Posts Tagged ‘YouTube’

How Many Networks?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

This is something I’ve had on my mind for a while, but haven’t found a convenient time to bring up. Of course, somebody else was able to do it first. Jason Perlow’s ZDNet blog, Tech Broiler, has his thoughts on the diminishing returns of an ever-expanding social network. I won’t summarize the post—it’s worth your time to read it yourself—but I will say that there’s more than enough frustration with Facebook’s security, permission structure, and communications model to inspire people to give up on it altogether. This doesn’t mean I intend to do so, but I understand.

Also, as a note to Mr. Perlow, one gaijin to another: Seppuku is traditionally performed with a knife (tanto) or short sword (wakizashi), not the katana.

That’s not really what I wanted to discuss, but it’s as good a segue as any. Perlow’s post made me think again about how the social media boom has affected the way we spend our time online. There are enough different social network services now that they don’t even really compete anymore—except in the sense that they all want you to spend more time with them than any other. Each has its own specific use profile, and most individuals would never consider using one for something other than its core value.

Let’s take me as an example. In addition to this blog, I actively use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to varying degrees, as well as some old-school forums that match my interests; there’s some passive participation in other social media (gotta have YouTube access and various wikis), but that’s about it.

  • Twitter is my other broadcast and communication channel, the one I use when writing a proper blog post isn’t the way to go.
  • LinkedIn is my professional lifeline, the go-to option for exchanging ideas with subject matter experts, making sure I stay connected to people I don’t have regular contact with, and making myself available for hire.
  • Facebook is for fun and time-killing. I use it to keep in touch with high school friends, to catch the occasional interesting article somebody posts in their feed, and to play games.

There isn’t a whole lot of overlap between these big three, integrations notwithstanding. I couldn’t imagine trying to maintain a professional presence solely on Twitter, and the entertainment options of LinkedIn pretty much end with the Answers page. This means that each social network requires separate attention, and their sheer number means networking can be a full-time job. My reaction to Google Buzz was basically “Oh crap, one more thing to add to the list.” It took more of my time, and didn’t have a clear niche of its own, so I eventually opted out.

Facebook might be next for me, assuming I can break the addictive hold of Mafia Wars and Viking Clan. This is not solely because of anything inherently wrong with Facebook (though there’s plenty)—I’ve fallen into the trap of bigger = better. I have over 600 “friends” on Facebook, and I honestly don’t know who most of them are. The games I play there require a large network to get maximum value, so I made and accepted lots of friend requests. They are not my friends (except the ones I already knew outside of Facebook). I couldn’t pick them out of a police lineup. Some of them have social and political views that I can’t stand. But I keep them around anyway because they serve a function and because it’s too much trouble to weed them out.

Still, the more FB friends you have, the more messages you get. I hate leaving messages unviewed; I regularly check my email spam so I don’t have the feeling there’s something waiting for me, and it’s this feeling that made Buzz such a burden.

Connections on Twitter or LinkedIn don’t require the same level of supervision. I follow the people I want to follow, and it’s easy enough to unfollow them—and there’s only good in having lots of followers myself. LinkedIn doesn’t get in my way unless it’s an opportunity of some sort for me. Facebook just keeps poking at me, asking me to get back in touch with Friend X whom I’ve never met, or buy Godfather Points for my mob, or install a toolbar, or expand my permissions, etc. etc.

Honestly, I don’t think I’d mind any of it if there was an easier way to manage it. What I really want is a central control panel for all my networks that lets me choose what information is available to each, with bulletproof security so I don’t have to worry about getting all my networks jacked at once. After that, all I have to do is work on my self-control so I don’t play Bejeweled all weekend.

  • Share/Bookmark

Brand Warfare Goes Social

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised—if anything, the surprise is in how long we waited—that organizations are using social media to put pressure on other organizations. Recently, environmental activism group Greenpeace used a YouTube video to drive customer outrage against snack food producer Nestlé for its use of palm oil sourced from dwindling orangutan habitats.

The result was a ton of news coverage (from CNN, CNET, Forbes, BusinessWeek, The Guardian, and many others—thanks, Google), a practical shutdown of Nestlé’s Facebook page due to angry traffic, and what Greenpeace wanted: severance of the Nestlé relationship with Sinar Mas, the oil supplier accused of illegal deforestation.

Now, I loves me some KitKats. I am aware of the horrible toll they inflict on my health and I eat them anyway, though not so often that you have to worry about my imminent demise. I will continue to eat them in the future. But I’m glad that Greenpeace brought the palm oil problem to my attention, so I can watch for it in other foods. And you can be sure I’ll take a hiatus from my KitKat consumption. I would rather do without a yummy snack than condemn a piece of our world to death.

Side note: Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group was on the most recent Brian Lehrer Live to comment on this situation. (The social media aspect, not my fat butt and KitKat addiction.) I can’t find the video, so I’d appreciate it if somebody would link it in the comments.

Is this a good thing? Should the power that has finally come into the hands of the customer be co-opted by large and powerful groups to further their own ends? My opinion is a guarded yes. Greenpeace is the example at hand, and it is not trying to make a profit—it’s trying to increase awareness of the harm we do to the ecology in the name of profit. While the group has had its excesses (the term ecoterrorism has been applied to some of Greenpeace’s activities), it generally acts to expose a situation it finds worrisome, and lets public opinion do the rest.

As with everything else, there’s the potential for abuse. If there’s something we can learn from social media, it’s that stories spread fast and far, much more so than the truth behind the story can catch up. A brand can be destroyed by one person’s efforts—typically a customer with an axe to grind over shoddy merchandise or poor service. Imagine the damage that can be done by a large, well-funded, coordinated group with a much larger axe to grind. If the cause is just and no lies are told, then I’m okay with it. But what if it had been Hershey’s spreading the Nestlé story? Would we be as sanguine about chocolate maker A inflaming consumer outrage against chocolate maker B, gaining market share by levying accusations against its competitor in the guise of social justice? What if the allegations were untrue?

I don’t really care what happens to individual corporations. I care about customers losing their voice as they’re drowned out by louder ones. All I ask is that you evaluate a story before you spread it. That’s just part of the social contract, and it applies to social media just as much as it does to traditional talk.

  • Share/Bookmark

Mixed Media, Mixed Message

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Many of you know that I come from a print media background—mostly magazines, with a few books shuffled in. While I’ve moved on in my career to a place where most of my work seems to be electronic in nature—blogging, ebooks, social networking—I still have a soft spot for words on dead trees. So whenever somebody says that books, magazines, or newspapers are dying forms of media, I have to speak up.

Of course, nobody’s actually said that to me recently, so I need to stretch a bit. Just the other week, this brilliant video posted all over the Interwebs. While it turns out that it was prepared by a unit of Penguin Publishing, the message is no less valid. Make sure you watch and listen to the whole thing before you make up your mind.

Yes, it’s on YouTube. Yes, social networking has been a big deal long enough to go from fad to trend to established communication form. But there still has to be something to talk about. One can only get so deep into philosophy, current events, science, and art with Facebook or Buzz status updates. There will always be a place for physical media. These are major sources for big ideas.

New media can be the start of great print too. Social networking is a thousand different sociology experiments writ large, all happening at once. Good information on human behavior is there for the observing. Journalists get leads from Web sources all the time. And who’s to say that a hot exchange of tweets won’t inspire the next great novel—or that a blog won’t help us find out about it?

Sure, circulation and ad revenue are down, but that’s just good news for the trees. Executives must learn that the socialverse isn’t going away, and adjust print’s business practices to reflect this fact. I don’t have the answer yet, nor do they, but we’re working on it.

  • Share/Bookmark