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The most important reason for the meteoric growth of Social Networks is something called “The Network Effect”. This equates to a tipping point when the value of a communications network to its users rises exponentially with the number of people connected to it. In the past year, we have witnessed one such rising star, Facebook ( but it begs the question is it the only one? ). It took 5 years for Facebook to reach 150 million users and then a further 8 months to double that number. Today, according to Facebook Statistics, it has 400 million users. In 2009 we saw Facebook become almost ubiquitous in every conversation swirling around Social Media and social networks. It was the year in which Facebook exploded into a global phenomena, dominating the Social Networking market worldwide as it became an international social network giant. While its dominated the english speaking press and displaced MySpace its not the only Social Network in the world.
To believe that Facebook or english speaking social networks are the only “players in Social networks” worldwide would be nothing short of one sided owed to very narrow perspective of the hyper connected world we live in. According to Wikipedia, there are some 1.5 billion members worldwide. Across the world there a number of culturally, language, local and regionally driven social networks , that both singularly and accumulatively pose the question whether Facebook can dominate the world in Social Networking. As startling as it is, the ” Facebook Network Effect” is not only a Facebook phenomena and its also occurring across other Social Networks in the world , albeit with different speeds.
When in logged into my Gmail a few nights ago I got a screen that introduced me to Google’s Buzz. At a first glance I skipped over it not wanting to go to deep into a distracting setup that stopped me from doing what I had originally set out to do : check my email . In hindsight I am left questioning whether Google’s BUZZ has any buzz? Buzz will probably have impact on the digital marketing world overtime but its not that apparent at the moment. However, we should take notice of this change. Buzz is a service that aims to compete in the social networking space not unlike the services of Bebo, Orkut ( owned by Google) Facebook, Twitter to take on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, across devices like the PC and mobile phone.
What Buzz is attempting to do is add the social networking features in the burgeoning number of Google’s services, over the top of the existing number of contacts a person has in their Gmail accounts. It has 97million users at its disposal to do this but it does pale in consideration of Facebook’s 400 million users, Myspace’s 130 million user and Friendster’s 115 million users. Google’s published rationale for Buzz is to work a more centralised and sorted approach to social services, sorting out the noise and organising information into a a relevant experience for users. On its blog it says ” With more and more communication happening online, the social web has exploded as the primary way to share interesting stuff, tell the world what you’re up to in real-time and stay more connected to more people. In today’s world of status messages, tweets and update streams, it’s increasingly tough to sort through it all, much less engage in meaningful conversations. “
Can Twitter & Social Media channels replace Mainstream Media ?
AKA. The day Michael Jackson killed Twitter -
The past two weeks has been a defining period for Twitter. #Iranelection and Micheal Jackson’s death are the most recent defining moments that have allowed the microblogging service and Social Media to show their impact on mainstream mass media and government affairs. Early morning Friday (Europe) Twitter’s servers collapsed under a tsunami of tweets in the public out pouring surrounding the king of pop’s death. Not only was Twitter buckling under the deluge of Tweets but Google also served an error page and News websites around the world slowed considerably. As the news of the king of pops death broke, Google feared it was under a denial of service attack and served its error page. As it calmed down the Michael Jackson search trend was substantiated and it was rated as “volcanic”.
Follow the trend on Nielsen’s Blog Pulse According to the BBC, initial data from Trendrr, a Web service that tracks activity on social media sites, the number of Twitter posts containing “Michael Jackson” totaled more than 100,000 per hour. That put the momentary news of Jackson’s death equal to the peak surrounding the Iran protests ten days before.
Andy Cato - “Sharing music has always gone on. It’s giving music away that’s the problem. We wanted to come up with a 21st century version of what we used to do with cassette tapes. When you give music away for free it’s disposable. When you share it, it’s done with love.”
There is an inherent need for music publishers to create buzz around tracks and artists but also to work in their spheres of fellow producers, musicians and their fans or audience. So in the artist self publishing and artist self promotional days , that have the music labels traditional A&R business scrambling, what could be more relevant than a social network of music “taste makers” , musicians, labels and publishers? The emergent answer is ; SoundCloud !!
In the burgeoning world of social media applications there is a launch of new business concept everyday, redefining the working practices of many social and professional scenes across all types of businesses. Music, while being at the forefront of consumer media consumption changes, is no different. While in its nascent days SoundCloud offers a full social network for the thriving music scene based on the simple sharing and following concept. SoundCloud makes it easy for people to send & receive music. Simple as that. What it isn’t is one of those illegal peer to peer file sharing platform that have all but hijacked the music industry and elevated music piracy to the epidemic level. The promise of music uploading and sharing in this community is that you cannot share music without the consent of the proper right holders and any user sharing music illegally runs the risk of having their account deleted and being reported to the relevant authorities. You can make your music private or public and shareable. What could be more easy than uploading your latest mixed track, to your known group of promoters and tastemakers or giving it a limited public preview or limited public download that could be shared across the social media websites across the world?
