Give the cat a break

Some poor techie writer is getting himself all wound up about the fact that a cat has half a million followers on Twitter. It’s really quite sad when some folk take themselves too seriously.

But it’s par for the course isn’t it. A new tool, gadget, software app or trend comes around and the early adopters jump on it like a rash of measles. (wonders if the example is appropriate)

These early adopters use said new tool with great glee and feel privileged to be the evangelists of this new thing. They promote it and persuade their friends and foe to join and in general they imagine that this new tool belongs to them. After all they discovered it first.

As the tool ages and matures other users also join and at the beginning the new members are like good little sheep and mostly follow what those early geeky adopters have decided this tool should be about.

And the faithful followers follow along listening to the evangelists.

However, as with all good things, it all changes.  The party starts to disintegrate and form splinter groups and all sorts of weird and wonderful new uses are invented for this new thing.

Initially the early adopters/evangelists can stifle this kind of bad behaviour by pouring scorn on these mavericks and making them outcasts. After all this wonderful thing of theirs has to stay as it was when first discovered.

But that’s not the nature of any thing. Time will change everything. Sometimes it changes so much it dies off and sometimes it changes into something even more useful and fun. Seldom does anything stay the same.

With other words, it’s actually fun to see a cat get a twitter following of 500 000. In fact it puts some fun back into what has been threatening to become a seriously boring and tedious social media tool.

Relax Mr TechCrunch writer. You can still do your own thing on Twitter. You can still be your own serious self. But do allow others to follow a cat sprouting seriously inane and sometimes humorous tweets. After all there is that fab website that is all about cheezy cat pics and fabulous captions.

The Pied Pipers of Social Media

As the internet morphed from Web 1.0 – oh wait there was no Web 1.0 – to Web 2.0 and towards Web 3.0  it’s showing some interesting new trends. In particular social media is the hot topic to end all hot topics at the moment.

That’s where it’s all at isn’t it?

One would be excused if one thought that social media was the only big item to hit ones web browser in the last year or so that’s how much noise there is about this newish development.

What is social media? It’s basically a space where people gather to share some kind of activity. This could be holding conversations of no more than 140 characters and that includes spaces, poking each other or sharing and approving articles posted on the web.

That space occupied by the social media group or tribe as Seth Godin calls it is on somebody’s server. That somebody owns and can do what they want with your conversations (Biz Stone), interactions with your friends (Mark Zuckerberg)  and your news preferences (Kevin Rose)  to mention but a few.

I thought I would just include that little warning again. It’s my favourite topic of the month, well it’s been that for the past two years actually.

What is amusing is that none of these social media spaces have managed to develop a workable business model. With other words, none of them are making any real money that converts into profit never mind be enough to cover overheads.

Even more amusing is the fact that the marketing experts have no idea how to slot social media into their campaigns which must be unbelievably infuriating. After all there are 14 million people on Twitter (March 2009 stats) but how does one get at them. Isn’t TV so much easier?

Dell has managed some success. $1 million in product sales by December 2008 directly via Twitter is some return.  Although of course one needs to view this as a ratio of total sales of $61 billion in 2008 which shows that this is not exactly an earth shattering result. Advice to Dell – don’t give up any of your other marketing efforts

As an interim solution until the marketing gurus come to terms with the new landscape and manage to find some way to reach their customers via social media a string of Pied Pipers are being employed to good use.

One such Pied Piper is Chris Brogan who pipes about companies and events to drive traffic online and offline. It’s at a cost to companies of course. No free lunch here.

But what really made me think of the Pied Piper fairy tale was the example of American Express and its OPEN Forum. American Express co-opted the popularity of its guest bloggers, in particular Guy Kawasaki to drive traffic to the forum.

Every time Guy Kawasaki posts a blog to the site the traffic doubles. And it’s via Kawasaki’s Twitter following that OPEN Forum scoops its largest traffic percentage. Kawasaki’s current and growing 117 751 followers plus RT (retweet) power is the magic here.

As an aside, Guy Kawasaki was recently caught out using ghost writers, so that kind of puts a question mark on the whole endorsement story doesn’t it.  Mind you, talking about fake, those models selling make-up have half an inch of face paint on as well as the help of Photoshop whizkids.  Same thing isn’t it. Who and what can one trust nowadays?

Until marketers catch up with social media and have worked out how it ticks the use of Pied Pipers will continue. There are some benefits to being an early and eager adopter after all.

Drat. Missed that one again. Signed up to Twitter in March 2007. Didn’t see that one coming…. Twitter name is Anja if you want to follow me.

Facebook seems to be allowing developers at your content

So here we go. Facebook it seems will be announcing today that it will allow third-party developers access to user content with the purpose of allowing more application development.

Mmmh. The article in the Wall Street Journal makes it sound all happy and fabulous and a huge bonus to Facebook users.

For instance developers could build a site that aggregates just the articles certain friends upload to the site. Or developers could offer an application that streams your photos you’ve uploaded to another site and much more.

With other words developers will be allowed to create applications that manipulate the data you, as Facebook user, have uploaded.

Of course you will be asked permission first. Okeeeey. Bit like that Facebook Beacon story where you had to opt out rather than opt in. Most people didn’t spot that the box had been ticked already and gave permission by default?

So if Facebook does that again, by default you could have all sorts of things happen to your information. Oh really?

Wasn’t the whole point of Facebook that you had a secure area where you could share your stuff with people you knew and you were safe from prying eyes? Now if Facebook opens up its info to outside developers that could be like opening up the sluithgates to a flood of information into the outside of Facebook world.

People out there might say that Twitter is allowing it. Sure, but nobody in their right minds posts anything close to confidential on Twitter, surely? They can’t be that daft, or can they?

We all know the point of Twitter is to send out stuff that we hope as many people as possible will read. Not so on Facebook. Most of us really only want our friends and family to see our info. We don’t even want our clients or bosses to lurk around in the shadows.

What consequence then if developers are allowed to play around with our Facebook data? Not nice.