Archive for the ‘Social Networks’ Category

Step Away From The Computer, Kids: Baby Boomers Embrace Social Media

July 2, 2008

MediaPost Publications

Advertisers may see the Web and all its iterations–from online video to casual games and social networking–as an ideal channel for reaching young adult consumer, but new data from the AARP and the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication shows that Americans over age 50 are also Web 2.0 denizens. And sometimes they even use the Web more than their younger, more tech-savvy counterparts.

For example, 42% of consumers over 50 check the Web for news daily or several times a day, compared to just 18% of users under 20. And older Americans are increasingly using the Web for fun and interaction. When it comes to social media, some 70% of consumers age 50 and up said that their online community was “very” or “extremely” important to them. So much so that almost 70% of them log on daily or several times a day. In contrast, just about half of all social network members under age 20 said the same.

For the AARP, the stats come as no surprise, as the organization made social media features a prime component of its site redesign in February. Photo and video sharing, live journaling and commenting on articles are activities that have caught on with the site’s 2.7 million unique monthly visitors, said Patricia Lippe Davis, associate publisher, marketing at AARP.

“Baby boomers are the most socially educated population ever,” said Davis, a self-defined Boomer. “They may read the paper, or even go on the Web to get their information, but they’re constantly networking with people to verify and expand their knowledge, and that’s something we’re seeing reflected in their activity on our site.” The benefits of older consumers’ increased use of social media definitely extend to advertisers, Davis said. Finding a site like or helps to answer the questions of “how to communicate the message and how to get it to extend to word-of-mouth,” she said.

For example RoC (a skincare brand under Johnson & Johnson), sponsored the AARP’s Faces of 50+ Real People Model Search in 2007. Members were invited to submit a photo and essay for a chance to be featured in a fashion/beauty spread in the AARP magazine. Some 10,000 of the 13,000 total entries came in online. After the editors chose 16 finalists, the community got to vote and more than 34,000 members voted online.

Davis said that advertisers in the travel, health and real estate categories had shown particular interest in developing hybrid campaigns that featured online, print, and sometimes even TV and special-event components. “About 70% of our advertisers are requesting integrated packages,” she said. “They want online and print at a minimum, then events and then broadcast. They understand that the Web has become a very important channel for reaching people over 50, and Baby Boomers in particular.”


Top 10 US Social Network and Blog-Site Rankings Issued for May

July 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

Top US social networking site‘s unique audience (UA) was up 7 percent in May compared with May ’07, but second-place Facebook‘s was up some 83 percent from a year ago, according to custom lists compiled by Nielsen Online, writes MarketingCharts.

LinkedIn, continuing its trajectory, increased its unique audience 146 percent from 2007, reaching nearly 7.7 million in May, compared with 3.1 million a year earlier — and retaining its No. 4 position after unseating Windows Live Spaces in March.

nielsen-top-10-social-networks-may-2008.jpgMySpace’s unique audience totaled nearly 60.7 million in May, compared with No. 2 Facebook’s 26.0 million.

Top 10 Blogging Sites

Google’s Blogger remained atop blog site rankings with 39.3 million unique visitors, up 40 percent from 28.0 million in May ’07:

nielsen-top-10-blog-sites-may-2008.jpgWordPress was again up — an impressive 170 percent from May ’07 — increasing its unique audience to 17.1 million.

Sixth-place also maintained its impressive growth — 255 percent — from a year earlier, moving up from seventh place in April but still down from its fifth-place ranking in March.

Meanwhile, AOL Sports blog The FanHouse, having burst onto the top 10 scene in March, moved down to the No. 7 position (from No. 5). It had 3.9 million unique visitors in April, compared with nearly 4.4 million in March.

Gawker, at No. 10, increased its UA to 2.0 million from 851,000 a year earlier, a growth of 137 percent.

Study: Social Network Preferences Tied to Ethnicity

July 2, 2008

MediaPost Publications

by Gavin O’Malley, Tuesday, Jun 3, 2008 7:45 AM ET YouTube is having trouble attracting as many female African-American and Hispanic adults as their male counterparts. And MySpace and Facebook are having a tough time appealing to Hispanic females.

