Connecting the dots

A couple of weeks ago, Yahoo! has come out with a new bunch of social features in the Yahoo! Mail interface. These features make the inbox interface a real dashboard, useful to see and manage "connections" with friends.
In other words Yahoo! Mail is not just a mail application anymore: it's a real aggregator that shows the user's lifestream, reporting updates from all the friends who authorized Yahoo! for social updates.

Aggregate

Another step towards connections and aggregations. Media are giving the user tools to connect their personal brands with each other's and with traditional brands. The connections are built up with the model "Aggregate when listening and target directly when speaking".



Stephen Shankland wrote an interesting post about Yahoo! Mail evolution: "Yahoo puts meat on Open Strategy bones".

This reminds me a lot of the new Bebo interface, which embeds social features and allows users to see everything happening in their circle of friends and connections.

Target

Also, there's more detail on the other side of this trend: targeting. Allowing users to surf niche social network is becoming easier and easier everyday.

Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect and MySpaceID are technology with different characteristics, but they all allow the users to log-in with their detail in applications outside general social networks, also in niche social networks.
Here's how the three technologies can be used
  • Google Friend Connect > Reach the largest number of users

  • Facebook Connect > Get new visitors (FB Connect allows to share the user's action on the user's friends walls

  • MySpaceID > Reach a lot of MySpace users (this technology is useful to reach a quite precise target)



If you want to know more about Web registrations vs aim, take a look at David Berkowitz article on AdAge: "Facebook, Google and MySpace Represent the Future of Web Registrations"

Connect the dots


Following the trend of the last six months it really makes a lot of sense to me to think back and "connect the dots". The picture that comes out looks a lot like a worldwide distributed aggregator that allows user to keep up with their digital (not only social) life and the forming of a universal key to access virtually anything on-line (not only social).

When you connect the dots of the last 6 months, what picture do you see? What's the most relevant trend in digital media in your opinion?

Colleen's Giraffe connect-the-dots tattoo

Happy holidays everyone

"So make yourselves jolly under mistletoe, holly and ivy.
Get to it - and be in good cheer."

Internet = People: being a human and personal brands.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "human" and "people" on-line.
Very likely it's because the environment I live in has been influencing me a lot, but maybe because - when you start thinking about it - you see a pattern of "humanity" in everything you look at in the digital world.

The web has always been made by people for the people. What's changing is the internet becomes more relational everyday. Everything starts from a human being and ends up with a human being. It looks quite simple, but sometimes we (everyone who interacts with the internet) forget about it.

Companies, marketers and on-line communicators are more successful as much as they target their communication and do not leave it undefined or general.

I ended up a post some days ago (about aggregating and targeting) writing that brands can reach their target through other people's personal brands.

Geek Pride
Cobranding: Apple + Personal brand

This happens because the web is becoming more and more relational and based on human interactions (humans acting with each other, not just passively seeing). This changes the balance of power. People get more importance (growing their personal brands) and brands need to get nearer to personal brands and interact with them everyday to be believable and listened to.

Brands want to partner (co-brand) with people's personal brands, to transfer their values, contents and products to other people just as much as people (and their personal brands) want to partner (co-brand) with traditional brands when they spread interesting content or represent interesting values or sell interesting products.

In this scenario, brand values and brand platforms become crucial since users are not just interactive: they're builing real relationships. With other users (personal brands) and with other brands (in the traditional definition).

Coming back to what I wrote at the beginning of the post, the environment is influencing me, since lately I've been able to read a lot about the importance of relating to a human. Here's a little collection about the importance of being human in the last 10 days. I suggest you to read these post, since they're illuminating.

Come and see...

A couple of lines about a really interesting initiative I've seen some days ago: Mini Germany realized an advertising print page that - if put in front of a webcam when connecting to www.mini.de/webcam - allows the user to see a 3D version of the product.

Really interesting because even if the technology is not totally new, it represents a very good example of tactic to drive the user to web.

Off-line is everyday more just an entry point to reach the on-line content. The startup is analog, the full experience is digital. Sometimes also the purchase is.

It's just a symbol of change, but still interesting to see, enjoy.


