Dunbar's, blogs, fans and community
Over the past few weeks, a few of my blogging colleagues have raised the issue of Dunbar's number in the context of establishing relationships with bloggers and communities. Among them Kami Huyse, Jen Zingsheim and David Wescott.
Dunbar's number? You may not know it by name, but you certainly do by reputation. The general gist is that the upper limit of a social circle is 150. It is often cited in discussions about community building; if 150 is an upper limit for relationships, how can social media scale? Of course, Dunbar's number has its origins in the study of primates and grooming circles, which is not completely extensible to human relationships and certainly not to online relationships, which are not subject to the limitations of the physical world.
Even online, though, one to one relationships don't scale. On either side, company or blogger. In this respect Dunbar's number is correct. We cannot be “best friends” with everyone.
Kami recently suggested that we think about social media outreach as building relationships with communities.
But we don't build relationships with entities; we build them with people.
A relationship with a person may be extended into the community if the reputation of the one merits it, but I'm hard pressed to call that a relationship in the strictest sense. The strength of the one person’s relationship with the rest of the community dictates whether this works. It all depends on how much the others in the group rely on her opinion, model themselves on her behavior etc.
The question isn’t, are they her friends? It is, are they her fans?
That’s why I think Kami is onto something, but I would cast it in a slightly different light. When we aim for scale, the answer isn't to focus on the community as an entity. It’s to understand that what we want are fans.
When we aim for scale, it is a one to many relationship. We will probably use some one to one relationships as the building blocks for the larger effort, but net net, it will be an entity – a company – trying to build or influence a community.
And really, what we are trying to do is turn our customers into our fans.
In order to do that, we have to tap into what makes people care. What makes them love.
Because community isn’t just about group dynamics, although they are part of it. Or the need to assemble in a collective, what Francois Gossieaux calls tribalism.
What brings, and keeps, a community together is love.
This is why when I think about building communities, no matter how dry the product may seem, I focus on what makes people care. What inspires them.
And why I think we can learn a lot about building communities from studying fandom.
What’s fandom? In the simplest sense, it is the informal and formal groups that spring up around entertainment -- an artist or a team or a television show or a movie franchise. It’s the passion that makes people paint their bodies red white and blue before a Patriot’s or Red Sox game. Dress up as Mr. Spock, Princess Leia or John Crichton for a “con.” Read and write fan fiction and spoiler sites. Buy boxes of pencils to send to media moguls during the writers strike.
Even though people have been collecting due to shared interests for as long as we've had society, fandom as we are discussing it here is mostly a 20th century phenomenon driven by mass entertainment like the movies and organized sports.
The shared interest and relationship to a franchise – show, artist, athlete or actor -- brings people together. Over time, the members develop relationships with each other. Sometimes those relationships last longer than the fan relationship, leading to a community that interacts on multiple dimensions – the initial thing that brought the folks together, and then all the other shared interests that the members find they have. As Shrek might say, like an onion, with layers.
While fandom existed well before the Internet, the Net and particularly social media have most definitely accelerated and expanded the fan effect.
If companies want to achieve a similar impact, by either building a new community or influencing an existing one, we need to understand more about what makes a fan.
Why are the fans so passionate?
It starts with the product – the quality TV series or the top sports team or the great band. But it's more than just the entertainment value that builds the passion of fans.
It's the relationship that the fan has with the franchise, which doesn't have to be “real” to have tremendous power. The fan doesn't “know” the artist, character or athlete, but she feels she does. The perceived relationship, the one way relationship is enough.
Not because she's delusional. Because the artist reaches out to fans in numerous ways that create a sufficient relationship for the fan. Starting with the performance and moving from there. Fan clubs. Conventions. Sports teams thanking the fans for their support.
Celebrities make personal appearances, attend conventions, authorize fan clubs, set up their own websites for communicating with fans. They share what they can to encourage the fan to feel like they know them, to stay invested in them, to appreciate their work. Joss Whedon is a great example of an artist who does this exceedingly well. Among other things, he participates regularly on fansite Whedonesque; his fans feel connected to him and every project he does has a built-in audience of viewers before it even hits a screen.