These are just two findings from a recent study conducted by Synovate, the market research arm of Aegis Group, exploring the online behavior of U.S. ethnic demographics.

“For many multicultural consumers, Internet usage is about connecting with friends and family, and to keep up on the latest trends and news,” said Denise Marks, Vice President of Diversity Research at Synovate. “As more Hispanics and African-Americans spend time online, marketing efforts should be directed towards building trust among these consumers to help them feel comfortable about online commercial transactions.”

Synovate surveyed a total of 4,000 males and females ages 18 and older across the U.S., including approximately 1,000 “general market” respondents, 1,000 African-Americans and 2,000 Hispanics.

Although younger people across all groups are much more likely to be online, Synovate found major differences, including between males and females of the same age and ethnic group.

While about one in four Hispanics, African-Americans and general market consumers have visited in the past six months, African-American and Hispanic males ages 18-34 were more likely to have visited YouTube than their female counterparts, according to the study.

Among African-Americans, 55% of males and 33% of females visited YouTube, while among Hispanics, 41% of males and 20% of females visited the site. This differs from the general market, for which visiting this Web site was equally popular between males and females in the same age group.

For Hispanics, this gender disparity also appears to extend to social networking sites such as and Hispanic females were significantly less likely than Hispanic males to have visited social networking Web sites recently, with 18% of women and 27% of men claiming to have visited them. This is in sharp contrast to African-American and general market men and women, who were equally as likely to have visited MySpace or Facebook.

The differences in online behavior are especially prevalent with online shopping, Synovate found. Among general market consumers, 57% have made a recent purchase online, while only 42% of African-Americans and one quarter of Hispanics have done the same.

The gap is apparently even larger with eBay visits. Less than three out of ten African-Americans and Hispanics have visited eBay in the past six months, versus 41% of the general market population.

Hispanics also lag behind other groups in adopting online banking, with only 24% claiming to have paid monthly bills online recently compared to 38% of general market consumers and 34% of African-Americans.

While Hispanics overall are less likely to own financial products such as bank accounts and credit cards, their lower use of online banking may also be due to the fact that only 59% of Hispanics have Internet access at home, work, school, or through other means. This is substantially lower than the African-American and general market populations, of which at least 80% have Internet access.

The Fork in the Road for Social Media

July 2, 2008
Written by Bernard Lunn / May 28, 2008 7:37 PM / 44 Comments

Social networking is at a major fork in the road. Down one road is adding more features to a walled garden and opening up just enough, so that users seldom need to leave. Most sites are going down this yellow brick road and the prize is clearly a big one. But they may end up back in Kansas. Down the other road, lies a future of being the primary repository for your connections (aka the social graph), but with this data available via open APIs to anybody who needs it. That is a utility type model, and as with any utility, it can be hugely valuable at scale.

Deciding which path to take is a real decision. A botched choice will likely end in failure, albeit via a long, slow decline.

The problem with the first road is that it relies upon a revenue model that is native to social media. What revenue model works for social media? The assumption is advertising, but CPM comes from traditional mass media and CPC is ideally suited to search. Where is the ad model that is native to social media? At the moment we are force-fitting CPM and CPC into social media for want of anything better.

Some might argue that there is no ad model for social media. We don’t have an ad model for telephones, afterall, and that’s a two-way communication medium like social media. Ominously, we didn’t have an effective ad model for email, which is the earliest form of social media, until Google treated email as just more search fodder for CPC.

If social media is not funded by advertising, it must be funded by subscriptions or transactions. Neither is easy.

Social media is fundamentally different – it is few to few, not one to one like telephone or one to many like traditional media. There is also a fundamental problem for advertisers. We are focused on communicating with each other, not looking at content with some hopefully relatively relevant ads attached. Any advertising in that context is an annoying interruption, unless we learn to tune out the ads so effectively that it becomes useless to advertisers.

The lack of a native ad model is holding back any serious monetization of social networking. All we are seeing today is weak CPM and CPC rates. The overall numbers look OK because the audience is so large and the cost of audience acquisition is so low. But at some stage, social media has to move from the cool technology/promising opportunity phase to a fundamental new business type.