Aggregate and target: what happens lately...

Just a few days ago, Bebo - the social network bought by AOL on March 2008 - announced a major restyling of the user interface, launching the so-called "Social Inbox", but more importantly a set of new features that will be released soon that will help the user combining "e-mail, social networking and media recommendation in one easy-to-use interface".

Also, a few Days Ago a new good example of "user-targeted" Social Media activity: the launch of "The Dark Knight" widget website.

Here it comes again to Aggregation while listening and Targeting while speaking:

Aggregation (listening)

Bebo: The interface review is not really radical, but it focuses on integration - aggregation - of content from other sources.

Here it all gets back to the idea of "listening" in one place, aggregating content from many sources that I wrote about in a post about aggregators and in one about vertical social networks (in this you'll also find very interesting comments from Nicola Rovetta and Russel Unger).

But what really impressed me is the future strategy announced by Bebo: the social network wants to be positioned as a unique and single hub for all the important communication flow the user is interested in. Not just plain aggregation as it could be on FriendFeed, Ping.fm or Power.com: it's a lot more like integration, since the user will be able to see most of the content directly inside Bebo.

Next Bebo features:

  • Social Feed Aggregation (photo uploads, status updates and on-line activities from Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, AIM and Del.icio.us)
  • E-mail aggregation (from more than one client, including AOL AIM Mail, Yahoo! Mail and Gmail)
  • Media Favorites (features the "most relevant online entertainment" in one place based on the user's stated preferences and aggregated data from the user and from friends)

Old Bebo Interface


New Bebo Interface

This is not just Bebo's (and AOL's) move forward in the Social Networking World, but it's a sign of the evolution to hyper-aggregation that - today - has become so precise and particular that can also include micro-interactions.

Targeting (speaking)

In a previous post, I wrote about how users like to write (/speak) in particular / direct situations, using vertical or specific social networks. This means users like to aggregate when reading, while they like to target precisely when writing.

Brands are starting to leverage on this to target their own consumers. This happens mostly when there's a lot of engagement or engaging content.

  • Step 1: the brand produces a "piece of content" that's so interesting or attractive to make the user want to personalize it by adding custom content.
  • Step 2: the user spreads branded / personalized content to his peers and friends.
  • Step 3: peers and friends start the process again from step 1

This process applies to very many types of users: speaking in terms of Forrester's Social Technographics, not only Creators, but also Critics, Collectors, Joiners and sometimes (when the interaction is very simple) Spectators.


Example: the evergreen Elf Yourself (Now improved and still on-line) and The Dark Knight website for the DVD launch, which contains lots of perosnalizable widgets and contents that users will spread).


Most advanced brands are now targeting their consumers through other users' personal brand.
This generates a sort of social co-branding where traditional brands partner with personal brands to reach the end consumer.


Listen to everyone, speak to a few: Aggregators and Vertical Social Networks

Everyday a new Aggregator comes into the headlines: web or desktop applications that let the user view lots of content form different sources grouped in one single container (e.g. a web page) like FriendFeed, Ping.fm, PeopleBrowsr, Twhirl and the newly launched Brazilian Power.com.

Also, everyday, a new niche / vertical Social Network is born, as I wrote a few days ago (about this theme I also had an interesting comment from Russ Unger, who contributed to inspire this post).

It seems we have two definite directions:

  • Aggregation: All the contents are getting aggregated for easier consultation
  • Specific targeting: Users are more and more willing to target their communication and communicate with specific targets inside dedicated (vertical / niche) networks

So here comes the question of my last post: what's next? Aggregation or specific targeting?

None of them and both.

Probably tomorrow (which means short-term tomorrow: within 2 months maybe) people will use aggregators when they "listen" to the communities they're connected to and vertical or specific social networks to precisely target their communication when they "speak".

Listen to everyone, speak to a few: Aggregators and Vertical Social Networks

The new trend of social graphs goes in this direction: exchanging trusted authentication, managing real identities and connecting with friends from various Social Networks allows to interact actively with peers inside the user's network, aggregating all the instance in one. A good post about aggregating vs. federating allows helps understanding this situation a little better.


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