Category Archives: Social Networks

Google+ launch – is it too late to rebuild the Social Graph?

This week Google has made a bunch of Silicon Valley folks happy with the launch of Google+ and a slew of additional social and communication features (Huddle, Hangout and Sparks). It seems like the Social Network “war” is officially back on, and remarkable this is happening exactly on the same week that Facebook’s old Nemesis, Myspace, is finally put to rest.

From a user experience perspective it seems that Google’s product is getting positive feedback. I personally like it and think that circles is just fun to play with and that the main Google stream component has a good clean user interface.
The successful launch and Google’s reach across different products will surely help Google+ acquire users, but the real questions is not whether they will come if Google builds it, it’s whether they will stick around.
The attention span of users is limited and people use both Facebook and twitter because they provide two pretty different communication channels. Google+, however, is just too similar to Facebook, so it can either steal that attention span from Facebook or bust.

With user retention it seems that Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz are right on the spot – it all comes down to how broken and awkward online sharing is, but for me there is one question that just keeps lingering out there – do people really care about that anymore?
Facebook, with over 750 million users, has done an amazing job educating the masses that privacy is dead and surprisingly enough, it’s working. If privacy is really dead, do we really need walls between our friends and peers at work anymore?
Do young professionals really care if their boss sees their pictures from last night when they were wasted? Maybe not so much – relationship both on the professional setting and on the personal level are getting more informal.
Does a college undergrad care that his mother knows he was out all night with a random girl? yeah well, mom choose to befriend him on Facebook so that will teach good old mom a lesson.

Talking to a few startups this week that are focused on professional social networks and data analytic on top of Facebook, it seems that the Facebook environment is increasingly becoming a professional communication channel.
The thin line between a professional and personal networks is becoming increasingly thinner and people are grouping their personal and business connections together. One startup, FellowUp, a personal productivity tool that taps into social accounts, reports that its users (mostly professionals) are connecting to their Facebook account 50% more often than to their LinkedIn accounts, and are leveraging the Facebook connection to reach-out their peers and counterparts at work alongside their friends.

With a good product out there, it remains to be seen whether Google is able to change users’ habits and make them switch to Google+, because people think that Social sharing on Facebook is broken and would rather share content on Google+ instead. It’s one philosophy vs. the other and may the best one win. Or at least that is the case on the web browsing front.

But what about mobile? Facebook faces one additional risk from Google in the Mobile Social Networking space – Google has that mobile DNA with Android and can build on top of that. For example, what would happen if Google preloads Google+ into Android devices? Facebook probably needs to get more serious about mobile, and fast.

A reminder about what platform play is all about

The action on the Twitter platform last week with UberMedia reminded me what platform play is all about.

Talking to colleges, I was surprised to hear that some people think that UberMedia can “beat the platform” and create an off-Twitter network. Knowing first hand some of the developer policies that platforms like Facebook and Twitter put in place, it’s pretty easy to see that any of those platforms can shut down any service they want, whenever they want, without potentially having a reason. Off course, that can be a highly unpopular move that will result in bad PR and upset users, but if it’s “self defense” they can do it with a blink of an eye and might actually get away with it. Furthermore, even if the consequence of shutting down a company that is positioning itself as a competitor is some loss of users or a slight regression in adoption rate, that might be a small price to pay compared to the alternative.

Personally, I think Twitter made the right move, they got worried that UberMedia controls such a large percentage of twitter’s user base, so they made UberMedia behaves sooner rather than later, before they have an even greater user reach. Twitter could have looked away and ignored it, but they decided to stop this madness right now, and make sure UberMedia remembers who controls this platform. As a nice side benefit, twitter also enjoyed two days of increased user adoption for their mobile and web tools because the redirected users that wanted to learn more about the outage to their own applications.

Another recent example is an automatic algorithm used by Facebook to block application according to some criteria. Developer’s claim that Facebook is blocking application algorithmically that are growing “too fast”, regardless of whether they abuse Facebook’s developers policy. You can follow the conversation onQuora here.

