Social Media Catalyst

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Web Influence

Social-Network Users’ data at risk:

Researchers find a way to identify individuals in supposedly anonymous social-network data. One way for social networks to make money is by sharing information about users with advertisers and others who are interested in understanding consumer behavior and exploiting online trends.

Social networks typically promise to remove “personally identifying information” before sharing this data, to protect users’ privacy. But researchers has found that, combined with readily available data from other online sources, this anonymized data can still reveal sensitive information about users.

In tests involving the photo-sharing site Flickr and the microblogging service Twitter, the researchers were able to identify a third of the users with accounts on both sites simply by searching for recognizable patterns in anonymized network data. Both Twitter and Flickr display user information publicly, so the researchers anonymized much of the data in order to test their algorithms.

The researchers wanted to see if they could extract sensitive information about individuals using just the connections between users, even if almost all of the names, addresses, and other forms of personally identifying information had been removed. They found that they could, provided they could compare these patterns with those from another social-network graph where some user information was accessible.

Data from social networks–particularly the pattern of friendship between users–can be valuable to advertisers. Most social networks plan to make money by sharing this information, while advertisers hope to employ it to find a particularly influential user and target her with advertising to reach her network of friends, for example.

The researchers say that it is fairly easy to find non anonymous social-network data: the connections between friends in many networks, such as Twitter, are made public by default.

In & Out of Linkedin:

LinkedIn is the most professional looking of all the social networking service. It is very oriented toward your professional network and not your broader personal network. In fact, unlike almost all the other sites, LinkedIn doesn’t allow for you to add a photo your personal page. The “connections” are not called friends here.

LinkedIn has a very good resume engine. Basically you put in all of your recent job history, with dates, and the software displays it in a form that looks a lot like a resume. This is the only social networking service that lets you have multiple current professional affiliations, which for me is important. Unfortunately, this site does not allow you to easily list your non-professional affiliations, nor does it allow for you to separate job-type affiliations with lesser type affiliations like ‘investor’, ‘member of professional association’, etc.

An important strength and weakness to LinkedIn is that it is much more protective of your privacy. You can’t add anyone to your network unless you know their name and email address, or you have to get a referral from someone who is already your friend. This makes this service much more professional respectable then the other social networking services, which are more casual. For busy and well connected people, this is very important.

I’ve only recently joined LinkedIn, so I haven’t had a chance to use its requests feature yet, but in at least the area of Venture Capital, it seems quite powerful. When I searched on this I got over 500 people that were somehow connected to my social network that I might be able to ask a friend for an introduction.

The biggest weakness of this site is that it tries to be completely self-contained. It doesn’t let you list your website, blogs, or give out your personal information selectively like Ryse does. The only external information that it allows you to share is your email address and that only to friends.

Devils advocate: Networking Sites be banned?

When asked this question, many people cite identity theft, social isolation, pornography and infidelity. In order to determine if these are valid points, each of these issues must be considered.
Why Parents Think Social Networking Sites should be banned

Many parents dislike social networking because they believe that sites such as MySpace and Facebook attract child predators. Others believe that cyber-bullying takes place on these sites. Still others feel that social networks distract a child from his or her school work. Will a child not be distracted in the playground? Are there no predators on the streets? These do not seem to be good reasons to ban social networking for everyone. It’s best to talk with your child about the dangers of online social networking.

The book titled Snow Crash was published in 1992 describes a futuristic society where most social interaction takes place on something known as the Metaverse. They make use of avatars, which are essentially the equivalent of today’s Internet “user names.” The avatars interact with each other in a space that is a three-dimensional representation of the real world.

Many people see Snow Crash as a book that accurately predicted the modern Internet or social network. While some see this as a good thing, others do not. In Snow Crash, the characters only had minimal face to face interaction. Most of their communication occurred in the Metaverse.

Social Networking and Social Isolation

Pros and cons of social networking involve the lack of integration with society was one of the major causes of suicide. Spending too much time on the Internet can create a dangerous sense of isolation.

Some psychologists believe that the damage goes beyond mere isolation. Apparently, some people become very addicted to online gambling, and still others to Internet pornography. However, might that same person become addicted to gambling or pornography in the so called “real world” anyway?

