What Does it Mean When Social Media Companies Can’t Survive?

In recent weeks I’ve received emails from Xmarks and 12seconds.tv announcing that both were ceasing operations by the end of the month. I was bummed. With Xmarks, I actually used it every day to keep all my bookmarks synced across multiple machines. With 12seconds.tv, I had used a dozen times or so and I could see an application or a place for it in the crowded world of social applications and services. So why did they both decide to shut the doors?

No revenues. Simple as that. They could not make any money. Both companies had traffic and users, and both applications were free, but the problem was, they could not figure out how to make a living off of a social utility. I’ve said for a long time that I can’t stand the traditional internet business model that’s predicated on traffic. I hate that model; and yet as we speak in 2010, we have 2 companies that needed traffic to grab advertisers, and to a certain degree had half of that equation, and yet still couldn’t survive.

What does that mean?

Sure we’ve had a ton of companies that have gone belly up, but what does it mean today? Back in the day, when your internet startup wasn’t tied to a transactional product, your best bet for survival was predicated on a mix of lots of traffic, word of mouth, and great service which attracted advertisers. But that still was no guarantee of survival. Especially when it basically was relying on traffic fueled ad dollars.

This morning Jay Baer wrote a post about how social media behemoth Facebook was basically suffocating the rest of the web 2.0 world. Frankly I have to agree with him. Not only is Facebook swallowing up our time, but it’s redefining our choices and driving our preferences-which means that companies that are trying to go it alone in the social media landscape, now have to compete for attention and eyeballs of people that prefer to play inside the walls of Facebook only!

Forget ad revenue from traffic as a major concern for new social startups. They now have to compete with Facebook right out of the blocks. It reminds me of the halcyon days of first Microsoft’s dominance and then Google’s. Everyone was always wondering what they were going to do next. This is Facebook’s world and we’re just living in it.

That’s what that means.

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Conversations? Now They’re Just Sound Bites

When you get a chance go read Jay Baer’s post titled, Is social  conversation a myth? It’s a quick read, well worth it, and got me thinking. You know what’s cool in a weird, sorta, karma like way? Sometimes in the social media bubble, there’s  a confluence of thoughts on the same topic at the same time. This is one of those moments. And it revolves around social media and drum roll please…Conversations. Or the lack thereof.

Joe Jaffe is right. Mitch Joel is right and Jay Baer is right.

Call it the short cut of social media, or the “new reality” of social media,  but it’s as simple as this.

People would rather reap the benefits of social media without putting the effort in.

Initially I wanted to title this post- “SMB’s don’t care about long term strategy in social media”. My thinking and experience has been that SMB’s would prefer the shoot first, aim later methodology. Conversations? Not part of their mix. Frankly, I can’t blame them. My experience is that social media is hard work and has long term benefits that you only start to see after a minimum of 6 months. So why can’t SMB’s or anyone for that matter use social media as an ice breaker or as a warm call, instead of a cold call? They can. You can, in theory use it any way you want. It’s the purist in us that longs for those not so long ago days when we used to talk face to face, use Twitter the “right way”, comment on blogs, and read newspapers…:)

Case in point Erika Napoletano aka Redheadwriting and I were passing each other in the hallways of Twitter and we were both like, “Hey, whats been going on?” It was a quick (of course) long time no talk kind of conversation . You see, Erika and I used to “chat” all the time in the halcyon days of Twitter. We even reminisced about that fact as well. In 140 characters of course. Now we barely have time. Or do we?

Do conversations happen on Twitter? Yes but it’s like trying to have one in a bar during happy hour-Eventually you get tired of trying to yell above all the noise-so you just reduce it to sound bites.

Beth Harte is another “old schooler”. We used to chat it up all the time on a few social platforms but with a twist…We would take the conversations off line and call each other too. For a few of us, its still about the conversation, or it used to be about the conversation, but now its about remembering what it used to be and adapting to what it is now.

We’re an evolutionary type of species and we’re evolving just like everyone else is in the social media world.  It’s all about utility now.

What drives participation in a social network?

If you’re a social media consultant like Jay Baer, or a larger organization like Accenture for instance, one of the constant constants in social media is the amount of education required to get people all on the same page, before anything can really be accomplished.

With that being said, once people are “there”, and they “get it”, they can see pretty quickly what the trans-formative nature and power of  social media is like, and what it can do.

But it took a post from the The Next Great Generation to open my eyes to what we are really talking about here and what really drives participation in social networks. It’s amazing that I can be so immersed in it and not really see what is going on. Check out these quotes from the post:

There was no validation that what I did was comment-worthy, no “cute” notations on Yelps, no retweets of my witty Twitter updates

and

Social media validates my feelings and actions. Seeing them online makes them real and takes them out of me, much in the way that I imagine it would be to keep a diary.”

What is the common theme there? Validation. Simply put, what we do in our communities needs to be validated. No one likes to create content in a vacuum. Conversations become just that, conversations, when someone responds to you. We need that reaction. the dialogue, not the monologue. Be it positive, negative or indifferent-the social creature in us needs the juice.

As well, by simply creating and putting it “out there” validates our existence in these social networks. We become “part” of the dynamic of the group, of the community. You are a creator and you’re validating yourself for the group.

Crowds applause-that validates. Social Media flash mobs go nuts over corporate missteps-they validate each other in unison and then are further validated by Twitter, blogs and reaction from the company itself. All forms of validation.

