Consider Atlassian’s release of Confluence 2.10 another step forward in expanding the use and value of social media for business purposes.

*****

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Twitter’s Valuation – More Like AdultFriendFinder or YouTube?

After the recent news that Twitter turned down a $500 million acquisition offer from Facebook, I threw this tweet out there:

Twitter for $500 million..gut says that’s too low. Twitter is the defining platform for lightweight interactions. $1 billion +…

A nice discussion followed on FriendFeed about this notion. A couple counterpoints were made:

“I disagree: their model is no longer unique. Moreover, they don’t offer any particular feature that separates them from other similar models. The best they have to offer is the user base, and the right name-brand shiny shiny with a few choice features would take most of them away.”

“It’s a glorified IM network, only less functional because it’s a centralized platform with an absurd character limit that only the most ADD among us can find usable.”

My gut feeling is based on three factors:

  1. Platform
  2. Growth
  3. Comparable transactions

Here’s where I’m coming from.

Platform

Twitter has established lightweight messaging as valuable and addictive. From the simple roots of “What are you doing?”, people have morphed Twitter into a range of use cases. Open channel chats. News updates. Sharing articles and blog posts found useful. Polls. Research. Updates peers on activities and travels.

Based on tweets, companies find out how they’re doing out in the market. Twitter search yields a treasure of information about subjects. Find like-minded individuals with whom to connect.

The platform aspect is not one to be undervalued. This is a key point – platforms are worth more than any single app. Tim O’Reilly penned a thoughtful piece in this regard. With regard to Twitter as platform, he writes:

Rather than loading itself down with features, it lets others extend its reach. There are dozens of powerful third-party interface programs; there are hundreds of add-on sites and tools. Twitter even lets competitors (like FriendFeed or Facebook) slurp its content into their services. But instead of strengthening them, it seems to strengthen Twitter. It’s the new version of embrace and extend: inject and take over.

Microsharing, as Laura Fitton calls it, certainly requires some change in people’s behavior. There’s no doubt about that. But the concept of microsharing, or as it also known as, microblogging, is powerful. It’s highly flexible and has a variety of use cases.

It’s not just early adopter/social media types that are taking notice of this microsharing trend. Click here to see how often the New York Times has written about Twitter. An article on cnn.com about the Mumbai terrorists included this:

Neha Viswanathan, a former regional editor for Southeast Asia and a volunteer at Global Voices, told CNN, “Even before I actually heard of it on the news I saw stuff about this on Twitter.”

Twitter is transforming in terms of social, accessible and findable updates. True platform companies with reach and highly flexible uses don’t come along very often. Twitter is one of those platform companies.

Growth

Twitter’s early period was marked by some uneven growth. But around March 2008, the service really took off. And it hasn’t looked back:

twitter-compete-graph-oct-2008

It’s fair to say that the network effects are getting stronger and stronger for Twitter. The more people that join, as seen in the graph above, the more valuable the service becomes. Search grows more and more in importance. So more people join, meaning it’s more valuable others to join, and so on…

Don’t dismiss Twitter’s growth either. This post on the Ignite Social Media blog, which shows traffic for 37 different social websites, illustrates how challenging it is for most social networks to maintain growth these days.

Twitter’s got huge momentum right now. That’s valuable.

Comparable Transactions

I researched purchase prices for technology companies in recent years. The table below shows acquisition prices for what I’ll call “market comparables”.

twitter-valuation-comps

Valuations are more art than science. Personally, I’m a big fan of triangulating on a value by looking at what other companies have gone for.

My point with the above table is to put some context around Twitter. Danger and XenSource were important niche plays. AdultFriendFinder was valued at $500 million. Given Twitter’s role in the emerging realm of microsharing, should it have the same valuation as AdultFriendFinder?

I know that there currently is no revenue for Twitter. It’s not like they’ve tried and failed. They haven’t even tried. But my guess is Twitter’s revenue path lies beyond punching up some ads on Twitter profiles or in Twitter streams. Those may be there, but like any platform, there will be other ways to monetize.

And let us not forget YouTube’s (non existent) revenue model when Google purchased them for $1.65 billion.

What Do You Think?

I’ve laid out my thinking here. Twitter is a rare platform play that’s hit a strong growth curve. Previous acquisitions say that Twitter should be able to take advantage of those factors for any valuation.

How about you? Weigh in on the comments below, or just answer this quick poll (RSS readers – click out to take the poll!).

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Tim O’Reilly Course Corrects the Definition of Web 2.0

eBay was Web 2.0 before Web 2.0 was cool.

Tim O’Reilly wrote a nice piece the other day Why Dell.com (was) More Enterprise 2.0 Than Dell IdeaStorm. In the post, he re-asserted the proper definition of Web 2.0. Here’s a quote:

I define Web 2.0 as the design of systems that harness network effects to get better the more people use them, or more colloquially, as “harnessing collective intelligence.” This includes explicit network-enabled collaboration, to be sure, but it should encompass every way that people connected to a network create synergistic effects.

The impetus for Tim’s post was that people leave Google and its search engine off the list of Web 2.0 companies. As Tim writes, seeing the power of what Google’s search engine did was part of the notion of Web 2.0.

Here’s a way to represent what Tim is talking about:

I like that Tim sent out this reminder about Web 2.0. Here’s how Web 2.0 has become defined over the years:

  • Social networking
  • Ad supported
  • Bootstrapped
  • Fun and games
  • Anything that’s a web service

This seems to have fundamentally altered Web 2.0. I’m reminded of a post that Allen Stern wrote back in July, CenterNetworks Asks: How Many Web 2.0 Services Have Gone Mainstream? In that post, he wondered how many Web 2.0 companies will really ever go maintream.

Check out the comments on Allen’s blog and on FriendFeed:

I would say MySpace but that really came before Web 2.0

mainstream – Facebook/hi5/bebo, Flickr, Youtube, Slide, Photobucket, Rockyou

Oh and you’ll have to add Gmail to the list as well.

I’ve yet to see one, really. ;)

Is eBay web 2.0-ish? [this was mine]

Agree with Facebook, MySpace, YouTube. I’d add Blogs as another 2.0 winner. I’d put eBay and Amazon as 1.0 success stories

A better way to ask this is “which web services since 2000 have gone mainstream?” Blogger. Flickr. Gmail. Facebook. MySpace. Digg. YouTube. WordPress. Live Spaces

Look at those responses! You can see a massive disconnect between Tim O’Reilly’s original formulation of Web 2.0 and where we are today.

One example I see in there: Gmail. Gmail is a hosted email application. Does Gmail get better the more people use it? No. There’s no internal Gmail application functionality that makes it better the more people use it. It’s just an email app the way Yahoo Mail is an email app. Being a web service and ad-supported isn’t, strictly speaking, a Web 2.0 company.

Terms do take on a life of their own, and if the societal consensus for a definition changes over time, then that’s the new definition. But the responses to Allen Stern’s post highlight two problems:

  • People discount or ignore key components of the Web 2.0 definition
  • Web 2.0 is slowly coming to mean everything. Which means nothing.

Finally, Tim’s post helps me differentiate the times I should use “social media” as opposed to “Web 2.0″.

What do you think? Should we go back to first principles in defining what really is “Web 2.0″?

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