Revealing the next internet success story

When did you last think you need to create the next internet craze and become rich? Friends ask me if I have an idea for the next ‘big thing’. My reply is that everbody has ideas – yes of course, including me.

But, the internet is only just a tool for every one of the next big things. For years to come, every one of these is going to be a distributed system, and so one whose success is based on the collective effort of its users. Users who create content, share experiences, co-build knowledge and collectively solve tomorrow’s problems.

You only need to browse the list of Newsweek’s Digital 100 Revolutionaries on the 2/9 July double-issue. Or read this week’s Time story about Salman Khan’s Academy that teaches kids over YouTube. Or look around you, at the apps you use most frequently. None of these would survive if the users were simply ‘users’ – they are also contributors and co-creators. That’s what social media really is about.

Are you planning the next successful internet success story? Then you must be thinking about actively engaging your users in true Web 2.0 spirit.

The two deaths that got everyone talking in 2011… and what can kill the Internet as we know it

According to Storify, their users selected two major events to build stories from tweets this year. Both are deaths – that of Osama Bin Laden and that of Steve Jobs. If one had to draw a similarity between the two persons, apart from both having worn a beard, it is surely that they have both been disruptive (challenging) of the status quo. By its very nature, disruption causes people to talk, and they did.

On 1st May 2011, somebody else was disrupted – this time, from his attempt to take a break. Sohaib Athar had left the city of Lahore to live in quieter Abottabad and had no idea he shared ground with Osama Bin Laden who lived just a few kilometres away.

The Storify team looked deep at the data of the 3 million times that Storify users searched for a tweet, found it and pulled it into a story – this year.

The 2nd ranked is the tweet of Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual). His tweets of 1st May are indeed a live coverage of the event. His story is all over the internet and you can read that part of history somewhere else. So what’s the news?

@ReallyVirtual: Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).

Recently, Sohaib Athar tweeted to @Storify saying that their site had been blocked by his ISP. This apparently followed Storify’s mention of the tweet that made history. Both events happened on the 15 December 2011.

Outrageous… you’d say. These things would not happen in America!

BUT that is not necessarily going to remain true for ever. Sohaib Athar, as the copyright holder of that tweet, may soon stop anybody from reproducing it on another webpage! Legislators in America are discussing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, explained that Reddit would not exist says if SOPA was around in 2005.

If someone submits links to a piece of copyrighted material on Reddit or Facebook, our whole site could be shut down.
(Alexis Ohanian)

The Attorney General can issue restraining orders against infringing websites. If Sohaib Athar made claims against the reproduction of his tweet (above), search engines like Google would stop showing links to the whole of WordPress.com even if only one post, from the millions it hosts, allegedly breaks copyright! And Paypal would stop processing their payments!

If you’re wondering how many times WordPress.com bloggers embed tweets, YouTube videos, google maps and Flickr images, this too collectively runs into millions (official stats here). It’s interesting that each one is potentially a copyright breach. And people do it because it’s the nature of the Internet to link and embed. And because social media is all about that.

Comic on SOPA Bill

More Information

1. Petition for the President Obama administration to veto the SOPA Bill. (“This will kill the free flow of information and conversation on the internet.”)

2. Storify is blogging for everyone. Anybody with a Facebook or Twitter account can write a story and link it to all the gossip from the social sites… also YouTube, Flickr, Google+ etc.. The Storify beta website went live eight months ago in April 2011. Analysis of which tweets were used to build stories revealed that the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th talk about the death of Steve Jobs. The 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 9th talked about the death of Osama Bin Laden.

googlegoesgaga… Lady Gaga does it again!

In my post of Feb 9th, I compared Obama to Lady Gaga. She had 8 million followers then, a number which increased at the rate of over 20,000 every day to count 8,831,651 as I write. Lady Gaga hasn’t been sleeping on her online success and followed on the steps of Obama / Biden’s “Transition Project” (December 2008) which allowed any registered user to make or vote on questions that the Whitehouse then answered.

Since then YouTube put together the Worldview Channel and Barack Obama was back to answer questions in January 2011, followed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, US Parliament Speaker Joe Boehner and now… Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lady Gaga’s official YouTube channel now allows people to ask questions and vote for the most popular ones which she will answer. This Gaga project is open till the 18th March and, with this degree of openness, the star has joined a league of world leaders conquering web 2.0 tools to engage with her fans! The woman does not stop there with social media! She accepts questions also over Twitter with any tweet tagged #GoogleGoesGaga being syndicated directly to the channel and qualifying for voting. And in her own words…

Millions must be searching for “Lady Gaga” on Google as that term scores 69/100 in Query Popularity on Alexa. This especially when compared to “Barack Obama” (52/100); “Obama” (57/100); and “Whitehouse” (40/100).

The question submission and voting uses Google Moderator. It was launched in September 2008 and first used with a bang the following December in the Obama / Biden Transition Project – “Open for Questions”. Since then Change.gov, the project’s website, has now closed. Google Moderator continues to make crowd-sourcing a reality and is now a freely available API.

Social Media Campaign Fundamentals

When a company decides to make the jump and start a social media campaign, it’s a good start. If you’re one of these, and you’re committed to it, that’s the first of the fundamentals to engage in digital publicity and engagement. The second fundamental is to translate this commitment into a long-term priority with resources and time dedicated to the process – social media engagement is not a project but part of your operations. Operations are built on structured processes that transform inputs into outputs. Successful operations are those which result in output that meet the corporate mission, vision and objectives.