You write a blog post or tweet something or create a video, or write a review-you do it because you want to become part of something and it all rings hollow until someone notices and says something. Blogs were and still are great because not only did it provide a forum and platform for self expression but it also provided instant feedback.  It validated both readers and writers.

Social media engagement is all about validating each other and our experiences and the content that we have created and…shared

Consider:

  • A high number of views=validates
  • A high number of blog comments= validates the topic
  • Trying to creating a video=searching for validation
  • Snarky comment on Twitter=need for validation

The list can go on and on but I have to thank the folks over at TNGG for validating what I had completely missed in this space. You see, it’s the little things that can sometimes go completely unnoticed, and once you notice them, they aren’t so little after all.

10 social sites to start your year off with

2010 is going to be an interesting year for all of us. With that being said, what year isn’t right? Well anyway, I wanted to start the first week of the new year with some things you might have missed that are worth sharing. These are sites, posts and links that will make you smarter at what you do and better at it too.

1) A September 2009 MarketingProfs survey of B2B and B2C marketers found that the marketing tactics most often used on social sites are not necessarily the best ones. Odd, but the net and social media does create somewhat of a Flash mob “follow” mentality. Find out more about what’s working for  social media marketers in this great E-marketer piece.

2) As my side Twitter project Hashtagsocialmedia.com continues to build momentum, someone asked if there were a way to follow everyone who had participated in the Tweetchat. In less than 10 minutes the answer came back with Blastfollow.

3) Jay Baer is a smart dude, but we’re smarter because of him and that’s a good thing. Not only does his blog, Convince and Convert bring value to those who read it, but he also stumbles across things that he shares with his readers that make him better and us as well. One of those things is TwitSweeper– a way to clean up and clean out the spammers that are in your Twitter account. You have to pay for it, but the cost is not obscene.

4) Staying on the Twitter theme a bit longer, I came across Refollow and thought that the features were interesting. I haven’t tried it yet but it looks to be a way to tighten up your Twitter presence and the relationships you have crafted.

5) Tamar Weinberg is a star. Look no further than her latest book, The New Community Rules-Marketing on the Social Web. However she recently cranked out a blog post titled, The Best Internet Marketing Posts of 2009 in which if you did nothing for the next 3 days and read all of the posts that she has compiled, it would make up for the last 362 days had you not read anything. BTW she mentions one of my posts. 🙂

6) Obviously my  #socialmedia Tweetchat is not the only Tweetchat out there. Surprisingly, to my knowledge, there are not that many. But how do you find them? What are the topics? When do they occur? Well, the beauty of the social web is that someone has decided to create just that type of source. A Google doc that lists all of the known Twitter chats.

7) Ike Pigott, one of the truly razor sharp folks out there in the social space, turned me onto this. YOURLS is a small set of PHP scripts that will allow you to run your own URL shortening service (a la TinyURL). You can make it private or public, you can pick custom keyword URLs, and it comes with its own API. How cool would it be to have Ma.rc as my own Bitly?

8. Face it, analytics for most of us, are very important. You might want to read this: 10 signs you don’t understand web analytics.

9) Want a really good list of people’s blogs to read and or follow? Check out this list of 30 bloggers to watch in 2010

10) Lastly I wanted to share with you something that we need more of this year in social media. I share with you this…

altruistic

Lets go with more of the first set and less of the motives that are not entirely altruistic in 2010!

11 Must Save Social Media Links For The Week

I have thousands of bookmarks and chances are you do too. From a social media purists standpoint, it’s good karma to share links and websites that are worth a second look. Here are 11 of them in no particular order.

One of the smart guys out there is Jay Baer, last week he wrote a post titled the 11 Must Do’s For the Serious Blogger. As I have been wont to say on various occassions, not all of you should or can blog. Jay’s post is for those that can, and are serious about it.

Do you know what a KPI is? If you are an online marketer of any kind and don’t know, then quit reading and go work out, eat some yogurt, or go to Starbucks. For those that do know the importance of KPI’s, here’s a great little checklist of sorts titled, 35 social medis KPI’s to measure engagement.

If you use Tweetdeck or Seesmic for Twitter, you know the importance of grouping the people or topics you follow. Well Twitter responded by creating Lists. So how do you make heads or tails of that? Try out Listorious, which will bring some order to your chaos.

If you use Twitter for content and I do, it’s my filter for content. But I don’t like when I DON’T know about something and I should. There is no good way to avoid this, it will happen. Enter Twitter Tim.es, which generates a personalized ‘newspaper’ for you based on what the people that you follow are talking about.

Speaking of things happening now, check out this cool little app, Surchur, real time search and real time discovery.

I’ve said this before but my friend Ken Burbary has assembled one helluva wiki of social media monitoring solutions. It is the best, most complete list that I have seen out there on the topic.

Want to see what kind of influence you have based on your Twitter presence? Well, Edelman has put together a pretty cool little tool called Tweetlevel. Don’t read too much into it though, It’s just another tool that measures your presence in the ether.

Last month JD Lasica put together a nice deck of the top 10 pharma efforts in social media that dovetailed nicely into the FDA hearings on social media 2 weeks ago. If you care about Pharma’s involvement in social media, then this is a must read, if you don’t, then keep moving…

And 2 for the road…

BatchBook is the social CRM built for small businesses and entrepreneurs, I thought this had a lot of promise because it addressed a niche that doesn’t get the same CRM love that the enterprise gets.

I read this post and already knew the answer, Is Facebook getting uncool for 18-24’s?

I hope this helps make things easier, enlightens you or simplifies your work flow. Either way, feel free to share these with others who might benefit.

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