At the end of the day, companies building layers of services on top of those platforms need to understand the rules of the game, and realize that as long as everybody gets along it all good, but if something goes bad, the platform can always pull the trigger on them, at any time.

Update(3/11/2011): Twitter have formerly announced that third-party developers should stop doing Twitter clients. Here is updated they have just made to their API terms of service:
“Developers have told us that they’d like more guidance from us about the best opportunities to build on Twitter. More specifically, developers ask us if they should build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. The answer is no,” Sarver writes very matter-of-factly.

“If you are an existing developer of client apps, you can continue to serve your user base, but we will be holding you to high standards to ensure you do not violate users’ privacy, that you provide consistency in the user experience, and that you rigorously adhere to all areas of our Terms of Service. We have spoken with the major client applications in the Twitter ecosystem about these needs on an ongoing basis, and will continue to ensure a high bar is maintained,”

Is Facebook overvalued at $50 billion?

Does Facebook valuation indicate that a Tech Bubble is build up?
In the last week we’ve heard quite a few voices claiming that Facebook might be overvalued at $50 billion, and that a new bubble might be forming in tech sector (Here are a two – Economist -, Bloomberg -

There might be a Tech bubble out there, and I’m probably the last person that might have good  insights on whether such a bubble exists or not, but I do think that adding Facebook to the mix and inferring that Facebook’s is overvalued might be wrong. It could be that there is Tech bubble and Facebook may still be truly worth $50 billion or more and there might not be a bubble and Facebook will still be worth that or much more.

I’m one of strong believers in the notion that Facebook’s Market Cap will quickly reach $100 billion or more, and have been bullish on them for a few years now. Here is why:

Facebook Connect (Social Graph API)
Over 250 million users use Facebook Connect each month. 10,000 sites are adding Facebook Connect each month and a total of over a million websites (including most of the top sites) are leveraging the connect technology today. Soon enough almost any site out there would have a “login with Facebook” option, and Facebook will have a staggering number of impressions outside
Facebook will be able leverage Facebook Connect to create a huge display and social ad network outside Facebook, adding profile and Social graph to the mix, as well as targeting and retargeting capabilities, to appeal to publisher to allocate more ad inventory to serve effective Social ds.

User reach and campaign innovation
Facebook’s key web metrics, such as Time spent, impressions, Unique visitors, and number of active monthly users are consistently growing and fast, while their main competition’s stats (Google and Yahoo) are either falling or standing still. Soon enough they will be the leader, by far, on any key metric.

Facebook have not yet fully ramped up their ads in and are playing around with new ad units to try to deliver more value to advertisers. For example, the ad product they unveiled this week – Facebook sponsored stories ( is another interesting attempt, a bit like Twitter’s promoted tweets, that might actually work.

Mobile, local and the Facebook platform
Facebook understands the importance of mobile and are heavily investing in it. They already have hundreds of millions of mobile users and coupled with a local strategy they will be a serious force in the mobile ad space.
On top of that Facebook is pushing hard on other initiatives on their platform, such virtual currency and e-commerce. Their platform partners, such as Zynga, are virtually printing money today and it’s just a matter of time until Facebook figures out the right angle to claim their share of the revenues partners make on the platform. I feel we can expect them to create a steady and decent revenue stream from those initiatives.

Finally, it seems that Social is an inherit layer in anything that is Web or Mobile, and that Facebook will dominate this space. If Social is everywhere and Facebook is Social, Facebook will be everywhere, just like Google is everywhere today. I would not be blown off my feet if two years from now Facebook and Google will be head-to-head in terms of Market Cap.

Update (2/27): has recently published a forecast of Facebook ad revenues, expecting it to hit ~$4 Billion in 2011.

Social platform integration – Which platform is right for you?

