In many organizations you will find employees that are perceived as “innovative minds”. They are generally the ones who come with the brilliant ideas and trendy cool concepts that no one else in the organization have thought about. The first time you met these employees, you generally wonder how they do to be so innovative. However, when you become more acquainted with these individuals and you learn how they have become innovative, sometimes you realize that you can be perceived as an innovative mind too. So, what makes these employees so innovative? Personally I would limit my thinking to three simple hierarchically-related mantras. So here they are:
1. Get out of your comfort zone;
2. Explore what is done elsewhere in the world;
3. Adapt already existing so-called “new concepts” to your targeted audience.
1. Get out of your comfort zone
So let’s start with the first mantra: “Get out of your comfort zone”. This may seems obvious to many, but getting out of your comfort zone takes a huge amount of courage and discipline. Most well-known businessmen or artists had to use this quality at least once to meet their (career) objectives. This doesn’t mean being completely irrational, this means to take calculated risks that could generate strong outcomes. Imagine you are a media planner and an employee of yours proposed a media campaign targeted to youth that uses “old salty clichés” from the hip hop world. You think this concept can reach your targeted audience but you barely hate hip-hop music and you’re around 40 years old. What about buying some tickets for the next hip hop concert in your area? Find the “ethnographer” in you, just get out of your comfort zone!
2. Explore what is done elsewhere in the world
When you’re travelling a lot, you realize that some new campaigns on your national television are simply insignificant copies of successful campaigns that are launched elsewhere in the world. Imagine how much innovative ideas you can have if you have recently seen some of these campaigns when traveling or via the Internet. Personally, my lucky “13” cities list to find some cool concepts would include from West to East the following cities:
1. San Francisco
2. New York
3. Rio de Janeiro
8. Tel Aviv
3. Adapt already existing so-called “new concepts” to your targeted audience
Imagine you get out of your comfort zone, you pick the best “new concepts” from around the world and you adapt them to your targeted audience. What will your colleague think you are? Quite innovative, no? To be perceived as an innovative mind, the important is not to be the first to launch a concept in the world. What is most important is to be the first to launch that concept to your targeted population. Complete your mix with qualities such as (1) intelligence, (2) strong observational skills and (3) well-developed communication skills, and you got the perfect package. A good example of this is the popular lipdub by UQÀM students launched on YouTube during summer 2009. What did the UQÀM students do. Well, in summary they:
(1) Took the same concept HEC Montréal students have done months before,
(2) Choose one of the most popular song of the summer (Black Eyed Peas song) instead of an old Bryan Adams song,
(3) They communicate their creation to local Medias.
Was the concept really innovative? No way. Was it perceived as innovative? For sure. Final outcome: Around 4.5 million YouTube views and coverage at least all across North America. My verdict: Brilliant.
Briefly, remember that you don’t need to be the first one that has a real new concept in mind to be perceived as innovative, you only need to know where to find the information that no one else in your organization knows and adapt it to your targeted audience. What do you think about these three points?
Canada is one of the countries where consumers pay the highest mobile contract fees in the world. In short, this situation is mainly due to an oligopolistic/cartelistic structure that favors providers/retailers over consumers, which lowers competition and encourages scarcity on the supply side. The customer empowerment concept can essentially be thrown away for that particular market. To better understand how this market is evolving in Canada, and especially in Quebec, one interesting approach, that some may argue simplistic, is to use the 5 components of the Porter model: (1) manufacturers, (2) retailers/providers, (3) new entries, (4) substitute products, and (5) consumers.
Let’s start with manufacturers. This is where the competition is most aggressive, since it is an international competition. Companies continue to evolve and many new products are launched. The following companies are actually selling/competing in Canada.
1. Apple (iPhone)
8. Research in Motion (BlackBerrY)
Providers have to be considered as the starting point of our anti-competition story. First, there are not many providers/retailers, and secondly, all of these providers control other sub-brands.
1. Rogers controls Fido
2. Telus controls Koodo
3. Bell controls Solo & rent its network to Virgin Mobile
Thirdly, as in most countries, the low number of providers encourages exclusivity for a specific phone. For instance, Telus has, at the time being, exclusivity on the HTC Pro 2 which reinforces the power of the provider over consumers.