The more hours a person spent in cyberspace, the less time he spends in phone conversations, spending time with family and enjoying other essential social events.

Can you trust a cyber friend?

Perhaps it’s the sense of isolation that causes people to believe that social networking sites should be banned. On the other hand, people may be objecting to the false sense of being connected, which characterizes memberships to some social network sites. After all, do you really have friends if they are only in cyberspace? On the other hand, who is to judge whether or not a cyber-friend is a “real friend.
On the Internet, nobody knows who you are unless you have met them atleast once. It is one of the most common reasons why some people started believing that social networking sites should be banned. True, it’s quite easy to impersonate someone else on the web. Nonetheless, one need not be online in order to have an identity stolen, and there have been plenty of incidents involving people giving false or exaggerated identities in meetings at bars and clubs.

So what is the final conclusion? To be banned or not?

Banning social network sites would be the equivalent of burning books. Social networks may have their problems, but none are so bad that they warrant banning.

Social media usage through mobiles:

Mobile phones have become the ubiquitous gadget which is like a shadow with all of us. As techno logy is improving and we are going from 3G to 4G especially in the developed world, mobile are increasingly used for social networking.

Recently, Advertising Age reported on the 400% surge in mobile video uploads to YouTube, attributed to the new iPhone 3GS. Beyond the implications of what that may mean for the value of ad inventory on YouTube, one thing is apparent: There is an inseparable link between social media and mobile devices.

As the capabilities of these devices expand, we can expect that updating social-network sites via mobile will continue to increase and may eventually even surpass the wired web. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are remarkably dependent on mobile access for the value they provide to their users. Many may also argue that mobile status updates are, by their very nature, timelier, more relevant and potentially more interesting to their readers.

Every major social network offers its users a range of mobile services, from mobile web access to downloadable mobile applications. Although consumers with high-end devices may be the primary users of these mobile services, some social networks also offer a number of SMS-driven features that allow consumers to stay engaged by text, even on low-end mobile phones. This represents a big opportunity for brands to maximize their efforts and move consumers easily between their mobile and social media experiences.

While social media campaigns are becoming more common, we often see that when agencies and brands begin their engagement with social networks, they act as if their entire audience is on a computer — the mobile aspects of social media are frequently neglected. And the reverse can also be said about many brands’ initial mobile marketing efforts: They often neglect to effectively integrate the power of mobile social-media elements (even when these elements already exist) to further engage consumers and fans of the brand.

A new social media aggregator:

Looking Glass, the social media aggregator from Microsoft was opened up for beta testing in January 2009. The Windows team and put in place a load-balancing plan, meant to control the number of downloads that could happen at a time so the system wouldn’t crash, and opened up the beta-testing download period on a Friday at 9 a.m. By 9:30 a.m. a popular tech blogger had posted a way to bypass the load-balancing system and the operating system crashed under the weight.

Tweeting to the angst-ridden:

By monitoring the conversation we realized because we said there would be limited downloads, it created this angst said a Microsoft member working on the same. Microsoft reached out to the angst-ridden beta testers, asking them to watch its Twitter feed, and by Saturday morning it had alerted them the system was back up. Within 30 minutes it got another tweet — that that downloads wasn’t compatible with a certain browser. From Looking Glass team used the tweet to file a high-priority bug and it was fixed within the hour.

While the tool is meant to be open and work with a variety for third-party social-media vendors and platforms, it’s still meant to tie into and drive sales for Microsoft’s Enterprise Group, meaning that its use could be limited for companies that don’t use a suite of Microsoft products. It purposely built something that requires multiple Microsoft teams — ad sales and enterprise sales — to do. It seems the only way for Microsoft to win this youthful battle.

It also gives Microsoft ad sales reps something more to talk about than banner and search ads.

Microsoft wants to change the expectation advertisers have of Microsoft. Microsoft can do more than sell you advertising. It can help your business problems – it is a bunch of geeks, let’s see what the geeks can do.

Metrics (Measures) in social network analysis (Part 2)

Individual-level Density
The degree a respondent’s ties know one another/ proportion of ties among an individual’s nominees. Network or global-level density is the proportion of ties in a network relative to the total number possible (sparse versus dense networks).