Lets look at a few attempts at a native revenue model for social media:

  • The one idea that clearly failed was getting people to sell to their friends in a glorified Amway scheme – that was called Beacon (some RWW coverage here and here).
  • In tightly controlled professional networking sites such as Sermo (for doctors only), the business model can best be described as “authorized lurking” – pharma companies are authorized to listen in to hear how they might improve their products. That seems a tad murky and I cannot see consumer companies paying to listen to dorm room chat, anyway.
  • Group buying has some possibilities. It at least fits the peer ethos, and it could be popular in a recession. To date, though, this is only a theory as far as I know. If I had to pick one sustainable revenue model, this would be the one. But the spark of innovation that turns this from a promising idea to a $100m plus revenue line is still missing.

What new models have I missed? This Google search for “revenue model for social media” has a number of people asking the question, which is a good start, but if the equivalent of CPC for search is lurking out there, it is very well hidden.

Here is my take on which road the big social networking sites could take:

  1. MySpace could potentially get away with the walled garden approach for a pretty large mainstream market, using music as the fundamental draw and later leading into other arts and entertainment. This makes MySpace less age-dependent than Facebook. Everybody loves music, art and entertainment, from pre-schoolers on up to grandparents. News Corp. is a media company through and through, so this route is in their DNA.
  2. Facebook will have to become a utility for the world or a niche walled garden for college kids. Their DNA is too young to predict which way they will go. Both are viable, but neither will justify a $15 billion valuation, so they won’t make this decision until new management steps in following a crisis. They cannot become a walled garden for the world, because their core community – college kids – will move into the world of work where they have to communicate in the wider world of the Internet. Once they have left college, their only connection to each other is as alumni and that ends up being a relatively weak connection as we grow older (despite what every generation believes when they are at college).
  3. LinkedIn has a shot at becoming a mainstream, but work-centric, walled garden since the working world is constrained enough and follows well-defined conventions. LinkedIn is the network I use regularly and I have written about it before many times. They have now reached the stage where if they offered webmail that was as good as Gmail (and obviously as open as any standard webmail), it could become the default hangout for biz types. “Suits” could gradually stop talking about “living in Outlook” and talk about “living in LinkedIn.” Add in some simple RSS-based startpage-like functionality and LinkedIn would be the place to start and end the workday. Biz people will pay a reasonable subscription fee – say less than $100 a year – for a package like that without any advertising. That is a bit of a stretch from where LinkedIn is today, but fundamentally viable in my opinion.

Clearly, any venture that succeeds in building a mainstream walled garden will become hugely valuable. They will effectively become the Internet for millions, which might even justify a $15 billion type valuation. The problem is that it is a very, very hard road to navigate successfully.

The mass-market utility model could also be hugely valuable at scale. My simplest description of this would be “social graph + communication tools.” The communication tools could be email, SMS, VOIP, poking, walls, vampires, whatever turns people on. The social graph is the spam controller and way to make connections. The obvious players here are the vendors with big email networks – Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft (GYM). This is the background story to all the M&A “sturm und drang.”

The one company that most needs to make this strategic decision – Facebook – is the one that is most constrained by that paper valuation of $15 billion. Neither route – niche walled garden for college kids or mass-market utility going up against GYM – will justify $15 billion. So they have to pretend that mass-market walled garden is viable, even though nobody believes that anymore. That is one nasty dilemma. Do you think Microsoft knew that they were giving Facebook that nasty dilemma when they agreed to a $15 billion valuation? Gates and Ballmer are smart enough, in my humble opinion.

The mass-market utility model will win out in the end for 3 reasons:

  1. The social graph is so closely linked to communications, which has always been a utility model.
  2. The ownership issues around the social graph are murky. A utility skates past that problem, saying “you own, we manage.” AT&T does not own your Rolodex, or insert ads when you are calling Mom because they own your connection to Mom.
  3. The social graph has to be monetized in creative ways and the best way to make that happen is make it available to all the entrepreneurs and established businesses, on clear and simple terms.

The mass-market utility model will work through an API. That sounds similar to what is already out there, but with one big difference. The current APIs are all about getting your apps INTO a walled garden, or two or three walled gardens. The utility API will be about accessing the social graph, getting the social graph OUT of the utility and into your application, for some pre-defined cost. What you do after that is entirely up to you.