3. New entries
The end of this oligopolistic structure is still under legal fights, notably for access to networks. Up to 6 providers (for more on the topic, I would suggest to read the following post by Ian Hardy) are supposed to join the market in the next few years. Here is the list:
1. DAVE Wireless
4. Public Mobile
6. Videotron (already slowly entered)
Like in most oligopolistic markets, the entry of these new competitors would favor lower prices and give more power to consumers.
4. Substitute products
In comparison to other products, with the emergence of powerful smartphones that are integrating features (see my post entitled Three types of convergence – Is the future friendly? for a discussion about convergence), the mobile market in Canada is taking market shares away from other products such as cameras, MP3 players, electronic agendas,etc…
Many customers are still locked-in with awful 3-years contracts. Furthermore, the structure of monthly contract fees encourages these 3-year contracts. Some providers have even started to pay the end of some consumers contracts’ with another provider in order to gain new clients they would thereafter locked-in with 3-year contracts.
To conclude, the mobile market in Canada doesn’t favor competition at all which puts the consumers handicapped with expensive contracts. However, the possible entry of new providers should favor more competition and lower the prices in the next few years. Let’s wait and see what the future will be, and like the Telus catchy sentence say, we only hope that the “future is friendly” for the consumers that we are? Any comments?
My second post on this blog entitled Canada in the Worldwide Top 3 for Internet Penetration Rate, which is one of the most viewed, was about a worldwide ranking based on one of the most important macroeconomic indicators of innovation: “the Internet penetration rate”. This post did not generated lots of comments at the time, but many people find it useful to cite for the first steps of a presentation. However, with time, new data have become available and the shape of the ranking has changed. Using data from The Internet World Stats database, this post is an update of the Top 30 countries with the highest Internet penetration rate for nations with more than a million individuals, so here is the new Top 30 compared to the previous one of April 2009:
United Arab Emirates
The changes in the ranking are mainly due to two factors: (1) changes in the sources used by The Internet Worlwide Stats Database, and (2) natural growth. The new ranking includes all members of Scandinavia in the new top 5: Norway (ranked 1st, 90.9%), Sweden (ranked 2nd, 89.2%), Denmark (ranked 3rd, 84.2%) and Finland (ranked 5th, 83.5%). In terms of changes, 6 of the previous nations in the Top 10 are still in the Top10 (Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand & Japan).
In conclusion, Scandinavia and Oceania are still leaders in term of Internet Penetration rate while nations such as the Four Asian Tigers (South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong & Taiwan) should improve their position in the next few years even though the new ranking did not revealed strong improvements. However, even though this macroeconomic indicator is quite reliable to reflect a nation’s innovation, it is important to note that it tends to favor nations where the population is highly concentrated in urban areas. In this way, this ranking is a good complement to my post entitled The 10 Most Hi-Tech Cities in the World.
Happy new year to everyone and feel free to express what you think of this new ranking?
Mentioning the need to build a successful online marketing campaign is easy to say but way harder to detail. What can be considered as a successful campaign? The answer is straightforward; a campaign that reaches the fixed objectives whilst minimizing the costs and maximizing gains. In other words, we can define a successful campaign as one that generates a positive long-term return on investment (ROI). To the minimum, if your objective is to gain subscribers to your newsletter, all you need to implement in relation to your online strategies is one designed ad and a single video that redirect viewers to a subscription form thereafter. I personally think that the simpler is the better, and that the buzz/viral/buzz sequence is a good recipe to success. So what is the buzz/viral/buzz sequence?
The buzz/viral/buzz sequence is a 3-step hierarchical procedure which includes:
1. Buzz in the creation process;
2. Viral to propagate in the targeted population;
3. Buzz in the targeted population.
Each of these steps is described with more depth in the following paragraphs.
1. Buzz in the creation process
If there is no buzz around the video in the creation process, the probability that there will be a buzz once launched to the targeted population is minimal. Why would I share a video is the question to ask to any member of the marketing team before the campaign is launched. Great campaigns often come with innovative and simple ideas. You are much better off dumping a bad video than showing the whole world how much the video sucks!
2. Viral to propagate in the targeted population
Viral marketing is about the techniques employed to propagate a message/video in the online environment. If the message/video sucks, you will spend plenty of time trying to spread rotten material. For a more detailed view of viral marketing myths, feel free to read my post entitled “Demystifying Viral Marketing – 7 Myths of Viral Marketing Campaigns”.
