Monthly Archives: April 2012

Final Thoughts on #MI621

When you talk so much about a topic as new and rapidly-developing as social media, the most exciting things are not necessarily the technologies that already exist, but rather the possibilities in the next few years.  And the two areas that struck me as having the most possibility over the course of the semester were crowd sourcing and location based services.

Crowd sourcing is so compelling because it makes full use of the hyper-connectivity that the internet has always provided.  Projects that would have been impossible 20 years ago can be accomplished with speed, accuracy, and at relatively low cost (sometimes none!)  It speaks volumes that people are willing to put so much effort into crowd sourced projects for no pay, for example Wikipedia authors, or the people who jumped at a chance to make Super Bowl commercials for Doritos.  These projects both serve a need, and serve people’s desire to just be heard, or to be validated, or share what they’re capable of.  It’s really a very powerful phenomenon that has only recently become possible, and I think it has potential to do great things in the near future.

Location based services are quickly finding their way into almost everything we do with our mobile devices.  It’s hard to find an app that doesn’t somehow use your location, or at least ask to.  Many people find this a little creepy, and that’s understandable, but as long as privacy standards remain clear, user-friendly, and responsible, this is another area that has huge potential.  Need a place to eat, a train station, or a police station?  Just search.  Can’t find your friend in a crowded city?  Drop a pin in the map and text it over.  And these are just the most basic location-based services.  Pretty soon you’ll be able to walk down Newbury St. and receive all the best deals on your phone from each store as you pass by.  Find that annoying?  Turn it off (there’s the user-friendly part).  There are also implications for safety that are just being realized with “Find my Phone,” “Find my Friends,” and other GPS tracking technologies.  If I could tell you where this was going next I’d be in another line of work, but I’m sure this will soon find its way into parts of our lives that we haven’t even thought of.

Now if they could just do something about the battery life...

The first thing that comes to mind when I reflect on my own use of social media for the class was a mistake that I made.  Fortunately, like most mistakes, it taught me something.  When we were assigned our Twitter responsibilities for the semester I already had a Twitter account, but I decided to create a second account specifically for #MI621.  This was mainly because I didn’t think anyone in the class would care to hear me whining about soccer games, or doing my second-rate internet comedian routine.  In my head, home was home and class was class, and ne’er the twain shall meet.  The effect of this, however (besides being a pain logistically) was that each account was missing something.

I wrote about this in an earlier blog as it pertains to brands on Twitter.  My advice to them was to give us a conversation like you’re a real person.  Your whole personality is what makes you unique and distinguishes you from other brands.  As it turns out I wasn’t taking my own advice.  In building my own social media brand, I had split myself into two people: Class Ryan (@BCRyanD) and Home Ryan (@RDerosha).  Each reasonably decent guys, but not all that compelling.  If you’re a social media commentator on Twitter, you’re one of millions.  If you’re an angry Liverpool fan, there are even more of those.  But if you’re a social media commentator who’s an angry Liverpool fan, DC job hunting, fan of medieval European history, you’re unique.  I’ve learned that complete personalities are what’s compelling on social media (why would it be different than real life?) and if I had to do it all over again, that’s one thing I would change.

Now which one is the evil twin?

Another theme that came up repeatedly in my head over the course of the semester is social media as a litmus test in the real world.  We talked quite a bit about the recent incidents of hiring managers asking for people’s Facebook passwords, and we pretty much universally agreed that it’s wrong.  But I do think that current bosses, potential employers, and the outside world in general are all within their rights to judge you based on what social media activity you choose to make public.  If you’re smart enough to make your Facebook information private it says something about you and the choices you make, and the reverse is also true.  I’m an avid Twitter user as well, but after this class I’ve been hesitant about making that public as well (I’ve gone back and forth almost weekly).  And I don’t say anything on Twitter that’s remotely inappropriate, I just think that the discussions in this class have made me a bit more thoughtful about what I put out there, and that’s a good thing.  It’s a personal decision for everyone about how they want to present themselves.

With all of the thinking and reflection done, I’d just like to finish by saying how much I enjoyed the class.  You definitely get some comments when you tell people that you’re taking a “Social Media for Managers class, but I’ve found it to be worthwhile, and something that should be offered in more business programs.  For Marketing majors, it should be required.