Although I’m a fan of integrating as many social platforms as possible in external sites and application, it’s clear that marketers are sometimes forced to focus their efforts and budgets on one platform or the other.

Having a clear strategy and goals in place can help make smart choices. For example, if you are planning on integrating social authentication in your site or app you will probably want to consider a wide range of authentication providers, including Google and Yahoo, but if your focus is on sharing user activities and driving traffic, you are probably debating whether you want to integrate Facebook, Twitter or both. In this post, I’ll try to focus on driving traffic to external websites and applications and compare between the two platforms.

Facebook has 600+ million users, compared to 180 million Twitter users. But is user reach the critical factor in deciding which platform you should integrate more tightly? it really depends.
A young startup that is trying to maximize traction and word-of-mouth, targeting tech-savvy early adopters with minimal costs, might consider Twitter as your top option, while a mature brand, which targets teens, will probably consider Facebook as a top priority.

The fact that there are so many Facebook users out there is not always positive. With Facebook you get a larger audience that includes consumers that might not be in your target segments. This requires potentially leveraging targeting technologies to reach the right audience and you might need to put in more effort in outreach to drive clicks.
On the other hand, Twitter conversations have gaping holes in the middle, often leaving Twitter users hanging with just bits and pieces, and leaving them with quite a bit of questions. This could potentially be a con for the brand conversation you are trying to develop on Twitter. Also, Twitter have had a history of security breaches and uptime issues that are just trouble for services that integrate with them.

A recent study done by SocialTwist, in which they analyzed more than one million links on both platforms, indicates that Facebook’s shared links average only 3 clicks, while Twitter’s embedded tweets generate 19. There might be a few good explanation for that:

  • The relatively new Twitter interface that includes the split screen and view pane design is good for marketing. Businesses can effectively share updated videos on their Twitter profiles, instead of just repeatedly tweeting messages, and users are potentially better exposed to those messages.
  • Twitter’s audience is more tech-savvy. with third-party applications through and features such as scheduled tweets and searches and with only 140 characters, a lot of tweets leave readers waiting for more. This factors into a desire to click on more links and drives click-through rates per items posted higher.
  • Twitter requires less time for actionable exposure and reaches a more specific audience and consumer base. The amount of distraction on Twitter is also far less than the amount of distraction on Facebook
  • For B2B marketers, Linkedin might offer an interesting opportunity as well. Back in April 2010, the business-oriented social network gave users the ability to follow companies in addition to following users. Even before that, Linkedin added newsfeed activities, such as “like” and “comment”, very similarly to Facebook’s newsfeed, and enabled users to integrate their Twitter accounts into their LinkedIn feed.
    My overall feeling (unfortunately, I don’t have any data to back this, it’s just a hunch) is that all those features have substantially increased user engagement on the platform. LinkedIn, like the other platform has API in place that enables sharing links, and as professionals spend more time engaging with LinkedIn, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the platform can deliver good results in driving interest for business products.

    To summarize, choosing Facebook because everybody else does it is not always the right answer. One best practice would be to have a clear understanding of your target audience and use publicly available data to figure out in which platform your core audience spends more time in, helping you deliver more bang for the buck.

    Which social media platforms drive most traffic into websites?

    Although I guess this is wide spread knowledge for most Social Media professional, I think it’s worth discussing some of the stats about Social Media related traffic on external web-sites from a different point of view (note: “external websites” in the context of this post are traditional non-social network sites).

    Here is a graph from a recent Technorati post highlighting traffic driven from Social Networks to blogs:
    The data, which is probably focused on the most important goal for marketers and website owners – driving traffic from social networks to their sites, shows that the mass of traffic is driven by Facebook and twitter. It’s very conclusive – Facebook and Twitter are by far the most effective platform to target, but there are two good questions to ask are: to what extent is this true for websites implementing social connectivity strategies? and is this traffic content related?