3. Buzz to the targeted population
If there is a buzz in the creation process, then chances that viral techniques worked are multiplied and chances that a buzz occurred in the targeted population are exponential. In other words, buzz in the targeted population is a function of the two previous elements of the sequence. A well-executed example of these three steps is the successful online campaign featuring the Bee Boys Dance Crew for Häagen-Dazs video (see picture below) launched a year and a half ago.
What do you think of the proposed sequence? Do you have any example of organizations skipping the first part of the sequence and then whining about the fact that users didn’t buzz on their campaigns? Users are not dumb, so proponents of the online marketing intelligentsia, please stand up!
Bad events are always important opportunities to reinvent yourself or to think about what went wrong. The recession is/was a good example for many organizations. On a more personal side, this Wednesday, I dislocated my left shoulder and spent a beautiful six hours (11PM to 5AM) at the hospital waiting for this nightmare to end. I was playing hockey as a goaltender when I fell on my left shoulder; a second shoulder dislocation in the last five years. Everything’s not lost, at least I am not a professional goaltender, this is not my career, God bless.
The Dan Blackburn story
This injury leads me to the story of Dan Blackburn. Dan Blackburn was a young goaltender born in Montréal in 1983, who was named in 2001 the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL; which includes QMJHL, OHL and WHL) most valuable player. The same year, he was drafted by the New York Rangers in the first round (10th overall) of the 2001 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft. Blackburn made the New York Rangers team in 2001-2002 and became the third youngest goalie to win a NHL game. Unfortunately, two years later, Blackburn missed the entire 2003–04 NHL season due to a serious nerve injury to his left shoulder sustained just before training camp. He had nerve exploration surgery on March 31, 2004 and as his injury rendered him incapable of rotating his glove hand, Blackburn was forced to retired in 2005, at the age of 22. Afterwards, Blackburn enrolled at Arizona State University and became a manager of business development for the Goaltender Development Institute and now loves his new role. Even though Blackburn had to retire prematurely, his passion for hockey and knowledge of the game allowed him to continue to work in the same environment although in a totally different role. Other perhaps even more interesting examples in hockey also include former major NHL deception Gord Kluzak who ended up earning an MBA from Harvard University and having jobs as an analyst for Goldman Sachs and later on as a commentator for ESPN.
What can we learn from the Dan Blackburn story
Without wanting to make an Anthony Robbins of myself, the most important things we can learn from the Dan Blackburn/Gord Kluzak career changes are:
1. Past knowledge clearly helps in career change;
2. In terms of personal branding, being known helps to ease career switch;
3. Education brings credibility;
Past knowledge clearly helps in career change
In the case of Dan Blackburn, the knowledge he acquired as a goaltender and in hockey in general helped him to crack an organization using his past knowledge. He certainly had more than 10,000 hours of knowledge, passion and hard work under his belt. Even though he was quite raw in terms of business knowledge, he knew the industry before he stepped on the plate.
In terms of personal branding, being known helps to ease career switch
Connections are always important for future jobs; being connected with others in main social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) is always suggested. But being known because of positive screen presence is always an a priori edge for being hired. Olympic athletes, make yourselves visible!
Education brings credibility
I have always been a huge proponent of the argument that education brings success. Arguably, I am totally biased on this issue with four completed post-secondary degrees and another in-completion. Adding some letters on a business card like BBA or MBA is always useful and makes it easier to start many conversations.
So what do you think about the case story of Dan Blackburn? Do you know interesting examples of career changes that where really a success? Even more personal ones? Can you add a fourth point to my analysis?
Every time you navigate on a website, you have an objective, even when you think you don’t have one. In this Web 3.0 era (the information comes to you before you need to search for it), based on your navigation, simple algorithms can easily identify you as being either in a searching mode or in a buying mode. Furthermore, based on other algorithms related to the order and the type of pages you are visiting, you can also be identified as being either looking for a more hedonic experience or a more utilitarian one. However, whatever your navigation mode is, the experience you are looking for, the amount of time you plan to spend on a specific website for accomplishing your task, and whether you are a freshly retired baby boomer or a freshly hired highly-stressed Wall Street analyst, one sure thing is that when you navigate, you want to be respected, to be treated well as an important user and consumer/future consumer. This last sentence may remind you of a seven-letter word wonderfully spelled by American Diva singer Aretha Franklin in her famous song entitled “Respect”.