Even though we don't really know the artists, athletes or actors, we know they value and care about the fans. That they strive to deliver a good product that we will enjoy.
So the first two elements a company needs to deliver if it wants fans are:
- have a good product that meets their needs - Value;
- show you care about the fan and walk the talk – Engage.
Now, once you have fans you have to keep them. This is where Respect comes in.
Some artists and athletes forget that their power, their franchise, is fan supported. They may have the raw talent, but if people stop watching the show because the star is phoning it in or the producers replaced a fan favorite with another performer, it's hero to zero in a flash.
You must respect your fans. Don't stop listening and never think you don't need them. Because the last thing you want is fans gone mad.
Where does the love come in? It runs throughout.
Love your product and make sure it has what it needs to make your customers love it. LOVE IT.
Love and respect your fans as much as they love and respect you. You need them collectively far more than they need you. They can always find somebody to love. Doesn't need to be you.
So, if we believe that fandom will help us build community, how do we make that happen for our products? Most products aren't sexy or entertaining or funny, although advertising certainly tries to make us think they are, or that we will be if we buy them.
But that doesn't fly in social media, right? We cut through the bullshit or at least we like to think we do.
How do we find and feed our fans? That's the key to community.
And the topic for another day.
We will probably touch on some of these themes in the Social Media and the Writers Strike panels at BlogWorld Expo on Saturday. If you are in Vegas, hope to see you at one of them.
BlogWorld Expo and the entertainment industry
If you're interested in the shift currently happening in the entertainment industry from the traditional studio driven model, in which a few media moguls control the purse strings and our screens, to a user-generated creativity-driven online model -- for example, Joss Whedon's recent direct-to-Internet project Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog -- I'm moderating two panels at BlogWorld Expo next month in Las Vegas that you might find interesting.
They'll certainly be entertaining. Read on, check out the panelists and you will see why.
The point of departure for both panels is the Writers Strike, and how the writers used social media like blogs and YouTube to get their message across. I came up with the idea for the panels shortly after the strike ended last spring. I was struck by how effectively the writers used social media to communicate with the media, fans and indeed with each other to keep themselves motivated during the long months on the picket line. I pitched the idea to BlogWorld Expo, they said yes, and the gods must have been smiling on me, because I was able to recruit some truly awesome panelists.
Here's the scoop on the panels. I hope to see you there.
Social Media and the Writers Strike: Blogs, Fans and Community
Saturday September 20, 2:45-3:45 pm
This panel, the first of two about Social Media and the Writers Strike, will offer an overview of how the writers used social media during the strike to inform the public, encourage and reward fan support and keep union members motivated. We’ll focus on community-developed sites like United Hollywood and the impact of fan support as we discuss the overall impact of social media, vs. mainstream media, on the outcome.
Jeffrey Berman's first spec script was purchased by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard at Imagine Films. Since then he has written feature film projects for Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures and The Walt Disney Studio, as well as several independent film companies. In the television market, Berman has written and sold several MOWs including The J.K Rowling bio-pic for NBC television and The Last Rainmaker for Hallmark. Recently, Berman co-founded UnitedHollywood.com and is producer/co-host of UnitedHollywood Live. He also created and hosts The Write Environment, a compelling series of one-on-one interviews with some of today's most prolific writers. He ran the Pencils 2 Media Moguls campaign during the strike; read more here.
Erica Blitz, Galactica Sitrep
Erica Blitz, who often goes by the online handle "ProgGrrl," is co-editor of the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fansite Galactica Sitrep, and blogs about miscellaneous TV, film and pop culture at FanGrrl Magnet. She currently works in film advertising in New York City and has a background in both film and music marketing. For a closer look at how Sitrep covered the WGA strike from the fan perspective, check out these tagged posts.
Steve Diamond, Vallywood
Steve Diamond is a law professor and political scientist on the faculty of Santa Clara University School of Law in Santa Clara, California, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley. He has an extensive background in the labor movement and advise a wide range of unions, workers and institutional investors on financial and legal issues. He was a candidate to become National Executive Director of the Screen Actors Guild in 2006.