    Moving forward, I assume that Google, Yahoo and most of the platform above, would do a very good job in prominently showing social activities on their platforms to promote content discovery and outbound clicks. everybody would have a “stream” – This is a must for those platform to survive in a world dominated today by Facebook and Twitter. If that actually happens, some of the marketers might find it more effective to promote user activities on other platforms, as they would offer a lower “price”. Assuming that each item shared by users has some “cost” associated with it (especially if it is an incentives share) an interesting data bit for marketers would be the the cost of a lead gained from sharing activities or advertising in all other platforms.

    Here is some more data from Gigya (disclaimer – this data is not super up-to-date). Unlike the Technorati data, those stats are not blog focused:

    Distribution of shared items
    Facebook: 44%
    Twitter: 29%

    There are far more companies providing identities with which users can sign-in to 3rd party websites, so that data looks different from sharing data, and also looks different by site type:

    Share of Authentication By Platform:

    News sites:
    Facebook: 31%
    Google: 30%
    Yahoo: 25%
    Twitter: 11%
    AOL: 3%

    This indicates that users actually share and authenticate using diverse Platforms, if they actually are given a chance to do so (depends on whether the website has implemented sharing and authentication to other destinations). The data actually drives right into the heart of Gigya’s value proposition – enable users to choose which destinations they want to connect and share to, and then track and optimize the conversion rate of share to traffic to realize which platforms are effective in driving traffic for your site.

    I’m guessing some websites would experience that the distribution of users authenticating and sharing by platform varies according to the site’s content and target audience. If your website targets an older demographic user segment you may find that Yahoo and Linked-in are actually a favorite connectivity destination for your users, potentially leading to lower costs associated with acquiring leads from those platforms and making them an important part of your social marketing strategy.

    sFund and the challenges of the Social Web

    Intense discussions about the new era of Social in web and mobile have been all over the place this week. Those discussions are, rightfully, getting tons of media traction.

    It started with the announcement of the new sFund from VC Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, who joined hands with Facebook,, and Zynga to announce a new $250 million fund for social networking startup (You can read more about that here:

    The new fund met with some criticism led by Chris Dixon, a leading angel investor, who kept shredding Kleiner Perkins initiative on twitter (you can see his tweets here:!/cdixon). Chris basically suggests that Kleiner’s dedicated social startup fund is late to the party.

    Thinking about Chris Dixon’s response and the opportunities out there I can’t help but wonder that:

    • Nobody has yet to figure out how to successfully use Social Media for e-commerce. It’s clear that this is one of the Holy Grails of Social, yet no disruptive solution or technology has showed up.  Not only have we not seen the first generation of successful Social solutions for e-commerce, we aren’t even seeing beta solutions that deliver solid value.
      Unlike Brand Marketers, online retailers want performance based solutions and are willing to pay handsomely for leads that convert into paying customers.
    • Social Network brand marketing tools have made a huge leap forward in the last year, but there are many optimization challenges ahead. This space is young and growing and we will surely see more disruptive technologies that would grab more advertisers’ dollars.

    Chris surely recognizes that those opportunities are out there. True, Social is not all new and it’s already here, big time, but the industry is still pretty young and will probably see a lot of game changing products in the future.
    Unfortunately, it took a long time for players in the industry to understand where there are headed to and what works best, but now as some of the key concepts are unveiled it’s officially the first round of the new web – the social web. Round 2 and maybe 3 are probably around the corner and it seems that there are many opportunities out there for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

    I would bet a small amount of my money on Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers new sFund. Would you do the same?

    Making Y-connect and Yahoo Social strategy work

    According to WSJ Yahoo are making an effort to take their Social Strategy seriously, again. They are launching a new service called Y-Connect, aimed at media sites and publishers with the end goal of bringing more traffic.

    TechCrunch and Blogs around the web are just all over the place talking about how Y-Connect will fail, but I’m more interested in asking what they need to do to succeed. The world needs more than one social network. Competition is healthy for everybody and although Facebook are doing a brilliant job so far, competition will only make this space better.

