S-Commerce, where the E meets the social network.

A funny thing is happening to all of those builders of cool social networks. It’s the same thing that happened in the pre-dot com bust days. After their cool sites were built and they were all sittin’ around drinkin’ a microbrew, they all got the “South Park” look in their eyes and in unison said, “How do we make money”?

Again, in unison they said 2 things. “Well first we’ll make money off of advertisers and then, when we get so much traffic we can barely function, someone will buy us’.  I got news for you, a 1000 visitors a day, let alone a week, ain’t gonna gitter done.

So lets flash back to the South Park image again as they all look around after seeing that their traffic aint hittin the millions. “Now what”?

Well here’s an idea. Since consumer visits to social sites are growing at an exponential rate,  and since they’re becoming more comfortable with the model and more comfortable with the tools, controls and widgets of these sites, wouldn’t it make sense as a marketer to take advantage of this niche community? The answer is yes. But what about the owner/operator of the site what do they do?

So’s here how it goes down. Lets say I have this  social network for the lovers of all things llama. Why can’t I blend the transactional and social aspects of this group  by involving consumers in promoting and selling their offerings as they pertain to…”All things Llama”?

As these social sites become more and more “social”, and people find themselves spending more time on these sites, they become impervious to traditional media; That media being Tv, Radio, Newspapers and magazines. And what happens is that now all of a sudden your social network of peers and “friends” can now influence a buying decision. Because you trust them and they, you. Statistics show people join a social networking site to receive four benefits, 1) to meet people (78%); 2) to find entertainment (47%); 3) to learn something new (38%); and  4) influence others (23%) I tend to disagree with the 4th, but that just maybe a residual effect of a marketers desire to influence the social perception of their product.

Whats interesting to note though is that members of social networks have a higher disposable income than the general population – 20% more – and spend more of it online. So if they do and going back to our llama group analogy, we now present Joe, who is selling the most healthy llama snack ever made.  You trust him because Joe is a llama lover like you. Wouldn’t you buy your llama snacks from Joe? Of course you would!

You now have seen the benefit of selling to your peeps. S-Commerce.

But the question will  and does arise, how does a marketer get to Joe? How is Joe influenced to buy the best llama snacks?  For starters maybe Joe went to a branded micro-site devoted to llamas and their snacks, saw that they were offereing a free trial, and jumps on it. Or maybe Joe read a review online somewhere about the latest in llama feed and someone mentioned Killer llama Snacks. Joe could have been in a llama forum where he saw a skyscraper? Perhaps he could have been on a competeing site and saw an add for the latest llama snack? See how many ways you can get to him?

Of course Joe might be a heavy blog reader and reads a couple of killer llama blogs everyday where he reads some posts by the author or readers about an amazing new llama snack. Better yet, Joe loves Youtube, so combining his love for llamas and video, Joe does a search and finds a cool 30 second spot on the llamas at the san diego zoo that are big and strong thanks to the killer llama snack.

So by combining all elements of branding, and marketing, and advertising along with the power of a social network. And the trust that only a niche group could have for someone within the group, S-Commerce can thrive. The best part about it is that if your product makes it into the group. No selling is required.

Furthermore, you’re probabally asking, how does the owner/operator make money? Well since he owns the niche site, wouldn’t it behoove the maker of the killer llama snack to come to the owners and see if they can cut some type of marketing deal to push their product? You betcha. So now the only advertisers on the social site are relavant to the niche aspect of the site. Everyone wins…

Lastly, taking this to the next level then would be a company like lemonade.com Where they literally provide you with the stand and all you have to do is supply the products. Just make sure they(the products) are relevant to your group and you are good to go! It would also help if you were actually part of the group. Trying to win over the group as a  passing member of this group is a hard sell and could result in an instant loss of street cred. So tread lightly, stay long, grow some roots and sell some product. Can you name another seamless example of e-commerce in play in a social networking setting?

The top 10 social networking sites for October 2007

I’d like to revisit this after the FB/Beacon fall out because I think the reality of it is that I don’t think Facebook is going to lose millions of users because of it. Having said that. here they are:

  1. MySpace -58.8 million unique visitors
  2. Facebook -19.5 milllion
  3. Classmates Online -13.2 million
  4. Wiindows Live Spaces -10.3 million
  5. AOL Hometown -7.9 million
  6. LinkedIn -4.9 million
  7. AOL People Connection -4 million
  8. Reunion.com -4 million
  9. Club Penguin -3.8 million
  10. Buzznet -2.3 million

Looking at the list from a growth standpoint and taking the same month from the previous year shows that Linkedin had the biggest percentage growth at 189%. The site experiencing the biggest loss from the previous year was AOL people connection. Other big gainers were #2 Club Penguin at 157% and #3 Facebook at 125%. MySpace only grew 19% and looks to be finally leveling off.

LinkedIn would appear to have the biggest value add as a “true” social network in which people actually “network” for busiiness reasons; whereas Facebook has the appeal to the college demo for example, for the sole purpose of “hooking up” or connecting with like-minded individuals. There are some other sites that are fast on the rise, and  we would like to know from our readers if there is a site in particular that needs to be on everyone’s radar.

MySpace and Facebook users don’t care about their Privacy.