Mark Verheiden, Famous Mark Verheidens of Filmland
Mark Verheiden is currently the Co-Executive Producer of the Peabody Award winning television series BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, screenwriter of the Fall 2008 feature MY NAME IS BRUCE (starring Bruce Campbell), and screenwriter on the original feature film ARK (Sony Pictures), produced by Neal (I AM LEGEND, FAST & THE FURIOUS) Moritz and Mike (Dark Horse Productions Chief) Richardson. Past work includes writing and producing the first three seasons of SMALLVILLE, writing the scripts for the feature films TIMECOP & THE MASK, and scribbling out nearly 125 comic books including THE AMERICAN, ALIENS, PREDATOR, THE PHANTOM, SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN/BATMAN.”
Social Media and the Writers Strike: How user-generated content won the war of the words
Saturday September 20, 5:00-6:00 pm
The use of user generated content during the Writers Strike to both inform and entertain further validated the importance of the Internet medium. This panel, the second of two about Social Media and the Writers Strike, will dive deeper into the impact of websites and videos written (and often performed) by the writers and distributed through YouTube, United Hollywood and other Internet sites. Why did they work so well, and how has user generated content changed the entertainment landscape? What lessons can we apply to our own endeavors, personal, professional and corporate?
Jeffrey Berman (see bio above)
Michael Colton, www.coltonaboud.com
Michael Colton writes for film and television, and is currently working on a new Fox animated show set to air next spring. He and partner John Aboud also appear regularly as panelists on VH1's "Best Week Ever," "I Love the 80s" and other shows. Before moving to L.A., they ran the Web magazine Modern Humorist, and prior to that, Colton was a staff writer for the Washington Post. During the Writers strike, Colton & Aboud created the much-discussed parody website AMPTP.com (now housed at AMPTP.humortron.net). Joss Whedon praised them as "heroes," which is obviously an understatement.
See what I mean? It's gonna be a fun time, and I hope some of my readers can join us. If you can make it, use discount code SGVIP for 20% off your admission. The code is good until September 1st, but early bird registration ends on August 22d; if you are planning to go, you can save even more by registering by then.
Special thanks to Erica Blitz and Rob Kutner, a writer for The Daily Show and author of Apocalypse How. They were invaluable in connecting me with potential panelists, and I am forever grateful for their help.
SNCR research surveys that need your input
The Society for New Communications Research is doing two research projects right now that need your input.
I mentioned the survey with corporate partner Nuance on the impact of blogger/customer opinions a week or so ago here, and have some additional comments on customer satisfaction today at For the Face of Your Business.
The second survey, sponsored by SNCR, Deloitte and Beeline Labs, was designed to assess the effectiveness of online communities and learn how organizations are measuring the success and progress of their online communities. If you're involved in managing online communities for your organization, please give us about six minutes and take the 2008 Online Community Effectiveness Study at http://www.communityeffectiveness.com.
All participants who complete the surveys will receive a special discount to attend the Society's annual conference, New Communications Forum where the preliminary results of both surveys will be discussed.
Please help us with this important research, and when you are done with the surveys, pop on over to my personal blog, Snapshot Chronicles, for an early peek at Spring from the Boston Flower Show.
New Voices of Experience: A New Comm Forum Alumni Panel
Last year after New Comm Forum, it was crystal clear that the most popular sessions were the ones that featured case studies and people's personal experiences. Of course, a certain amount of teaching-type panels and workshops are necessary at any conference, social media or otherwise, but once we get past the 101 level, we really want to know, what have other people done? What works? What doesn't?
And it's even better to hear from the people themselves, not just about them and their projects.
A common criticism of conferences is that it's always the same speakers, the same material. I don't think that's true of New Comm Forum by any stretch, however, we do have a certain number of repeat players every year because one of the first speaker pools the Society for New Communications Research draws from is its Fellows. Most of whom are great speakers who deliver new content every year.
But.... thinking about both of these dynamics -- case studies and new voices -- I suggested to executive director Jen McClure that we do an alumni panel at the 08 conference. Recruit speakers who had attended a previous Society event but had never spoken at one, and who had a project from the past 18 months that they would be willing to share.