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Of Manterest and Monopolies

We’ve talked a lot in class about the complete dominance that women seem to have over Pinterest, and remembering back to Meg’s presentation, she had the numbers to back it up.  My fiancé has gone crazy for it, and she’s never even gotten the hang of Facebook!  Now that’s saying something for a social media site.  But men haven’t really picked it up.  I know a guy who recently joined Pinterest and told all of his friends that they should join too.  They made fun of him until he cancelled his account.  These people are in their 30’s.

This week however, I stumbled across a site that is basically Pinterest for men.  A “Manterest” if you will.  It’s called Gentlemint (a mint of manly things) and it was apparently named “…one of the more manly websites on the planet” by the American Moustache Institute.  And the American Moustache Institute doesn’t just throw praise like that around willy nilly.  As far as I know…

I’ve had a quick look around, and though I’ve been impressed by some of the subject matter (The ultimate bacon burger?  Nice.  Classic James Bond novel cover art?  Now that’s manly.) it basically is just Pinterest with different stuff.  Manly stuff.  So if Pinterest were to catch on with men, there’s really no reason for this site to exist, and yet it’s gaining a bit of traction in our fractured social media landscape.

This all brings me full circle to how I felt about social media on a macro level at the beginning of class, and that’s the theory of natural monopolies.  A natural monopoly is a situation where due to the monumental scope, standardization, or connectedness required of a certain task, it just makes natural sense that one company or organization should do it.  An example is utilities.  You couldn’t have each neighborhood with their own gas company because the networks of pipes and transportation channels wouldn’t connect to each other, the companies would argue over turf, and everything would be infinitely less efficient than if you just let NSTAR do the whole thing.

Earlier in the evolution of the internet and social media, this seemed to be the natural trend.  First we had AOL’s homepage that tried to be all things to all people, and be the one internet portal.  And that worked for a few years, before we realized the possibilities of the internet and we all outgrew it.  Then there was a series of monopolies in social media, that one by one replaced each other, unable to coexist.  First was Friendster, which was toppled by MySpace, which was then obliterated by Facebook, all because the network effect was so strong that there was only room for one giant at a time.  Natural monopolies.

Now however, as we’ve seen in this class, there are all kinds of social media sites popping up to service all kinds of interests.  We have sites for micro-blogging, sites for shopping, sites for getting deals and even paying for things in-store.  There are sites for video, audio, and all kinds of other content discovery.  I had started to doubt whether the natural monopoly theory could continue with all of these disparate social media platforms popping up, but when I found out that there was a Pinterest for both men and women, I knew things had gotten out of hand.  Jason mentioned on Twitter that he felt that there might be a bubble about to burst when it comes to Social Media, which I thought was a good observation.  But instead, I think that what we’re ready for is the new natural monopoly.  That new web portal that sucks us all into one space through which we access everything else we need on the web (or our phones).  And it may sound boring, but the best guess as to who can do that is Facebook.

Facebook has already integrated photos and videos into their platform pretty well.  They’ve integrated some of Twitter’s value proposition, and remained innovative in their own right with updates like timeline.  Now they’ve purchased Instagram.  I’ve even read articles that claim Facebook is working on their own web payment system (which I assume would include mobile capability if they know what’s good for them.  And they do.)  Sure, there are plenty of other social innovators out there, but the fact is when you are as big as Facebook every other company is just your crowdsource, because as soon as their ideas ripen, you can probably just buy them out.

I actually think that if Facebook really is thinking along these lines, it will be a good thing for consumers.  It will allow a much wider audience (not just us savvy MI621-ers) to take advantage of sophisticated social media capability.  And yes, maybe they would be like the Borg, going from site to site and assimilating them into the collective, each one losing a bit of what made it unique (nerd alert) but if anything is for sure here, it’s that even Facebook won’t last forever.  Just like AOL, just like Friendster, MySpace, and whatever else, we’ll eventually outgrow Facebook and the new innovators will blow it up with the next big thing.  I think Facebook has more staying power than those sites previously mentioned, probably because it learned from their mistakes, but it has the potential to add a lot more to the social media experience before it fades away.


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