Respect is a fundamental aspect of savoir-vivre in human relationships and in any shopping experience, so why should it not be important in an online shopping context? Thus, it is important to take into account that even though the user interacts with the website, every company should not forget that the user interacts with a website that has been created by other human beings. Why should the internal policies of a retail store include a code of conduct toward consumers/potential consumers, whilst there isn’t any such “code” in an online retail store for most companies? In this post, I propose four avoidable cases that illustrate how the lack of respect towards the customers in an electronic setting can be harmful in the long-run.
1. Incompatible Pizza Hut application
I remember this summer an interesting post (in French) by my friend Yasha Sekhavat regarding a new Pizza Hut iPhone application. The description of the application really captivated his attention and when he tried to use it, he discovered that the application could only be used in the United States. What would have been the cost of putting a simple one-line long warning on the page of the application mentioning that the application (API) was not available in Canada? How much time would it have saved to many users? How would it have reduced negative word-of-mouth (NWOM) in Canada, and overseas?
A quite similar case occurs when you take 10 minutes of your time searching and selecting on the Amazon website two or three super-techno-trendy-geeky products that you previously heard off via a super-techno-trendy-geeky website. Once you’ve found them, you just press the checkout button and lucky as you are, you find out that these items can’t be shipped in Canada. Once again, how much would it have cost to mention that these items could not be shipped in Canada or overseas?
3. A call-back facility as the last step of a registration process on the Videotron website
This summer I was looking to add a new Videotron service to my already existing bundle. I found on the Videotron website a 5-step process that would take care of my case without me having to take the phone. I was quite happy with this 5-step process until I reached Step 5 which involved an unwanted call-back facility. I finally left no information on the call-back facility and took the phone after having lost 10 minutes filling the first four steps of the online procedure. What a waste of time! How much would it have cost the company to tell me at Step 1 that the last step would involve a call-back facility?
I used to like to shop on the Best Buy website or to have a look to see if one item was available at the Best Buy retail store near my apartment before making the trip. However, recently, it happened that not once, but three times, the website gave me wrong information. What is more frustrating than thinking that 6 copies of my favourite video game are still available and finding, once I’m physically in the retail store that these 6 copies are actually part of the next shipping trip arriving in two days? Giving wrong/outdated information is never a good way to show respect to the consumer.
In conclusion, if you want me to respect your company/brand, please alert me before wasting my time. Sometimes, adding a short highlighted sentence on the product page can save lots of efforts to consumers/potential consumers and avoid the spreading of NWOM. So what do you think of these examples? Do you have other examples where a company lacked respect towards you on the Internet?
How many times do we hear a new web analyst in an organization ask the following question: Why don’t stakeholders care about my numbers? One of the main reasons why stakeholders in the organization don’t use your numbers to drive their decisions is because they don’t see the utility of doing so. Before you were hired, these stakeholders where drawing conclusions and taking decisions without using your numbers, so why should they change their ways? Why should they care about you? Why should they make the extra effort to understand the numbers you are crunching? The answer relies on the fact that you haven’t taken the time to convince, educate and train these stakeholders to the benefits of web analytics. In other words, you haven’t acted as a web evangelist! You have acted as a simple employee. But your new task is all about persuasion, and one way to influence stakeholders is to base your argumentation on what the well-known psychologist Robert Cialdini defined as “the six weapons of influence” in his book entitled Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. These six weapons are: (1) reciprocation, (2) commitment and consistency, (3) social proof, (4) authority, (5) liking, and (6) scarcity. This can be accomplished by executing the following 8-step proposed taxonomy, but also by taking in consideration challenges and potential pitfalls that must also be overcome.
Step 1 – Show to the person who has hired you your commitment to the implementation of web analytics within the organization
First, you need to convince someone higher in the hierarchy of the benefits of web analytics, for instance the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Generally, this person has had an influence on the decision to hire you, which implies that his/her willingness to support web analytics should be higher than anyone else’s. One of the best ways to convince/reassure this person to support web analytics is to show your commitment to the cause. However, don’t restrict your focus to the CMO. Since we are talking about web analytics and more broadly of analytics, your data can be valuable to several other areas of the company, like the department of: sales, customer service or finance. It is important that you have the buy-in of several different leaders.