This brings us to the third fundamental. And that is understanding where social media fits in the corporate mission, vision and what part of the objectives can be better achieved using social media. This requires an understanding of what social media can and cannot do. The social media campaign should then be given clear objectives – ones which can be measured during and at the end of the campaign to determine its success. Most companies want more users to visit their website, make more online purchases or understand their product line better. And so they would ask:

  • How many hits to our website originate from the campaign? (and which parts of it? facebook, you tube videos, corporate linkedin profile etc…)
  • Do they land on the right pages of our site?
  • Who are our users? (Yes, facebook for example allows you to segment your campaign so you know what’s working!)
  • How do they navigate in our site when they land there, and do they end up making that purchase we wanted them to make?
  • What are users saying on the social media pages we manage? How many press “like” or leave a comment?

This type of analysis measures the effectiveness and its conversion into the objectives of the campaign. Good luck!

Election monitoring using facebook

Just over a week ago I read this brief note on facebook that explains how a simple screen was used on election day to remind people to vote and asking them to click on a button if they had already voted.

Of course I couldn’t not reflect on this and how facebook is becoming a platform that promulgates openness at all levels of society. People who went out to vote just had to say they did, and others who hadn’t, saw it and were teased about their responsibility towards the nation.

What is certainly interesting is that the facebook tool combined these people’s interactions with age and political views stated on their profile. The numbers showed that a 65 year old was almost three times as likely to vote as an 18 year old, and this matched CNN’s traditional exit polls based on over 17,500 respondents coming from the voting booths. This is the thing which struck me most, and which we could certainly learn from again – almost exactly two years after Obama engaged social media and social networks to win the United States presidency.

Information, obtained through open/public data does not lie. It’s reliable. Does it follow logically that, thus, the medium which is the Internet is worth working in one’s favour all along?

 

Finally – a word before I close this post. This time of year is that time when Wikipedia reminds us that we all use it, and so few of us ever donate anything to keep it free. Please donate $20, $35, $50 or more by following this link. Thank you.

 

Vaseline Facebook App Lightens Skin

Over 17% of the world’s population live in India: no wonder Vaseline’s skin lightening Facebook app hit the news when it was launched through Bolywood actor Shahid Kapoor. Another company’s attempt at social media usage.

Vaseline Men Be Prepared launched by Shahid Kapoor

The 29-year old Shahid wears the well-groomed look of the superstar of Bolywood and I wonder if that’s Vaseline’s doing. But Vaseline promises Indian men that just 1 minute a day wearing the new Vaseline Men will result in a fairer spotless face. Not only just spotless, but also lighter skinned. And if ma and baba can’t afford that cream for you there’s a Facebook app to help show how you’d look if they did! The app from Vaseline promises to do this to remove the spots and the lighten the skin on your Facebook photos!

The wall of the app has the oldest post dating to 1st April and, if that’s ehn it was launched, it’s hardly a good day to launch a promise like that!

In 2009, Shaadi.com – the online matrimonial service – ran a poll for 12,000 people revealing that skin colour was the most important criteria when choosing husband or wife in 3 of the northern Indian states. You wouldn’t blame Vaseline to think that it was a good idea to help boost the Rahuls, Amits and Farouks hopes of finding a wife to take home to mama. But the Indian men didn’t share Vaseline’s view… not on Facebook’s wall at least. 7/35 reviewers think it’s amazing, but most of the others think it’s  “racist”. This hasn’t stopped the Facebook app getting close to eight thousand monthly active users.

Ode to Privacy and the Anonymous Internet

The Internet is largely anonymous, and this reality is at the root of its success. When social media first opened a gashing wound in people’s privacy, the world was fast to react and ask Facebook to tighten its privacy settings. And along comes Philipp Lenssen with his doomsday scenario for 2025, and proposes RealIdentity. I would have expected Mark to give Lenssen a bashing when he blogged about Lenssen’s post, but he didn’t, and so I will.

I remain of the opinion that the Internet should remain anonymous for as long as possible. Undoubtedly, people who really understand the Internet, will agree that removing anonymity will put brakes on the growth of the consumption of content on the Internet.

For those who argue in favour of an identity-driven Internet, claiming that the latter has become a dangerous place, I say that the Internet is a reflection of the society we live in. Porn, ill-advice and scams have been around long before the Internet. Anybody in the US who ever wanted a fake ID to buy alcohol before they were of age, didn’t have to work to hard to get hold of one! If you don’t believe me, click here to see how many services for “fake id” come up in a simple Google-search.

So Mr. Lenssen, why bother introducing RealIdentity to access Adult Content? This will not stop anybody from getting fake credentials. In fact, there will be such a market for fake credentials that they will become as much a commodity item as those fake IDs for buying alcohol when under age.

I don’t get asked to show my ID card to buy anything with my credit card at the mall. I don’t get biometric scanned to go to the cinema. Why should I look forward to a future that infringes my privacy by asking me to sign in with my biometric ID to buy a book on Amazon or rent a movie on iTunes?

Authentication, identification and authorisation should indeed be taken seriously and all the efforts to make it possible to do this across political borders is indeed a noble project. But stopping online anonymity is foolish.