Posts Tagged ‘online communities’

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or living in China, you would have stumbled upon Google’s latest venture: the Google+ project.

It’s funny how many forgive and forget when it comes to Google. One would expect the abysmal failure of Google Wave 2 years ago, stifling the public’s tolerance of giving any Google grown ‘social’ product another go. It seems though the leading search engine provider has succeeded in breaking its novice status with the creation and execution of Google+, now with 25m users and counting. Google’s best kept secret? Not anymore.

Having worked with online products for so long, I appreciate how difficult it is to nail an online platform that hails simplicity and sophistication at the same time. Add to this the already cluttered online community space that is dominated by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn amongst others, it’s quite exciting to see Google+ take the lead in what I would label as social media’s next generation of platforms. Why I draw this conclusion boils down to a couple of factors:

Google+ gives ultimate control to the individual. Unlike Twitter and Facebook where the rights of sharing is dependent on the message recipient’s willingness to connect with the sharer, Google+ allows the end user to freely add Google+’ians into user groups and share messages based on their personalised circles of individuals. It’s asymmetrical in nature, and it’s just what social junkies are looking for.

Google+ evolves the equation of a sticky platform. Think of a restaurant that you regularly eat at. What makes you go back there? It’s a combination of things: the food, the service, the atmosphere, the people you dine with. I used to think that the community for social networks was the primary determinant of a user’s loyalty (the key reason that I gave Facebook another go despite being dubious about its utility in my life). It seems now that being a ‘regular’ in the longhaul also requires a continued investment in keeping features (equivalent to the restaurant’s atmosphere and menu) on the platform attractive. And what’s cool about Google+ is that you don’t need an online tutorial or help tips: the environment is predictable to the end user, the Google+ diet is easy to digest!

Since its launch we’ve seen tweaks in the Circles module and YouTube sharing, driven primarily by screening usage (which is not surprising with Google’s advanced web analytics capabilities) and listening to user’s feedback. Crowdsourcing is a cool way of learning more about users and ensuring users remain engaged on the network.

This approach breathes the importance of iterative development, the importance of being agile with managing a living and breathing platform as more information about your users and their behaviours surface.  Twitter started off with attractive features (the concept of ‘followers’ and @ mentions and RT or quotes) but responded too late to third party applications who offered more convenience in features such as shortened links and in line influence scores from Klout.

It’s great to be reminded that the social media space will never stop evolving and I’m pleased to see Google+ taking a decent leap in the right direction.

What I look forward to? I see a richer user experience across other Google web properties as a result of first hand insights from Google+ users (for example, improved relevancy on Google Search); more functionality on its mobile app, particularly for Android powered mobiles; further integration of video chat properties within its cool Hangout feature and a Google+ API.

I’m slightly turned off these days when seeing or hearing about social media. At times, there’s so much abuse with the term that I’m left sitting, deciphering which exact component of social media a particular person is referring to.

A Google Alert of mine that tracks social media and analytics are cluttered with ‘Social Media Revolution’ and ‘Secrets to Social Media success’ taglines that promise instant knowledge and success.

This leads me to conclude that Social Media is so broad of a term that it can be easily misinterpreted. Some of the traditional journos who stepped up to debate about Political Reporting at Media140 are fine examples of this. A particular Political Editor from ABC stated that ‘social media has a problem with identity and accuracy’, ensuing a direct comparison between journalism and social media as processes, rather than viewing social networks as a new platform (like any other traditional method) and a potential supplement to the journalistic process. More views on this very topic can be found here.

Which is why MC Hammer was a breath of fresh air. I was sceptical at first about having an ex-Rapper with a history of bankruptcy and baggy pants preach to us on the merits of social media. Nothing groundbreaking came out of his address, but what clearly resonated was his passion for the topic as he shared his testimony on how social media has helped him with real time analytics to manage his personal brand.

MC Hammer in Oz

Source: Brisbane Times

Rather than remind us about the 10 C’s, he challenged and encouraged everyone in the room to find own niche as entrepreneurs in our fields. And unlike some presenters, he demonstrated knowledge beyond Twitter when he put his money on Augmented Reality as the engine behind future apps.

Sure, he’s not a scholar at the topic. But who is? Every human being has the capability of engaging in online communities, setting up an account and carving out value of their own, be it passive or active. Deriving from this are 2 little thoughts for the day:

  • Be precise with terminology. Online communities (your immediate group of friends/connections online), social networks or interactive channels (eg. Twitter and Facebook) are some ways of achieving this
  • Be precise with making social media (or interactive networks) useful for you. It is by nature versatile. There is the customer service angle, extracting insights for product development and brand identity. More on this is in an earlier post of mine and another from Amber at Radian6.

Some cool references that talk to the topic at hand:

  • Jeremiah Owyang speaks about Social Colonisation for 2009: online experiences that are pervasively social. This is pretty much on the money. The future sees an elevated role of communities all round defining and driving the agenda for businesses
  • ReadWriteWeb, on getting down to the grassroots of figuring out how using communities can help with deriving business value and addressing concerns