Step 2 – Use the Chief Marketing Officer as a figure of authority
Once you have convinced the CMO to support you, it is important to rely on him as a figure of authority and also as someone credible (social proof), to convince others in the organization to adopt a web analytic perspective. Thus, the CMO must always be presented as a member of your web analytics team.
Step 3 – Empower the Chief Marketing Officer
The CMO has committed (commitment) to help propagate web analytics and one way to take advantage of this commitment is to empower him. One way of doing so is to give him access to data and analyses available through the software the organization is using. For instance, if the organization uses Google Analytics, it would be suggested to give him access to reports as a user. Furthermore, if the CMO has access to reports and figures, he/she will then better be able to understand the importance of web analysis and how it is related to the organization’s objectives and strategies.
Step 4 – Prove to other stakeholders that web analytics is a must-have
Once the CMO is on your side, it is time to convince other stakeholders in the organization. One way of convincing them is to show what your competition is doing (social proof) to make them realize that web analytics are no longer a luxury in an organization; it’s a must-have. In this way, even though the organization in the short-run is still making profits without caring that much about web analytics, in the long-run, not using web analytics will be prove to be a major drawback.
Step 5 – Present your own data as a competitive advantage
It has been argued that the biggest competitive advantage every organization has, is its own data. In this way, taking advantage of this scarcity in terms of information available is one way to outrun competition. The uniqueness of the data held by the company could also be an interesting opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of multichannel indicators in a holistic fashion, showing the links of web analytics to strategic objectives in the organization. In the best situation, using these web analytics coupled with internal databases comprising indicators such as satisfaction index would be the Holy Grail of analytical integration.
Step 6 – Reciprocate by getting to the root of things
Once the utility of web analytics has been praised, the next step is to implement these web analytics with the help of stakeholders. One of the best way to act would be to propose stakeholders that in exchange (reciprocity) for their discovered confidence in web analytics, you would give them the results that are the most related to their objectives by getting to the root of it all. In this way, taking some time to discuss with these stakeholders the potential causal relations is a must-do. Asking questions and cogitating with stakeholders about why the trend of a number or a KPI is going down or up is the best way to find causal relationships but also to build workplace relationships.
Step 7 – Take the reciprocation and commitment one step further
Once you have discussed with stakeholders and produced reports for them, the next step is to get them more involved with web analytics. Since you help them, they will feel obliged to reciprocate and commit a little more to web analytics. This is the moment where you should start to train them by speaking their language, not the web analytics language that is way more complex and can sometimes get intimidating. Once they become more aware of web analysis, you can create a glossary of most important technical terms to remember. One way to train them is to review key trends monthly; this will engage stakeholders in customers’ behaviours and attitudes, so they can strive more effectively for a customer-centric corporate culture. This behaviour, as opposed to having metrics always monitored, explained and distributed by the analytics manager, will greatly increase the level of ownership for continuous improvement across the organization.
Step 8 – Go for the big shot using social proof and liking
Once you have convinced stakeholders, the final point is to go for the big shot by writing a clear and concise email to your Chief Executive Officer (CEO) insisting on how web analytics are becoming part of the corporate culture and strategic goals. Although the CEO may not be the first person to read the proposal, if it’s well-written and well-reasoned, integrating the progress made related to the previous 7 steps, it may be the best way to capture his/her attention through social proof and liking and to show how the organization and the industry is changing.
Unfortunately, accomplishing this taxonomy can’t be done without overcoming some challenges. One of the main challenges the web analyst faces is to fight against the fear of change. This fear of change is even more present if the organization is making profits and if members are older. How many times have you heard the famous sentence from senior stakeholders: “I have done my work this way for 25 years and it has always been good”. The initial answer that would come to my mind would be: “So what”? The world is changing and so is the industry … ? But this would not be the best way of making friends inside the organization. In this way, controlling the fear of others by preparing a more “politically correct” and less sensitive answer would be more appropriate. One way to achieve this objective, would be to give examples of best practices that integrate web analytics (social proof), and how web analytics can be integrated to the “older” way of doing things.