Branding beyond borders

July 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

Understand the essence of social media

Social networks such as MySpace and Facebook aren’t a U.S.-only phenomenon; they are being adopted and promoted all around the world. For a savvy brand manager considering leveraging these new platforms, it is crucial to understand the impact of culture on the essence of social networking: communication. Failing to grasp how people interact in different places can lead to catastrophe. This article will explore the global nature of social networking and talk about some constraints imposed by language and culture. Then, by comparing Facebook to other prominent social networking sites around the world, we will discuss how cultural context shapes social networks, and outline a few key tools that can help global brands succeed when considering a campaign on social networks.

Social networks are not just for English speakers
In the beginning, Facebook and MySpace were developed for and delivered to an English-speaking audience. Given that the percentage of English-speaking users on the web hovers around 30 percent, this clearly did not meet needs around the world. As the social networking buzz spread across the globe, entrepreneurs realized that there was profit to be made in creating these applications for other languages. Mixi, a Japanese site, was launched in 2004, and has an IPO valuation of just under $1 billion U.S. dollars. Cyworld, a hugely popular Korean social networking platform, has about 20 million accounts in a country with a population of 50 million — 75 percent of all 18-25-year-olds have an account!

Social networking is a phenomenon that enables brands to engage users in conversations all around the world, and all over the demographic map. There is ample opportunity here, but there is a significant challenge if the enterprise does not carefully consider that a social networking campaign is entirely dependent on its resonance with the end user. It’s much more than foisting a brand message onto every banner ad in reach; it’s about creating space for a dialogue that users will be willing to adopt and sustain. To do this, an intimate understanding of the constraints imposed by language and culture is a key requirement.

Some of these considerations become clear when one compares Facebook, a popular U.S. social networking site, with other similar platforms around the world.  Facebook clones exist all around the world, from Germany to Turkey to Russia to India. Not all of these sites are targeted toward the youth demographic generally associated with social networking. For example, is intended for a much older audience and boasts membership in the hundreds of thousands.

So what?

Clearly, this matters for major global brands and poses important questions. For example, many brands have different voices around the world. Ensuring that they reconcile — and remain consistent — requires thought in any international campaign, regardless of channel.

But should brand stewards concern themselves with territories if their product or service isn’t available? In a nutshell, while it’s not a top priority, it does warrant consideration. Like it or not, the web is a global stage, and people will be looking at your content from all over the world. It’s a great opportunity to expand a brand’s reach and possibly create new channels. Consider that social networks map to cultural boundaries and are not delimited by geographic ones. So a brand with no reach in Asia may still do well with a campaign in Cyworld, if they are seeking to reach an Asian-American demographic; many Korean-American users are found on the Korean site.

Another reason global reach is so important is that brands do not always translate well from one culture to another. Despite its amazing popularity within the Korean market, the U.S. version of Cyworld has been less successful. Extensive primary research, a change in direction toward a younger user base and updates to the visual design to reflect an edgier and more diverse audience, were all intended to ensure adoption in the U.S.

Some argue that it was not well received due to the privacy structure inherent in Cyworld. Based on the “chon,” a Korean concept describing the distance between family members, it can be very tiered or nuanced, and perhaps cumbersome for a U.S. user. Brands that wish to reach out to social networks must understand and embrace the risks inherent in bridging cultural gaps.

Cyworld USA

Cultural context drives demographics

One important thing to understand is precisely who uses social networking sites, as it varies from country to country. The audience on Facebook skews toward a very young audience, with less representation in the older groups. These young adults are on the site to stay in contact with friends, play games and make plans with friends in the area. The advertising tends to be consumer brands oriented toward this demographic set, with very little being offered from the likes of banking or insurance.

Facebook ages from Quantcast

Nasza-Klasa ages from Quantcast

On the other hand, the Nasza-Klasa audience is coming from a very different background. The user distribution, while weighted toward younger kids, is spread out much more evenly than Facebook’s. Accordingly, the site draws interest from slightly more utilitarian brands, such as or financial institutions. There is a whole section of the site devoted to banking offers. Savvy brand managers will not only research the current metrics of the social networking site they are targeting, but will also try to understand where the users are and what is driving them to the application. By understanding who is coming to the site, brands can identify and act on appropriate co-branding or advertising opportunities.