Flow betweenness centrality
The degree that a node contributes to sum of maximum flow between all pairs of nodes (not that node).

Eigenvector centrality
A measure of the importance of a node in a network. It assigns relative scores to all nodes in the network based on the principle that connections to nodes having a high score contribute more to the score of the node in question.

Local Bridge
An edge is a local bridge if its endpoints share no common neighbors. Unlike a bridge, a local bridge is contained in a cycle.

Path Length
The distances between pairs of nodes in the network. Average path-length is the average of these distances between all pairs of nodes.

Prestige
In a directed graph prestige is the term used to describe a node’s centrality. “Degree Prestige”, “Proximity Prestige”, and “Status Prestige” are all measures of Prestige.

Radiality
Degree an individual’s network reaches out into the network and provides novel information and influence.

Reach
The degree any member of a network can reach other members of the network.
Structural cohesion. The minimum number of members who, if removed from a group, would disconnect the group.

Structural equivalence
Refers to the extent to which nodes have a common set of linkages to other nodes in the system. The nodes don’t need to have any ties to each other to be structurally equivalent.
Structural hole Static holes that can be strategically filled by connecting one or more links to link together other points. Linked to ideas of social capital: if you link to two people who are not linked you can control their communication.

Social Media Strategies for corporates: (Part 1)

Evolution of social media:

2006 was about “What is social media” and “Why does it matter”. Business blogging, flogs, podcasting and second life were the hot topics.
2007 is about “How do I deploy social media”. Companies will start to integrate Social Media up and down and side to side in the organization, both externally as well as internally.
2008 was about how I get in touch with my customers directly for feedback and help in innovations.
2009 was about using social mass media like facebook, Orkut, twitter into the fold.

Social Media (Blogs, Forums, Wikis, Podcasts, Video blogs and other tools) are appearing in every industry.

Below are some strategies for 2010:

1) Social Media is about people. Customers and Prospects and Partners are connecting, sharing and growing with each other, never forget this. Do it authentically, openly, and knowing the world is watching. Prospects trust consumers more than you, now they are talking to each other using Social Media tools.

2) Communities are the goal, conversations are the verb. Social Media can be used to reach and connect with customers, you can participate in communities. Obvious outputs of this community are the digital and real life conversations that will manifest. You can read, join, and even measure those conversations, this is your currency.

3) Let go to gain more. The participants of these tools are in charge; typically customers are using these tools long before corporate types do. Thereby, you must participate to be in charge. The more a corporation controls the less effective this will be.

4) Measurement will be important. It will be important to measure the interaction between people. Such terms such as Engagement, Participation, and Attention are rising. Qualitative responses that happen are what is important, not page views or downloads. Teach executives that Web Marketing has left the corporate .com site and has now spread globally and to small islands of conversations.

5) Organize internally. As much focus on internal communication about community should empower a fast, coordinated response. Some employees will be more passionate about one area over others, reward them, and support them.

Organizational integration is one of the key challenges faced by the social media industry:

Here are the important points in this issue:

1. An organization has to understand the importance of social media and transparency for the future of your company/organization
2. An organization needs tools to make it easy for customers and prospects to participate (product reviews, service reviews, ideas, enhancement requests, online catalogs and other tools need to embed social media)
3. An organization needs the ability take action by routing and assigning the feedback to be acted on by R&D, Marketing, and Product Management.

I see two issues with why social media isn’t being utilized to its full potential.

1. Agencies shy away because they were unsuccessful with their one off attempt

2. In an organization, there is an lack of ownership of the content. Does the media team take ownership? Does the PR team write the content? Should the creative be in charge of what is going out the door? Or is it the account managers?

The real answer is all of them. Instead of having a social media team that is in charge of content, you need a social media point person who is able to provide that structure and dole out who does what across an agency while giving support/guidance.

Organizations need to understand SM and develop a specific strategy to fit their organization exactly where it is in its understanding. Trying to move the earth by re-engineering will result in failure. A good strategy will understand that prove out a step-wise, scalable solution that will allow for progression.

Can you really energize your customers if you’re not listening to them first?

What I think is interesting is that:

1. There are companies that have deployed social media and gotten amazing results (ie. reduce operating costs and increases in revenue. But the media keeps saying that there isn’t that much success yet.