As it is often the case, one of the main traps a web analyst can fall into is to look more like a scientist in an Ivory Tower, than a true integrated member of the organization. The web analyst needs to discuss with other stakeholders in the same way as other stakeholders need to discuss with him/her to take more informed decisions. The worst thing that can happen is being too data driven, because, as we know, there are humans affecting these data. Thus, the internal and outside influence should be taken into account. These internal influences are actions provoked by the organization and may include: (1) marketing programs driving traffic to the website, (2) website changes (i.e. navigation, changes to homepage), and (3) operational failures (i.e. out-of-stock items, problems with checkout process, site performance issues). On the other side, outside influences, as the name suggests, are actions taken by agents outside the organization. They can be from competitors (i.e. competitive marketing initiatives) or part of the macro environment (i.e. seasonal changes, legislative changes, public opinion, fuel prices). Not taking into account any of these two types of influence can give you the reputation of a scientist conducting Ivory Tower research.
In conclusion, the proposed 8-step taxonomy mixed with the challenges and potential pitfalls should serve as a guide for web analysts looking for a way to propagate the good news about what web analytics are and what they do inside their organization. Even though these 8 steps don’t guarantee success, they can be of great help in improving chances of success. I would conclude in saying that one necessary but not sufficient condition for success is that before convincing others to the benefits of web analytics, the first person you need to convince is yourself. Once this is done, the 8-step procedure takes courage, willingness and time. But just before taking action, take a minute or two to sip a cup of green tea, relax and tell me what you think of this plan!
Two weeks ago, I came back from a trip to Gaspésie which was a really appreciated (and needed) rest. However, even though I didn’t travel much this summer, in visiting Norway, Quebec City and Gaspésie, I drove a lot and had the opportunity to visit many different cities and to sleep in many different hotels and motels. And yes, I’m still bringing back home some sort of a tan, even though I focused my travels on northern destinations! During these vacations and especially whilst driving, one business question was always on top of my mind; how do these places (hotels, motels, etc…) operate to acquire new customers? But more precisely which kind of reasoning should they intuitively follow to optimize their customer acquisition strategy?
When coming back and after some serious thinking, I draw the following simple model presented below which explains in 5 questions who your customers and potential customers are and how did/could they find you?
1. Where are you?
2. Which period of the year?
3. What are you offering?
4. Who are your customers?
5. How did your customers find you?
How to take advantage of this Model?
A model is always something that scares a huge proportion of practioners, but it is also a way to simplify a reality, a reality that should be understood in order to take advantage of a given situation. So let’s reformulate the 5 questions of this model into 5 Yes/No managerially-driven questions:
6. Are your offers aligned with what the city has to offer at that period of the year?
7. Are your offers aligned with what the customers want in this city at that period of the year?
8. Do you know how your customers find you?
9. Do you optimize your number of customers coming from all 9 ways?
10. Do you know why your customers choose you?
So what are your answers? Common sense and archived data should take care of 6, 7 and 9, while a simple single-sheet questionnaire with two questions distributed to customers should answer 8 and 10 and provide you with a starting point for increasing your number of customers. If you answered “Yes” to all questions, then you perhaps need some vacations, your job is done, if this is not the case, then take another close look at this model.
Is Twitter the next big thing or is it the next MySpace? And what about Facebook and Google? These are interesting questions managers keep asking themselves. I was reading earlier this week an article published in Business Week on how Twitter has made the real-time web an important issue on the Internet and how it can be considered a potential competitor for Google. Briefly, the author interviewed a truly biased specialist who has invested money in Twitter and companies that offer solutions to track Twitter information. Personally, I think the article was biased and off-the-track, and I don’t want to offend the pro-Twitter squad, but Twitter has many similarities to past social platforms that have failed such as (1) Friendster, (2) MySpace and (3) Second Life. This leads me to pretend that Twitter tends more to be the Next MySpace than a potential competitor for Facebook. Here is my reasoning in 8 points:
1. Too much reliability problems
2. Too much spamming
3. Not enough privacy
4. Too much babbles
5. Not enough readers
6. Too hard to maintain conversations
7. Too simple
8. Too much competition on the radar
1. Too much reliability problems
This seems similar to what Friendster and Second Life have experienced in the past as Twitter is getting attacked from everywhere on the planet; how many times will you hear “Twitter is down… again”? Is there anything worse than trying to log onto a website that is not working? These reliability problems are not causing too much damage for the moment, but one day, users will get tired and trust will be broken.