Cultural context impacts churn on social networks

Age distribution can also impact usage statistics on social networking sites over the long term, depending on the culture in question. While performing primary research on social network users in the U.S., it became clear that younger users were happy on a platform until “uncool” family members showed up. Siblings were a deal breaker, and heaven forbid Mom gets an account. One user commented, “My little sister got onto MySpace, and I went to Facebook. Once she gets onto Facebook, I’ll go somewhere else.”

To a large part of this audience, Facebook is perceived as a means to communicate with friends, not family. This serves as a warning for ongoing churn within the social network as new people join and others leave as a result. In Poland, however, the culture is more family-oriented, and Nasza-Klasa provides a mechanism to support this. Users of all ages actively communicate, share photos and stay engaged with one another. While there are plenty of factors that drive churn within a social network, having the embarrassing Mom show up is much less likely to drive it in Poland. The best way to predict what is going to happen, and how to leverage nascent opportunities, is to perform in-depth ethnographic research, to understand how the culture embraces technology and what aspects of a given society might drive churn or other adverse behaviors.


Another factor that drives churn is the number of friends that one has on a network. Until friend lists are portable, using a platform like open social, it’s very tough to change from one platform to another, unless everyone makes a mass migration. This is a risk for a longer-term strategy involving outreach to a social networking platform in the U.S. In the next few years, who knows which system will be the most popular one?

Identifying other social networking platforms in a given linguistic or cultural space is very important as it will help round out any go-to market strategies. Interestingly, it is not always so straightforward to predict how many platforms a given linguistic group would have. For example, although the total population of Turkish speakers is relatively small, there are still more than four Facebook clones in operation. One network, Yonja, launched in 2003, claims up to a billion page views per month and nearly 5 million members.


Driven by functionality and social context

Essentially, social networks all do the same thing — help people stay in touch with each other. This is driven, in part, by what the network allows its users to do. However, it also depends on the larger cultural context. What is driving people to remain in touch? What aspects of their lives do they wish to share?

Facebook users perform a variety of tasks on the site, including posting photos, emailing friends, associating themselves with brands and arranging for parties and events. The Nasza-Klasa site provides a subset of this functionality, but for different reasons. A substantially higher percentage of the Polish user population is expatriate, living all around the world. These people are seeking out old friends from as far back as elementary school, to catch up and see where they are now. By recognizing the larger context, brand managers can understand how to best engage each specific audience in a relevant dialogue and provide tools to encourage conversations.

Different applications, tools, user needs

Ultimately, it’s the social networking application that determines how sophisticated a campaign can be. Facebook provides ample tools for advertisers to create and run their own campaigns, on a self-serve basis. More than just the ability to create a static page, brand managers can also research demographics and target very specific audiences. Despite this great entry point for brands aspiring for social networking greatness, it’s crucial to remember one key cultural point.

Nasza-Klasa does not have this level of sophistication, and advertising is not as heavily integrated into the user experience. Brands cannot create group or fan pages, and the advertising is placed in traditional locations. There are, however, some fun, contextually relevant banners for the visiting user. For example, Olay presents one return user with an ad asking her by name if she would like to be the youngest looking one from her class. Note that Nasza-Klasa has also allowed Olay to set the background image on the user’s profile page, something that Facebook would not allow. The best bet is to spend time on the network, looking at the feature set, and trying to observe what tools are used, and how. This should provide insight into how to best reach the consumer and stimulate interaction.


All around the world, users are logging on to social networks, and talking with their friends. It can be a great opportunity for a brand to propagate a message virally, reaching out to multiple audiences through well-planned campaigns. There are risks, though. While all social networks are founded on the same basic principles, the cultural and linguistic contexts in which they operate will impact a number of important factors. Why users visit a social network will differ based on their social background and sets context for which brands might be expected. Demographic bases will differ from place to place, which in turn can affect churn.