New Voices of Experience, the panel that resulted from our discussions last spring, will be the Wednesday April 23rd luncheon session at New Comm Forum 08. I'll be speaking with Doug Bardwell (Forest City Enterprises), Wendy Harman (Red Cross), Bob Siller (Altera) and Chris Turner (Christian Lifeway Resources) about what they learned and how they applied their new knowledge once they were back in the office.
I spoke with the panelists in a conference call last week and am excited about their stories. Whether you work for a non-profit, B2B or B2C organization, there's something for everyone. We'll be talking about everything from social media in internal communications and lead generation to what's involved when you are trying to introduce social media into an established culture. There will be plenty of time for questions from the floor, and we are looking forward to an interesting conversation.
As a speaker, I have a very limited number of deeply discounted registrations. Three. If you are interested, email me. First come, first served.
Shifting gears completely, I've decided to move one of the topics I occasionally talk about here to my personal/photo blog Snapshot Chronicles. Specifically, my obsession with certain science fiction television programs -- currently Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood and Stargate Atlantis. I'll still talk about sci fi here when there is a marketing, communications or social media angle. But I'm feeling the need to rant (and rave) more about the programs themselves, and that's really content that belongs on my personal blog, not my marketing blog. So, never fear, if you are interested in my thoughts on sci fi marketing, you'll still find them here. If you want to know why I think the PTB made a dreadful mistake in dumping Torri Higginson from Stargate or my speculation on who the final Cylon is, you'll find that over on Snapshot Chronicles.
Mommy bloggers, New Comm Forum & Business Forward
Hopefully next week, I'll break free from the technology hell I have been in to write a bit more here.
For now, though, please check out the article I wrote for Media Bullseye, Some Advice on Reaching Out to Mommy Bloggers and my client GuideMark's new podcast for small to medium businesses, Business Forward. Preview: next week's episode is marketing tips from yours truly.
Also, early-bird discount for New Comm Forum in April ends tomorrow, Friday February 15th.
Thanks-meme for Thanksgiving
Kami Huyse tagged me in her Thanksgiving meme: "Who had a big influence on you and how did that affect the direction of your life or career?"
Like some of my fellow "taggees," a few of the major influences on my career weren't terribly positive. Rather, it was my response to a negative or messy situation that moved me forward or helped me make an important decision.
Let's get these out of the way first, shall we. No names. If you are reading this and think it might be you, it probably is.
Thanks to the editor in my first job out of college who told me I couldn't write. Gave me the kick in the pants to evaluate what I really wanted to do. I got a new job and embarked on a career in marketing. And here I am writing. Nearly every day. Hmmm.
Thanks to the various managers in various corporate jobs who suffered from varying degrees of sexism and found it hard to promote me to the next level. No matter how good the performance or results. Especially the one who hired a super-duper idiot to take over a job I had been doing for years. Each and every time, I moved on to something better.
Now for the positive influences.
First and foremost my family, and most especially my mom Sandra Getgood. From her, I learned that there was nothing I couldn't do if I set my mind to it.
I had lots of wonderful teachers in high school, college and my MBA program, but three stand out: Jean St. Pierre (Andover), Jill Morawski (Wesleyan) and Cornelia Eschborn (Rivier).
Thanks to all the printers, advertising, marketing and PR folk who shared their expertise with me as I learned on the job, especially in the early years of my career.
Thanks to everyone who has ever worked for me for the privilege of working with you, learning from you and hopefully teaching you a few things as well.
Thanks to Gene Mehr, now a client, who years ago recognized that I had some talent and treated me like an equal when I was just a twenty-something who thought she knew more than she did. I still have the four-star "marketing general" helmet.
Thanks to Scott Murray, former CFO at The Learning Company, for re-assigning me to the Cyber Patrol unit in January 1999. And thanks to Greg Bestick, who worked with me to sell the Cyber Patrol business in 2000 for nearly 10x what TLC had paid for it in 1997. Managing the business unit and my involvement in the whole sales process, from road show to due diligence, was one of the highlights of my career. Maybe I'll do it again someday.
And finally, thanks to you, the readers of Marketing Roadmaps, for reading, for commenting, for making me part of your online conversation. You inspire me to be better.