2. Too much spamming
Spamming on Twitter is just starting. For instance, just add 10 Internet gurus to your “follow” list and you will receive tons of new followers (spammers) that will chase (follow) you not to connect with you, but more to add you (if you reciprocate) as an extra follower. There is a developing market of companies sharing techniques to increase their number of followers; Mashable even wrote an article that summarizes this emerging market. What is the point of having new followers if these followers don’t care about you? Anyway. Personally, the worst type of spam I have experienced is when non-followers mentioned me, with the known symbol @ in a non-targeted corporate tweet. Sure, it is possible to block them and report spam, but this is time-consuming for nothing.
3. Not enough privacy
Some may also say that Twitter is really bad in terms of privacy, and I totally agree, but for now, if I want to have more privacy, I just log onto another platform and share with my friends on Facebook or on the good old MSN.
4. Too much babbles
In a recent study, it was said that 40% of the content on Twitter was insignificant babbles. I would totally agree with the point of view of researcher and social networks specialist danah boyd who argued that babbles are not necessarily babbles for everyone. However, these « babbles » are generally information I categorized as spam for the writers (my “following”) I don’t really know personally – and if I know the writer of those babbles, well then, maybe they are not always to be considered as such.
5. Not enough listening
What is really surprising on Twitter is that you can have 10,000 followers but it can happen that almost none of them will read what you post. To read you, they need to be online, they need to be connected to their Twitter account via the Twitter website, via Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Twitterriffic, depending which tool they are using, and they need to actively follow you. The Dunbar number stipulates that one human cannot follow intimately more than 150 people. Good luck! This is why Twitter is a paradise for quantity and not quality.
6. Too hard to maintain conversations
Have you ever tried to maintain a conversation of four to five tweets exchange with someone on Twitter? This is really hard, and personally, when I want to do that, I just use another platform.
7. Too simple
If the idea behind Twitter is simple, this is mainly what makes it popular; however it is sometimes too simple. The only thing you can do is post a tweet or read a tweet, so once again I use another platform.
8. Too much competition on the radar
Facebook has bought Friendfeed, launched Facebook Lite and Google will launch Google Caffeine and Google Wave. What does this mean? This means that even though Twitter is growing fast, it is a matter of time before competition gets the better of it. In other words, every user should say thanks to Twitter for forcing Facebook and Google to come up with ideas to exploit the real-time web as fast as possible.
Should your company be on Twitter?
After listing all these reasons why Twitter is not the next big thing, the main question some would ask me is: “should my company be on Twitter?” And my answer would be: YES. Why? Mainly because Twitter is an interesting way to control your brand image, not to build it, but to control for negative comments against your brand. However, is Twitter the next big thing? NO, and if you want to build for the future, focus your energies on Facebook and follow the launch of Google Wave.
What will we learn from Twitter?
We should at least learn two things from Twitter, that there is need for the real-time web and a need for fandom.
1. Need for the real-time web
The 140-word tweet has been a good vehicle to bring the real-time web as an Internet mainstream issue which could have been predicted by the emergence of SMS. This trend is there to stay. This is also why Google will launch Google Caffeine and Google Wave soon enough, in order to answer Twitter’s growth.
In conclusion, I personally don’t think Twitter is the next big thing, but more likely a fad that will soon go away like Friendster, MySpace and Second Life did in the past ten years. However, we must thank Twitter for bringing the real-time web to another level. Any other opinions or thoughts on the topic?
Facebook and Google are probably the two hottest companies that come to anyone’s mind when chit-chatting about the Internet. Thus, according to Quantcast statistics, Google is the website that is the most visited by Americans while Facebook comes fourth. However, when it comes to social networking (SNs) websites, anyone will tell you that Facebook is the best one by far with 87.7 million unique users in the United States as of July 2009, up 14% compared to the previous month.