    Back to Yahoo, they are saying that: “With Y Connect, users could register with and log into media sites simply by clicking on a Yahoo button.”

    OK, so authentication with Yahoo is great. Being the biggest email provider in the world, Yahoo has more than a handful of user accounts and that could help boost activity. However, social optimization platforms, such as Gigya, have already been using Y!OS for over a year to authenticate users on external websites (checkout, a really cool integration), So what’s new here?

    Yahoo cannot honestly expect publishers to switch their existing Facebook Connect button (which is already on over 1 million sites) with Yahoo Connect. At best, they will add Yahoo on top of their existing Facebook and Twitter buttons. Taking into account that users only need to login once, Yahoo needs to work hard on making sure that users log-in with Yahoo first and not with other buttons.
    If Yahoo gets the User experience right on those buttons and make it as seamless as possible it could work, but it has to be better than Facebook connect. It has to be “seamless”. What I mean by “seamless” is that signing into an external site using Yahoo_connect would be easier, smoother (less screens, and preferably using a dialog if possible), and overall a better experience than doing the same with Facebook connect. It has to be so good that users will prefer using Yahoo-Connect than using Facebook Connect .Otherwise, people will just go on using their existing Facebook connect buttons instead of using the new Yahoo Connect.

    Yahoo goes on and says: “…Then, users’ activity on the media site can easily be shared with contacts on Yahoo.””

    That is probably the key to success here. User authentication is great, but publishers need an effective social media strategy that brings in traffic. The issue is that Yahoo hasn’t been able to deliver that just yet.
    Yes, users have a profile in Yahoo. Yes, they have a Social Graph (very much like Google Buzz the relationship graph is related to their email connections), but for the social sharing piece to work, Yahoo has to help users to interact with each other and interact with friend’s feed content.
    If Yahoo wants to get serious with their Social Strategy (and it’s not too late to do that yet), they have to feature the feed items on the Yahoo front page (for logged in users). To me, this seems like the only way to play the game to win. I know it’s hard as Yahoo front page is one of the most valuable web assets in the globe, and I totally understand why Yahoo is sometimes reluctant to change something that clearly works, but this is what innovation is all about. Change. If Yahoo wants to play the Social Network game to win it has to adopt and promote their Social Media Strategy by doing more than PR. They need to help users discover that Social functionality in Yahoo and make it an integral and prominent part of the Yahoo services suite, just like emails, News, Finance and other successful Yahoo products.

    The Social Network

    Watching “The Social Network”, regardless of whether the stuff they show there about Mark Zuckerberg are true or false (or somewhere in between), you can’t help but think it’s a great movie. Also, it made my mind race with a few thoughts.

    It’s one of the first movies (if not THE first) that illustrates the web 2.0 start-up world. Hollywood has been slow in recognizing the impact of web entrepreneurship on the world and even more specifically on the lives of Y-gens. I hope that the movie’s success will result in more movies about entrepreneurship in the Tech world.

    Another thought is that this movie pitches, not directly, that quitting school is a good thing. Although they don’t discuss it at length, the movie signals that if you are the next Mark Zuckerberg you should quit school. Okay, so a classic counter argument would be that 99.9999% of the population are not the next Mark Zuckerberg, but as quite a few academic researches show, most people have a confirmation bias about themselves and think they are capable.

    It’s interesting to note that thoughts leaders are also pitching dropping school. Last week a group of students at UC-Berkeley (including me) got quite a treat: a lively discussion with TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington.
    Arrington was very direct, and said that the kind of person who wants to increase his chances of success by getting a masters degree isn’t an entrepreneur; older entrepreneurs have no chance of raising money (so they’re a lost cause).

    Overall, I think that “The Social Network” is a good thing. This movie and others that could follow will help spark innovation and push more entrepreneurs to get out of their comfort zone and do what they believe in doing.