What I also find appealing is easy to use interface, a simple but effective and non nonsense way of getting at what you are there for , listening to music . This is not a Rhapsody or Pandora like website either , but a more socially driven sharing platform minus any overbearing commercialism .
The Angel 60 Channels
But lets not kid ourselves , not every budding or aspirant musician or DJ is bound to be a radio star or a pioneer in digital music business model such as The Angel , Radiohead, Prince or Groove Armada. What is clear in this application is that realm of music PR belongs in the hands of its fans and promoters. ”Social Media” places the audience at the forefront of PR or word of mouth promotion, playing into the hands of the real evangelists; the buzz creators. SoundCloud will only grow and mature over time from its early underground days. What interesting to me is that the age of mix tape or mix CD is a fading long gone distant memory.
Music and its digital portability has placed it upon the crest of the wave of change in traditional medias, creating an urgent need for the major Records Labels and Publishers to review there very model of business. The new wave of artists and their producers are clearly taking control of their own livelihoods and their media.
You may not know it but Hi5 is the third largest social network in the world polling into position behind Facebook and MySpace. What make its different from the other two is clearly its audience. It has around 60 million unique visitors per month , 40% of whom come from Spanish speaking countries. This makes it the largest Latin American or Hispanic social network . While virtually unheard of in the United States the UK or some of Europe there are reasons to believe that this could change. The key information to be aware of is that more and more people in the U.S. are discovering the site, a trend line that will likely keep bending upward in the next 12 months. What would be interesting to track is whether this new US based audience is ethnically and demographically the young Hispanic and creates a parallel spanish speaking social network the covers the Americas and Spain . As of mid-2007 the Hispanic community in the US, the largest minority group , accounted for 15.1% of the total U.S. population and also since 2000 have accounted for more than half (50.5%) of the overall population growth in the United States
Hi5′ s music and video applications rival those of other, more popular social networks, and Hi5′s mobile app is first rate.
Hi5 won’t be bigger than Facebook by the end of the year, but it will have grown significantly, and it will have given many people an attractive alternative to try out
What will be interesting to observe in the near future is whether the identities of one social network can or will be able cross register with the other using the concept of Open ID.
There are “No Rules” anymore when it comes to the music industry and how band or musical acts market themselves in the digital age. To underscore the changing ways of doing business and the ability of an act taking control of its music and image outside of the “record deal” - traditionally label based system, Groove Armada’s deal with Barcardi Rum is unprecedented. Its a pure play “Branded Content” deal. The UK based , world renowned DJ and dance music act Groove Armada, has signed an exclusive one year recording, DJing and promotional deal with Barcardi. And it has the music industry pundits questioning whether its a ”Sell Out” or another wake call in the ever evolving era of media portability and its impact on all traditional entertainment media.
In the 21st Century music scene, with music sales down and the internet transferring power to the artists, their options are wide open. In what could be called a symbiotic exchange or promotional deal, Groove Armada gets to be promoted and play to new audiences worldwide under the marketing flagship of Barcardi. It is what could be called a branded content viral or social marketing deal too. Bacardi is the facilitator of content or music sharing, is associated to a “hip act ” and right in touch with core audience and their media and social habits. A four-track EP – the only music to be released under the contract - was launched by Tom and Andy Cato at the Midem international music convention in Cannes yesterday.
The Branded Content – Social marketing deal
The EP will be delivered through an innovative sharing mechanic called Bacardi B-LIVE Share; a pioneering online application encouraging and rewarding consumers who share Groove Armada’s music from the EP with their own online communities. Andy Cato says of the model - “Sharing music has always gone on. It’s giving music away that’s the problem. We wanted to come up with a 21st century version of what we used to do with cassette tapes. When you give music away for free it’s disposable. When you share it, it’s done with love.”
The first track has just been released as a free download for free from http://www.bliveshare.com , Baracardi’s brand spanking new music / promotional sharing platform.
In what is surely an experiment in Social Media and Viral marketing , to get the other three tunes, fans must share the first with their friends, who share it with their friends, who share it with their friends.
To get the second track, the fans and their network of friends must spread the first 20 times through the website. To get the third, the network must share it 200 times. And for the fourth, the first MP3 must be shared 2,000 times in total. The originator or ancestor being able track their spread of music through their social network with a window of six weeks to spread it, after which time all four songs will go on sale through normal digital stores.
The site includes social sharing applications with Facebook , MySpace , blogs , websites , and a call to social email campaigning.
“An emerging network- centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users.”
- John Hagel
Web 2.0 is such an amorphous terms that defies a hard definition. In the many years that have been talking about and working in in web development and interactive marketing I would often describe the evolution of the web as generational, heralding each leap in concept from media, content, browsers, systems and platforms as contributing generational stepping stones to where we are today. The hyperbolic change that occurred in the early internet years seemed to have generational change each successive year with competing technologies, media companies and battling it out for a controlling position. When the dot com bubble finally burt in 2001 there was a turning point in the web. The point where after a shakeout the ascendent technologies began to differentiate themselves from the raft of “frothy flotsam ” washed up in wake of the the crash. Perhaps the corporate agendas of owning or controlling the web , the antithesis of its organic and free form, had failed. What was apparent at this time was that new sites and technologies kept on revitalizing the digital space in an open and collaborative way.