Furthermore, some may think that the recent acquisition of Friendfeed by Facebook for $50 millions (for more details see comments on Mashable) coupled with the beta launch of Facebook Lite sooner this week would be enough to solidify Facebook’s position as the leader in SNs. Most experts would say “yes, but for how long”? For many, the launch this Wednesday of iGoogle social gadgets, and the eventual launch of Google Caffeine and Google Wave are only the beginning of a longer battle between these two companies. Talking of Google Wave, many experts think that it would be the social network of the future, the most advanced in terms of success. But having the best product in terms of features, in this case the best social network, is not a guarantee for success. Concepts such as: (1) first-mover advantage, (2) switching costs, and (3) lock-in effects, are all important to take in consideration. This is why in this post, I will expose the current situation and then discuss the impact of these three interrelated concepts on Google Wave race against Facebook in their battle for web supremacy.
1. The Situation
The Internet is build out of technological infrastructure. Thus, the most important question to answer is: What is needed to dominate the Internet? What will it take to bring all the masses together in a single social network? In other words, what will be the social network of the future? According to my actual experience, the social network of the future will include the following features:
1. The space for a complete profile
2. The space for showing complete affiliations
3. The possibility to search for timely information (microblogging)
4. The possibility to search across the web for websites and useful detailed information
5. The possibility to follow non-followers and vice-versa
6. Private instant messaging features
7. Public messaging
8. Public video sharing
9. The possibility to send an e-mail to anyone
10. The possibility to group most popular posts in specific categories
11. The possibility to follow bloggers via feeds
12. The possibility of implementing social gaming features
13. The possibility to import friends from other social sites
But how will Google Wave perform against Facebook on these features? An overview of the answers to this question is presented on the table below.
The space for a complete profile
The space for showing complete affiliations
The possibility to search for timely information (microblogging)
The possibility to search across the web for websites and useful detailed information
The possibility to follow non-followers and vice-versa
Complete private instant messaging features
Public video sharing
The possibility to send an e-mail to anyone
The possibility to group most popular posts in specific categories
The possibility to follow bloggers via feeds
The possibility of implementing social gaming features
The possibility to import friends from other social sites
According to this short analysis, it seems like Google Wave outperforms Facebook for most features, the most important ones being: (1) search across the web, (2) complete private instant messaging (It is still impossible to send a document via Facebook private chat), (3) social bookmarking features and (4) usage of feeds. However, even though Google Wave seems ahead in terms of overall features, it is way behind in terms of unique users, since it hasn’t been launched yet. So, will users join Google Wave because it has more advanced features? Not necessarily. 2. First Mover Advantage
Google was founded in 1996, while Facebook was founded in January 2004 and went public in September 2006, which gives Google a first mover advantage in terms of Internet presence. However, as Facebook is a social network since it was launched, it has a first mover advantage against Google Wave. One important fact to mention is that after going public, it took Facebook 32 months (since May 2009), to dethrone MySpace as the number one Social Network in the United States. Thus, Google Wave is facing the same situation against Facebook. Some guesses? 3. Three Types of Costs in a Social Network
Before analyzing how much time could it take Google Wave to reach a number of users similar to Facebook, one of the most important concepts to consider is the types of costs associated with a social network, which can be divided into three categories:
• Learning costs: how much time have you spent to learn how the social network works?
• Searching costs: how much time have you spent to find your friends?
• Social costs: how much time have you spent to socialize with others? 4. Switching Costs and Lock-in
The main problem that Google Wave faces is that Facebook users like to exchange information on this social network, they have invested their time in learning how it works (learning costs), they have invested their time in searching their friends (searching costs), and they have had plenty of fun socializing with others (social costs). Why should they switch to Google Wave? Why should they switch to Google Wave even if they know its better? What is the benefit of switching away from Facebook or simply investing time in Google Wave? Are they locked-in? The answer to this question is crucial and still hard to predict. Would that inspire a research paper written by Google Chief Economist Hal Varian who is also Professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, and who has published papers on switching costs and lock-in? Conclusion & Discussion
To conclude, it is no surprise that according to my analysis, Facebook is ahead in this race for the Internet supremacy against Google Wave even though the latter has the best technology. However, one sure thing is that the race is not over and the next fall will be interesting in terms of social innovations (i.e. Google Wave) and potential acquisitions. Who do you think is going to win the race? Any other thoughts? Any bids?