Finally, platforms in different places will provide for different levels of interaction with the audience. Ultimately, there are plenty of places around the world where a brand might consider dabbling in social networking. Before a brand reaches into a new space, however, it is critical to consider who is on the site, what they are using it for and how to best empower a dialogue that is relevant, positive and authentic.

Boomers More Traditional Online – Not into Blogs, Social Networking

June 10, 2008

People over age 40 participate heavily in word-of-mouth and value personal recommendations and expert opinions, but they have not embraced social networking or blogs despite being heavy users of other online services, according to a ThirdAge/JWT Boom study, writes MarketingCharts.

Below, some findings from the study, which surveyed 1,800 boomers:

Social Networking, Their Own Way

Boomers want to connect and interact with others in their communities around shared interests and common issues, but they use more traditional web communications tools, such as email, to keep in touch. For example (see chart):

* 96 percent use email
* 92 percent stay in touch with family/friends
* 84 percent receive photos of family/friends

Asked whether they visited any sites to connect and engage with others – i.e., social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) – or might in the future…

* 53 percent said no
* 22 percent said yes
* 26 percent said that they did not but might.

Among the 53 percent who said they had not visited such sites:

* 47 percent cited concerns over privacy and having personal information on the web
* 39 percent said they are too busy
* 32 percent said they do not see the benefit of spending time social networking.

Boomers also expressed “little or no interest” in the following activities (see chart):

* 67 percent Writing blogs
* 63 percent Participating in general social networking
* 62 percent Playing games with others
* 55 percent Listening to podcasts/prerecorded audio content
* 44 percent Downloading music

Embracing Online Marketing… Selectively

Boomers participate in trusted online communities and share opinions about brands. They’re also open to traditional marketing and e-marketing, as long as the message is coming from a source or brand they know and trust.

* 75 percent who have received promotional emails about products and services have clicked through to the site being promoted.
* More than 55 percent have purchased a product or service promoted in an email.
* 93 percent of respondents who have read an article about a website in print (newspaper or magazine) have later visited the site online.

Cautious Trust of Websites

Respondents were most likely to trust a website’s content if the site corresponded to a trusted brand or featured credible expertise.

* 83 percent reported the content needed to be attributed to experts, authors or authorities with subject-matter credibility
* 66 percent said they trust sites whose content is sponsored by a company they know and trust
* 62 percent said they would trust a site if they had been going to it for a long time and came to trust its brand

Other Survey Findings:

* Boomers participate in viral or word-of-mouth marketing as much as or more than younger age groups. 93 percent of respondents were very or somewhat likely to share product information or news with friends
* 80 percent of respondents use a broadband connection at home.

Boomers alone account for 78 million people in the U.S. and control more than 83 percent of consumer spending. Some 40 percent of the U.S. population is over 45, with 50 percent market growth projected in the next 15 years. Boomer spending is expected to surpass $4.6 trillion by 2015.

Welcome to the Weekend Web

May 31, 2008

Business Week

There’s only one Web. At least that’s been the standard response in many tech circles to the emergence of the wireless Web. The point? No matter how you get online, be it by PC or smartphone, you’ll still do the same things on the Web, using roughly the same sites and services. Really?

David Witkowski missed that memo. Witkowski, an executive at a Silicon Valley startup, behaves very differently when he uses the Web on a PC compared with when he’s surfing via cell phone. From the office computer, “I pretty much live on Google,” Witkowski says. But from his Research In Motion (RIMM) BlackBerry, the amateur radio enthusiast spends a lot of time searching for gadgets for sale on Craigslist, especially when he travels and on weekends. He also checks local weather forecasts and airline schedules.

Welcome to the weekend Web, where people are spending a bigger slice of time online via wireless devices—and using a different set of sites than during the workweek. “At Google, we see the majority of our desktop traffic [in the U.S.] during weekdays,” says Matt Waddell, chief of staff for Google (GOOG) Mobile. “On mobile, the situation is completely reversed.” Mobile browsing surged 89% in the past year, with mobile page views increasing by 127%, according to researcher M:Metrics. The increase reflects growing availability of all-you-can eat data plans and increasingly sophisticated handheld devices such as the Apple (AAPL) iPhone.