2. Perhaps the nay sayers keep focusing on where social media got its starts- Marketing and PR, both of which are harder to measure than say, Customer Service.

3. Most Chief Marketing Officer’s , CEO’s and other executives who have seen the results that can be produced in customer service social media initiatives feel that while social media is important to Marketing, PR and Advertising, the real transformation of business comes from deploying a customer service social media initiative. That’s because that’s where customers complain and where customer’s product and service issues get handled and when companies take that voice of the customer information back into the organization.

Strategy initiation for social network:

If we’re going to put a social media strategy into place, we need to align the path we are going to take, and develop it with an understanding of how to reach our goals. Where are we going? How are we going to get there? How do we know we’ve arrived? Let us start in on the “how.”

Listening: Implement at least an elementary listening platform. Understanding can be bettered by listening to the talk of the customer from where we can derive the actual need or the want. This is the most difficult part since people have to be coaxed into talking about the grievances.

Communications: build a starting place to hold your conversations i.e. a Blog or a forum. This gives free avenues for customers to talk about the product or service.

Methods: Determine the mix of content you intend to create, and build workflow around it. Whether it is a youngsters product or a middle aged persons product or a old mans product. The chances for a product sales increasing if it’s a young persons product is high since majority if youngsters use social networks. Also if it is a need or a want or a luxury.

Community: Most social media strategies have to address community and how you will embrace the people you seek to gather around your business. community building is essential since it increases the chances of product centric talk which can spread with each passing day.

Neighbours: Develop a plan to reach out to others in your community. Increasing your fan and loyalist base is critical for success.

Outposts: Develop social network outposts where you can communicate with other communities

Marketplace: If your strategy involves making money, build a marketplace external to your community. Keep these separate. Building awareness and selling through brick-and-mortar store is one thing and actually selling through internet is a different story altogether.

Attention: Learn how to build awareness and encourage relationships with the media you’re making.

Challenges of Social Network Sites:

Every aspect has two dies, the positive and the negative. Thus there are challenges to social network sites too. We are all getting carried away with the hype and hoopla but we need to have a balanced viewpoint. It’s easy for us to be exuberantly callow.

Difficult to Monetize:
Even Google, the mammoth and innovative organisation finds it difficult to monetize. Members aren’t hunting for information like they do on a search, instead they are communicating with each other, and self-expressing. “Marketers say as few as 4 in 10,000 people who see their ads on social networking sites click on them”

High number of players in the arena:
In the case of the many white label social networks (white label means you can rebrand and thus create your own social networking site), there are too many players in the space. Thus as happens in every industry where the players find it difficult to survive, Consolidation happens. Only the fittest will survive the blood bath in the market.

As Marketers Move In, Users Move Out:
Nothing is new, as communities form, marketers will move in, and in some cases make life difficult for the member and in the process, the customer will leave the network. Influencers too may leave ht e network.

Data security:
In many cases, for lack of security, members fake information and there is no way for the network or site to verify the address and the credentials. As a result, targeting marketing efforts at the right audiences becomes difficult.

Metrics not fool proof:
For many marketers who want to deploy a campaign on a social network, access to metrics isn’t always available and even if it is, the credibility and the process of rating is not good. As a result, they have to often visually monitor the interaction on the site, or measure click throughs to their site.

Privacy Concerns:
Social networks sharing too much information with third party widget developers puts members at risk, and visibly makes them uncomfortable.

Strings Attached to Membership: Difficult to Leave.
Leaving Facebook is difficult, there are hooks, saved accounts, and ways to continue to reconnect to the site, even after you’ve left.

Social Network Fatigue?
Some sources suggest that the usage of social networks are slowing down, if not reducing perhaps it’s from the endless tasks that occur, or the shininess has rubbed off.

Successful Networks have hard time scaling
Facebook and Twitter are suffering from scaling issues, as a result, their sites have a great deal of downtime. The complicated applications will only increase in intricacy as more users are added.

Loss in workplace productivity “Social not-working”
Companies, organizations, and individuals are concerned about the time wasted in managing social network profiles, in many cases; companies have banned Facebook from their employees, often using Firewalls. Thus your interaction with the prospective client is stemmed and you have access to them only at home

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