While the boom was definitively over the web just kept evolving in open way and the transition to Web 2.0 was enabled by the emergence of platforms such as blogging, social networks, and free image and video uploading, that collectively allowed extremely easy content creation, access and sharing by anyone who had a computer and a connection. The barrier to entry of web publishing or content creation was over and the social voice of the digital consumer had begun its transformative ride over traditional media.
If you think Web 2.0 as simply social networking or just about the technical or geek jargon…. you really need to think again. Every aspect of Web 2.0 is driven by consumer participation, from content, its voice, browser development, technology platforms, and an ever evolving digital life. The most definitive trend and primary direction of Web 2.0 is for users to control the content they create, the data captured about their web activities and their identity and their willingness to participate and socialize collectively. The gradual opening or advances in digital standards have allowed for a common interfaces and integration across content and applications allowing a less constrained environment then had previously existed before. Decentralized in its architecture, participation, and usage, Web 2.0′s real power and flexibility emerges from distributing applications and content over many points rather than having them locked down on centralized or controlled systems. Its is truly becoming a plugin and play open environment for digital interplay between content and devices where the consumer experience of media or content mobility is quintessential.
What is very clear is that the Web 2.0 is not a trend or fad, it is not going way or will disappear, its here to stay. What is even more interesting is that the internet development chatter is about the next evolution , Web 3.0 or the semantic web, an intelligent web based on behavioural understanding of the consumers digital actions. What’s going to be interesting about Web 3.0 and will define just how far it can go will be the consumer privacy laws. There’s potentially an imminent consumer back lash looming in the near future concerning the use of known and personal data points surrounding behaviours.
There are a small number main characteristics that help define web 2. 0 In the marketers world there are a few we should be aware of as these have become part of the mainstream marketing language:
New Media Marketing: a term to describe the building and managing of social networks and online or virtual communities, and extend the reach of marketing to the low-frequency, low-intensity consumer in a cost effective way.
Buzz Marketing: The strategic use of word of mouth, the transmission of commercial information from person to person in an online or real-world environment.
Viral Marketing: The intentional spreading of marketing messages using social networks, with an emphasis of the casual, non-intentional and low cost.
Collective Intelligence or Collaborative Filtering : Essentially what this means is that “users” contributions greatly help build and make the foundation stronger and more popular by adding their content, such as links, comments, forum posts, reviews, rating others, an aggregation of the best work of thousands, then millions of web users (example: YouTube – more comments, more “thumbs-up” the more popularity), and any content contribution really. Without the end “user” the sites popularity goes down – if there is no interactivity for the end user, it’s not collective “anything.” So in short – the site grows organically in response to user activity.
Users Add Value: The architecture of your software development relies on “public” users to add their own data thus adding more value to your application. FireFox, Mozilla , Red Hat Linux WordPress ,(possibly the most used blogging software in the world ) grow in functionality through a network of contributing developers.
“Some” Rights Reserved: Expanding the range of creative works accessible for others to legally build upon and share. The Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to just that. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses. These licenses, depending on the one selected, restrict only particular rights (or none) of the work instead of customary copyright, which is more restraining.
The constant Beta: Sites like, Frappr, CafePress, Flickr, FeedBurner…etc. rely on a services evolution or constant improvements and enhancements , New features are packaged up into massive releases, but instead added them on a regular basis as part of the normal user experience.
Rich User Experience: Web 2.0 applications are built of a network of cooperating data services.
When it comes to the driving Web 2.0 technologies we should also aware of:
Aggregation: Bringing multiple content sources together into one interface or application.
API : (Application Programming Interface) A defined interface to a computer application or database that allows access by other applications.
Embedding: Integrating content or an application into a web page, while the original format is maintained.
Folksonomy: Rich categorization of information that is collectively created by users, through tagging and other actions. (cf. taxonomy)
Mashups: Combination of different types of content or data, usually from different sources, to create something new.
Remixing: Extracting and combining samples of content to create a new output. The term was originally used in music but is now also applied to video and other content.
RSS : (Really Simple Syndication) A group of formats to publish (syndicate) content on the internet so that users or applications automatically receive any updates.
Ruby on Rails: An open source web application framework that is frequently used in Web 2.0 website development.
Tag cloud: A visual depiction of tags that have been used to describe a piece of content, with higher frequency tags emphasized to assist content comprehension and navigation.
Tagging: Attaching descriptions to information or content.
Virtual architecture :The creation of avatars (alternative representations of people), buildings, objects, and other artefacts inside virtual spaces.
Widget: Small, portable web application that can be embedded into any web page.
XML : (eXtensible Markup Language) An open standard for describing data, which enables easy exchange of information between applications and organizations.
Open web: The entire space of the World Wide Web open to anyone to access and participate. This has been the initial domain in which Web 2.0 technologies, applications, and attitudes have developed.