David Wescott writes about campaigning for Steven Tolman for state rep nearly 20 years ago and how that influenced the way he approaches his work.
Julie Marsh says she "learned the most from those who played the part of supporters when times were good, but were nowhere to be found when times were bad."
Katie Paine, back from Thanksgiving in Islamabad, writes about how she became a "genetically unemployable serial entrepreneur."
Kelly (Mocha Momma) tells us what led her down the path to becoming a high school dean.
Christina (A Mommy Story) tells about women who have been positive role models for her: her aunts, mother and grandmother.
Long may it wave
Kids, social networks and Scruffy
This is Scruffy.
Scruffy is polyester fiberfill crack. And before the people at Webkinz have a fit, let me assure you, I mean this in only the most positive of ways.
Scruffy was my son's first Webkinz. Which I freely admit was purchased for him this summer because I am very interested in how kids interact with online social networks. How children interact with these networks gives us the roadmap for how we, as a society -- not we, old geezers -- will experience online in the future. For one thing, I don't think advertising will be nearly the show stopper for the next generation as it often is for internet old-timers. (And how weird is that to write, let alone as a concept. Internet old-timers. Ouch.)
Yes, I made my kid a Webkinz user. Little did I know he would become, in very short order, a Webkinz addict. To the point that when we returned from our house in Vermont on Monday, I needed a duffle bag just for the Webkinz. He's even spent his own allowance on them. OMG.
But why am I writing about Webkinz here on the Roadmap? Interesting as my child's stuffed animal collection is (not), what does that have to do with marketing?
Here's what. Hats off to the folks at Ganz, who reinvented a stuffed animal business into a hot Internet destination
Those of you with kids age 6-10 probably already know what Webkinz are. For those of you with younger, older or no children, Webkinz are stuffed animals, purchased at fine retailers everywhere, that come with a code that gives the owner access to the online site Webkinz World for one year from the date of adoption (registration) of the particular animal. Oh, and you get $2000 kinzcash with each adoption. Remember that; it will be important later.
Webkinz World is a virtual world for kids. They dress, feed and play with the online avatars of their stuffed pets. They purchase clothes, food and furniture with their kinzcash, earning more by playing online games and quizzes. There are also activities that kids can only do once per day, encouraging daily visits. Is it possible to earn a lot of cash with the games? Sure. But not surprisingly, the biggest infusion comes when you adopt another Webkinz. Which is why kids have so many of them. And that's not even counting the trading cards and charms (required for access to the charm forest.) It's an online world, but the financial model is solidly rooted in physical goods.
It's like having a money machine in the basement. Without doubt, it willl be a Marketing 101 case study of an old line business that made a successful transition to a (quasi) online model. Certainly breathed new life into the stuffed animal segment. Aunt Mabel may not be online but she can certainly purchase a stuffed pet at the toy store.
Webkinz World is fun. The games are challenging but not impossible, and kids can safely play with other children online. I would give it a big thumbs up as a social network for kids except for two problems. First, the infrastructure just can't support the volume of kids logging in. Which makes for a frustrating experience for the child. Especially when things go wrong, which is the other problem. For a community focused on kids, its customer support is distinctly unfriendly and works overtime to avoid an actual conversation, email or otherwise, with a user, relying instead on FAQs and automated emails. Not much use when you are trying to console a 7 year old about a lost "Torch Treasure." Not terribly consistent with Ms. Birdy, the friendly adoption counselor.
Apart from these issues though, watching my son on Webkinz World has confirmed some things for me about the digital native population --those that have no "pre-Internet" memory.
First, the commercial aspects won't bother them in the least. Advertising. Sales Promotions. Contests. No problem. As long as they are being entertained or even educated. As long as the advertising fits with the experience. As long as they are sufficiently rewarded for their time.
Second, much as they may love one experience or world, it is a mistake for the world to assume total loyalty. If Webkinz World is unavailable too long, my son is more than happy to pop on over to Nicktropolis, which, while not as engaging, does a better job on availability. And has Spongebob.