Here’s a revelation to all of the folks that are fired up over the latest FaceBook fracas. This is also an FYI to all of those so-called critics of what MySpace and Facebook might be doing with a users information..

Guess what? The average user doesn’t care what an advertiser or social media marketer does with their data. Wanna know why? Because they’re in college or younger. They could care less about the implications of plastering their most intimate details all over the pages of Myspace and Facebook.

The only people that care are the Gen X,  Gen Y and  Boomers who are strolling or trolling, depending on your views of what a social network are.. into these 2 monolithic sites to kick the tires. They look around, think it’s kinda cool and decide to hang out awhile and see if they can “connect” with some peeps.

But wait! “Uh-oh, what do you mean you’re going to use my personal data?” For what? You mean you are going to share it? With who? Advertisers? OMG!!!!!

A voice behind a curtain: “Uhhhh well you’re sharing it with others…! ”

“Well yea that’s uhhhh different”.

The voice: It is? How is it? Tell me. You put it up there. All of it. And then some.

All of a sudden they want to take back what they said. Except that they knew going in what they were doing.  They want their cake and they want to eat it too.

If you are in college, or younger. Do you really care what is happening to your data? Probably not. All you really care about is who you can hook up with( not all of you) But, the only way to do that is to supply more personal details. So why wouldn’t Facebook and MySpace and it’s partners not want to take advantage of this? And one more thing, has anyone ever asked a typical user how much of the info that he or she puts into these social networks is actually valid???

So before we, and I’m still trying to determine just what the demographic of “we” is, decide to grab torches and pitchforks, lets consider what the contract is between user and site owner of Facebook and MySpace. And not only those 2, but all  social sites in general.  If you’re willing to share the most amazingly intimate details to utter strangers, then what’s the difference, or why should you care if Kraft foods wants to know when you eat Mac and cheese?

The Top 25 most visited websites in the world

Now before you start disputing these, these figures are according to Alexa. But beyond that, what trend do you see here?  2 things are painfully obvious. Ok 3, now it’s your turn to tell me what they are. Tell me what jumps out at you?

  1. Yahoo!
  2. Google
  3. Windows Live
  4.  YouTube 
  5. Microsoft Network (MSN)
  6. Myspace
  7. Facebook
  8. Wikipedia
  9. Hi5
  10. Orkut
  11. Rapidshare.com
  12. Blogger.com
  13. Megaupload
  14. Friendster
  15. Yahoo!カテゴリ(Japan)
  16. Baidu.com(China search engine)
  17. Fotolog
  18. Microsoft Corporation
  19. Google.fr(France)
  20. 腾讯网(http://www.qq.com)(China)
  21. EBay
  22. Skyrock
  23. Почта@Mail.ru(Russian)
  24. Google Chile
  25. Google

LifeRemix

I came across this site the other day and I just had to share it with our readers. LifeRemix. Here is a quote from the about page:

LifeRemix is basically a band of bloggers who enrich people’s lives through blogging. The blogs are hand-selected, and each one is incredible. They have excellent writers, and their content is quite unique.

With the constant swelling of the blogosphere, good writing can be hard to find. We’re trying to act as a filter so only the best writing is showcased, while at the same time learning a thing or two

Bookmark and visit it from time to time and see what you think.

Facebook does a Faceplant

Facebook announced in a statement posted on its website that it had made some changes to its Beacon online ad-system. The changes came after more than 50,000 users signed a petition, complaining that Beacon was too intrusive and too confusing to opt out of.

“According to PC World, a Computer Associates researcher claims that Beacon, when installed on participating sites, is sending data about users’ activity back to Facebook, even when a user is logged out of Facebook – despite Facebook’s claims to the contrary.”

   Beacon is an advertising platform that tracks Facebook’s member transactions on third-party partner sites and transforms them into product/service endorsements. Beacon is a major part of the Facebook Ads platform that Facebook introduced with much fanfare several weeks ago. Beacon tracks certain activities of Facebook users on more than 40 participating Web sites, including those of Blockbuster and Fandango, and reports those activities to the users’ set of Facebook friends, unless told not to do so.

Since then, Users’ data on their activities at those participant websites has been flowing back to Facebook automatically without the option to block that information from being transmitted.  Nice.

 Users are able to opt out but only on case-by-case basis, which means that they must opt-out for each of the more than 44 participant websites. That’s right, 44.  As a consequence, Facebook users  are going ballistic.  Facebook had to adjust Beacon to make it work more implicit and user friendly; and to make it easier to nix a broadcast message and opt out of having activities tracked on specific Web sites.

“Users must click on ‘OK’ in a new initial notification on their Facebook home page before the first Beacon story is published to their friends from each participating site,” the statement reads.”

 Also, Facebook’s Beacon now offers to the users clear options in ongoing notifications to either delete or publish. If they delay in making this decision, the notification will hide and they can make a decision at a later time.

But Facebook didn’t go all the way to providing a general opt-out option for the entire Beacon program, as some had hoped. Expect the fallout to continue as Facebook scrambles to figure out how to play with the big boys before being black balled. If they don’t do some major damage repair and assure users that they are not abusing their data, folks will be leaving quicker than kids at a party that the cops show up at.