On Saturday, Classifieds Rule

Of course, most Web surfing still happens via PC, but M:Metrics’ research shows that when it occurs by way of mobile, much of it takes place on the weekend. The number of unique visitors to the mobile Web spikes on Saturdays, according to March figures compiled by M:Metrics. The number surged to 4.17 million on Saturdays, an 8% increase from Fridays and 4% more than on the next busiest day, Monday, according to the study, which tracked behavior by 1,861 U.S. smartphone owners.

And like Witkowski, lots of U.S. cell phone users flock to a different set of sites via handheld. Many swarm Craigslist, the local classified ad site. In March, users spent more time on Craigslist than on any other site. “Very few Web sites are inherently local; ours is the exception,” says Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster. When it comes to sites visited from a PC, Yahoo! (YHOO) properties hold the No. 1 spot, while Craigslist is way down in ninth place, according to researcher comScore Media Metrix.

Electronic commerce site eBay (EBAY) is No. 2 in time spent on mobile, while it’s only No. 8 on the PC Web, according to M:Metrics and comScore. The Weather Channel gets the fourth-highest number of unique visits on the mobile Web, according to Nielsen Mobile, but it’s way down the rankings at No. 26 on the PC Web, according to Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa traffic monitoring service. Map provider MapQuest, owned by AOL, is the eighth-most visited mobile site, according to Neilsen, but ranks 35 on the PC Web, according to Alexa.

“Personal Concierge”

During the week, Americans run Google and Yahoo searches at work and compose blogs on MySpace and Facebook. The PC Web’s fastest-growing site categories include pharmacies, food, cosmetics, and job search, according to comScore. During weekends, we fire up our smartphones for fun. The fastest-growing mobile-Web categories relate to weather, entertainment, games, and music, according to comScore.

The weekend Web may grab more widespread use in the coming months. Nokia (NOK), Motorola (MOT), and RIM all are due to release new devices equipped with browsers this year, and Apple is expected to introduce an updated iPhone capable of faster download speeds later this year.

Carriers are also striking deals that give users access to specific sites more easily. A service from British carrier 3 lets users log on to eBay via smartphones for free, while other sites still come with related fees. “We are getting signs that more carriers are moving in this direction,” says Max Mancini, senior director of Platform & Disruptive Innovation at eBay.

To make mobile Web surfing more convenient, companies like Microsoft (MSFT) are integrating speech capabilities into everything from mobile search to calendaring. “It’s almost like having a personal concierge,” says Brian Arbogast, corporate vice-president for mobile services at Microsoft.

Capitalizing on Differences

In the future, mobile and PC Web use could diverge even more. EBay is experimenting with using a phone’s camera and location capabilities to introduce new ways of shopping. People may be able to take a photo of a product’s bar code in a brick-and-mortar store, and look up comparable prices on eBay from their phone. “I look at this as, ‘What can we do to extend mobile commerce and what we do currently on eBay?'” Mancini says. Mobile technology was originally viewed as a way to extend the PC Web, he says, but now “there’s an opportunity to do things that are unique.”

Marketers are already taking note of the differences between consumers’ behavior on the mobile Web vs. a PC. According to a recent report by Juniper Research, retailers will send as many as 3 billion mobile coupons to wireless phone users by 2011 (, 5/6/08), resulting in $7 billion in discounts redeemed. Already, advertisers in some regions can use Global Positioning System technology to send coupons and other marketing messages tailored to a cell-phone user’s specific location. “We really believe the mobile consumer will make more purchasing [decisions] in the offline environment than on the mobile Web,” says Michael Bayle, treasurer for the Mobile Marketing Assn.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt seems to concur. In a recent interview published on F.A.Z. Electronic Media, Schmidt said that “mobile will be a larger business than the PC Web.” Google will get plenty of competition from other companies eager to generate sales from wider use of mobile Web access. “I think it’s possible for us to become the No. 1 site on mobile,” says Jed Stremel, director of mobile at social network Facebook.