    Facebook opens it’s stream to the world (and plans on cashing in)

    It started out with Mark Zuckerberg’s letter about upcoming changes (which had quite a few blah blahs about controlling your data’s privacy) focusing on dropping the regional networks and privacy-per-post, but somehow ended up very differently.
    Who knows? Maybe the plan was to have this one slip through the community by sparking up the conversation about privacy-per-post, but Facebook also included an opt-out Privacy Settings wizard, which all 350 million users saw, making user’s Status Updates and Newsfeed items public.

    Anyone who has a bit of User Experience knowledge knows what a long, boring privacy settings, opt-out form does to users – they just confirm or skip, whatever is easier to click. Most users don’t even bother spending the time tweaking their privacy settings, they probably wouldn’t bother opt-out either, and whoops their posts are now open to all.
    Open to all means a lot of things, it means that posts are now open to anybody who finds you through another Facebook friend, but it also means that it’s indexable – any search engine or crawler can now tap into your Life stream.

    And the search engines are all over it. According to Tech Crunch Bing will be getting access to Facebook public stream in early 2010. Google will only access Fan Pages at first, but I bet they will go out of their way, including paying cash, to index users’ streams.

    It won’t be limited just to search engines, many applications will follow up. Up until now, using Facebook Connect, sites and desktop application had to get the user’s consent to get to his Newsfeed items, and they could only show the data to the user in an active session. Caching the user’s private data, for more than 24 hours, is against Facebook’s terms of use. Now, they would be able to get to the user’s Newsfeed without his consent, store it, analyze, and pretty much do whatever they feel works for them with this info. It would just be out there.

    I guess the very legitimate discussion about this shift in the user’s privacy would probably go on and on inside Facebook and outside it, with many who will go against it, but it’s hard for me to believe that Facebook would take a step back. This is a huge opportunity for Facebook, and an important step before shooting for an IPO. “Selling” all this data, and creating an eco-system of developer’s around it, can probably turn out as a revenue hit and may bring Facebook to a point where it’s break-even or even profitable.
    It’s also an interesting opportunity for publishers and application developers, who can increase engagement by displaying and aggregating Newsfeeds, if Facebook allows them.

    Age of the open Social Stream

    The Social stream has already been recognized as a major factor in the evolution of the Social web, a force that is able to change the way we communicate in the virtual world (why shot an email about amazing Susan Boyle when you can easily treat all your Facebook friends with her full screen video?) and consume the most recent and relevant content out there (Honey, you won’t believe it – Ashton just tweeted a picture of pregnant Demi in a bikini!).

    Now Social Networks are warming up their engines for the next big step in Social Streams – syndicating streams. Both Facebook and Twitter, arch-rivals in the real-time Social Stream arena, have lately made important progresses to help users better experience the web by taking their social connections along with them for the world wide web ride. The recent blur of the boundaries between Social Networks and traditional sites is also a huge opportunity for traditional sites to step up and make their user experience more social and engaging.

    Earlier this month Facebook made an important announcement involving its “Open Stream” strategy. Facebook now enables site owners and application to tap into the user’s newsfeed stream and leverage it in their site or applications. The new set of API, which is already accessible, allows retrieving the complete user newsfeed stream, including all the data bits that are contained in a feed item (such as images, user’s information, comments made, “likes” and more). Furthermore, in Facebook’s March 2009 profile overhaul they have evolved the stream to be semi real-time and included filtering options. Both of those features are reflected in the new API set, opening up an endless number of opportunities for developers to incorporate the real-time stream in their site and applications.

    Off course, Facebook are also working hard to fight one of the major showstoppers for this new (and arguable disruptive) technology – privacy issues. To avoid any misuse of the user’s data the requesting application must receive an authorization from the user, and only than can it access the user’s social stream. They have also added another restriction – applications are only allowed to get data from the last 24 hours, to stop data miners from hosting a critical mass of data about users.