I have no idea how long Webkinz will capture his attention. But for now, he's having fun, and I enjoy watching him, and occasionally helping him with a game or two.
And btw, I play a mean game of "Lunch Letters."
A word about breast cancer
Cross posted to Snapshot Chronicles
Just before BlogHer, I started reading Toddler Planet, the blog of an incredibly courageous woman who had to change her plans to attend the conference because she had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a particularly nasty and often undetected form of breast cancer, and her chemo was scheduled to start the same week.
She has written a post about the disease and asked fellow bloggers to repost as much or as little of it as they wished. Please spread the word, and if you are so inclined, make a donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Here is WhyMommy’s post:
We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?
I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.
Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.
Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.
There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.
Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.
You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.
P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom — or old man — or anyone in between — to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.
Are you LinkedIn to my Facebook?
Work is a little light this month so I've been taking advantage of the lull to explore the two major, public social networks -- Facebook and LinkedIn. As always through the lens of discovering how a tool can be useful in business.
It's not hard to find the business angle for LinkedIn. Salespeople and job seekers have been using it since the beginning to expand their networks and connect with potential prospects and employers. Especially in high tech.
Who do you want to meet? Do a search to find out if someone in your network knows the person you'd like to know. Not connected directly? You can use a LinkedIn introduction to get connected, although I haven't done so yet. No one I want to meet that badly, I guess.
Pretty useful. Pretty established. In that specific niche. But it's not terribly sticky. You log in, look and leave.
It's a network, but it's not a community. What's the difference? My opinion only, YMMV. A social network connects individuals. A community interacts. We expect members of a community to have something in common, a reason to converse with others. Yup, the old C word again: Conversation.
You won't have a community without one or more social networks to provide the connections, but a network is not necessarily a community.
But it seems LinkedIn would like to be a community. Otherwise, why would it have community evangelist Mario Sundar on staff? The question is, can it become a community? Should it? What can be added to the experience that would make it one? Why not leave well enough alone and continue to do what it does so well for so many?
Well, the answer is of course, what if another service comes in and manages to do both -- make connections and facilitate conversations? Something like oh uh, Facebook?
Facebook is fast becoming much much more than the Internet version of the college facebook. If that were all it was, I wouldn't bother.
The open API makes all the difference. Third party developers are linking their tools into Facebook, so now I can have all the "stuff" in one place. Twitter. RSS. Flickr. Movie reviews. And not so much my stuff as my friends' stuff. Because it's not just about connecting. It's about sharing information. Where we are. What we are doing. What our friends are saying. That's what makes it a community.
The principal drawback of Facebook is that it is hard to find people. You need to know their email address or stumble upon them in a group or a friend's friends. This security measure is a legacy of the product's initial user base: college and high school students, and an important one. It's one thing if an adult shares her personal information. Quite another if a 9th grader does so.
The Facebook platform helps people who already know each other stay connected. But it's not the best place to make a new connection. For that, you probably still want to use LinkedIn.
What do I really want? Something that does both. Loosely manage and access an extended network of contacts with space for playing and connecting with friends. One UI, one log-in and one password please.
Quick take: Based on what we can publicly see about the two companies and assuming they want to play in the sandbox, Facebook will have an easier time doing this than LinkedIn. It has first mover advantage with the open platform and a loyal user base among the people entering the workforce.
Plus, it is way more fun. As Beth Kanter twitted last week: Facebook is like crack. Internet crack. I've only been using it for a little while, but am fast becoming addicted. Last night, I messed around looking for other Getgoods. Just because, let's face it, it's not like looking for Smiths or Joneses. And discovered that I am the oldest Getgood currently on Facebook. By a longshot. A dubious distinction, but oh well.
Speaking of Twitter.... I've started using it just to give a periodic status. Something I want to share, with my Twitter and Facebook friends and blog readers, but don't plan to write about. A pointless WebEx. The puppies born last week. Etc. Perhaps if I were traveling more, I'd use it to talk with friends and colleagues. Like Josh Hallet did last night when he was stranded in DC.
What do you think? How are you using these new social media tools? Are you?
Bonus Question: What about MySpace? Is it still relevant as a community platform or is it becoming just a blogging platform with music?