Worldwide Social Network Market Share

May 31, 2008

O’Reilly Rader


Via Azeem Azaar’s twitter feed, a great visualization of worldwide social network market share, from Le Monde:

map of worldwide social network market share

He Said, She Said In Google v. Facebook

May 31, 2008

Tech Crunch

More details on Facebook’s banning of Google Friend Connect from the Facebook API earlier today. I spoke with Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly and Google’s Director of Engineering David Glazer about the banning to get a fuller picture of the conflict.

Here’s an example of how Friend Connect (more details) works in practice. A third party site may want to add social elements to their service. They can integrate with Friend connect and allow users to sign in. Those users choose a social network where they keep their profile (Orkut, Hi5, GTalk and, until today, Facebook) and log in via the social network’s API. They then become “members” of the site, using Google’s terminology. If any of their friends from their social network also become members of that site, those friends are shown on the site and you can interact with them. To see it for yourself, click “log in” at the top of this sample site, IngridMichaelson.

Kelly says the issue comes down to the fact that Google Friend Connect users don’t have control over data pulled from Facebook. In particular, Facebook is concerned that they have no relationship to the end site where the data is presented (in the example above, IngridMichaelson). Instead, Google has inserted itself as a middleman in the process.

Also, Kelly says, once permission is granted to share data, the user has no way to revoke that permission from their Facebook account. Facebook has a privacy control panel that lets users set and change privacy setting over time, including the removal of applications. With Google in the middle, Facebook has no way to stop the flow of data to these third parties.

Google’s Glazer counters that they have a very effective method for unlinking to a site that a user has given permission to, so users will be just fine. In the screen shot below, Google gives an option to “Unlink” the specific social network from the site (on right) or change the data that’s shared from the social network (on left). Kelly is correct that you can’t trigger the unsubscribe from, but Glazer says that’s because Facebook’s API has no way of telling Facebook about the third party site the data has been passed off to.

Glazer says that they have been in “constant contact” with Facebook over the Friend Connect product, and are still trying to work with Facebook to get access to the API again. But Facebook has their own competing product to Friend Connect, called Facebook Connect. The longer the ban, made under the banner of protecting user privacy, remains in place, the stronger Facebook’s position will be competitively. My guess is they’re in no hurry to get through this conflict any time soon.

The fact is that Google is taking perfectly adequate steps to protect user privacy with their Friend Connect product, and it is a useful product for users. After talking with both sides, it seems to me that Facebook is relying on a very convenient catch-22 to stay out of Google’s network. They are the ones in control of their own API functionality, and they could add features that fix this problem. Until they do, there’s nothing Google can do to remedy the “problem,” and the walls around the Facebook garden get ever higher.

Mobile Social Networking Gains Momentum

May 31, 2008

Marketing VOX

A growing number of global mobile phone users are accessing social networks over the mobile internet, according to research from Nielsen Mobilevia MarketingCharts.

In the US, over 4 million do so each month, Nielsen said. That’s 1.6 percent of all US mobile subscribers.

The UK leads Europe with 812,000 – or 1.7 percent of UK mobile subscribers – who visited social networking websites on their mobile phones per month in the first quarter of 2008.

That 1.7 percent reach was twice as much as other major European markets’:


Other findings issued by Nielsen:

  • In the US,, the leading social networking site among PC users, is also the most popular mobile internet social networking site. The site logged 2.8 million unique mobile users in December 2007.
  • Also in December, Facebook, which has the second-largest audience among social networking sites, had 1.8 million unique mobile users.
  • In contrast, Facebook led mobile social networking sites in the UK with 557,000 unique mobile users per month in 1Q08, while MySpace followed with 211,000 unique mobile users.
  • While Facebook and were also among the top social networking sites in other European countries during the first quarter of 2008, MSN’s Windows Live Spaces led in Italy (154,000 unique mobile users per month) and France (106,000), and ranked second in Germany (45,000).

“Social networking is already a global phenomenon, and going mobile is the next big thing,” said Jeff Herrmann, vice-president of Mobile Media at Nielsen Mobile. “In the UK and the US especially, we already see millions of users of, Facebook and other social networks interacting with their virtual spaces while they’re on the go.”

“Consumer demand for mobile social networking may be a significant driver of mobile service pricing models, as evidenced by Vodafone UK’s recent move to offer unlimited internet access as a standard feature of its new monthly mobile price plans,” he added.