Thursday, October 22, 2009

Feed the Feed - How to Populate the Real Time Web

Now that search engines like Google and Bing are incorporating status updates from Twitter and Facebook, getting your content into peoples' feeds has become more important than ever. Sites like The Huffington Post that are Facebook Connect enabled are seeing tremendous traffic growth from just newsfeeds, and this will be magnified by their links showing up in search results. So how can a Facebook Connect enabled site easily add engagement features that entice users to post links into their newsfeeds?

We at Transpond call populating the real time web "feed the feed", and the latest version of our Write Once Engage Anywhere technology offers Apps that automatically detect if they are embedded in a Facebook Connect enabled site, and prompt the user to share their engagement activity to the web.

For the CBS TV.com Emmys feature, Transpond powered the nominees poll, red carpet poll, fashion face-off, videos library, and image galleries. All of these features were tied into Facebook newsfeed updates.

When voting on a gown in the red carpet poll there is a "Publish to Facebook" checkbox placed directly below the Vote buttons.



Clicking on a vote button indicating whether you like or dislike the gown then prompts you to share your thoughts with your Facebook friends using the standard Facebook publish dialog.



The feed story than shows up in your news feed and on your friends' Facebook homepages and mobile apps.



If the user is not logged in via Facebook or the site is not Facebook Connect enabled, embedding a Transpond App prompts the user to share their activity with Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace icons:



You can easily "feed the feed" with your content by adding Transpond Apps to your website and Facebook/MySpace fan pages. Integrating deeply into Facebook Connect enabled sites is just another example of how transforming an App into a native part of its host is a far better solution that generic solutions such as embedding Flash.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How Facebook Will Become the Top Ad Network

Facebook Connect is growing like a wildflower through websites, dramatically increasing registrations and logins now that users do not need to remember an account and password, and also driving traffic when users publish website activity to their Facebook newsfeeds and draw clicks from their friends.

Now when a user goes to a Facebook Connect enabled website, the website contacts Facebook to get their Profile photo and name.



Since Facebook knows a lot about people from their Facebook profiles, it lets advertisers place super targeted "Social Ads" on Facebook.com. These ads are already drawing over $500M in revenue for Facebook.

The next logical step is for Facebook to let Facebook Connect enabled websites show these same targeted ads and share revenue with the websites. So when users log onto Facebook Connect websites, they see the same highly targeted ads that Facebook shows them when they browse Facebook. And users are more likely to click on these ads on websites that they are browsing than on Facebook where they are engaging in a social experience.



Transitioning ads from one high volume website into a network of websites is the same thing that Google did. First Google offered AdWords that showed ads based on what a user was searching for at Google.com, and then it offered AdSense that let websites show the same ads based on what was on the page a user was looking at. Google then augmented its website ad network by purchasing DoubleClick's display ad network.

Facebook's ads are much more targeted than Google's ads. A Google ad at ESPN.com can assume that the user is a male aged 20-35 and then randomly show a Toyato truck ad or a movie ad for the new Farrelly brother movie. A Facebook Connect ad would know that the user (or a lot of the user's friends) are a fan of Something About Mary, that the user had checked out Facebook Connect enabled Movies.com earlier in the week, and show the Farrelly movie ad. If the user is not logged into Facebook Connect, Facebook will at least know which types of ads are doing better for different demogaphics.

Facebook surprised everyone with its rapid revenue growth to $500 million in Social Ads... its evolution into a Social Ad Network will accelerate revenue into Google territory.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Will Twitter Get 250m New Users or Will Facebook Copy its Features

Which of these is more likely to happen:

(1) Twitter adds 250 million new users that use it regularly.

(2) Facebook copies all of Twitter's features.

As I wrote in March, it is not difficult Facebook to copy all of Twitter's features, and they have since shamelessly done so.

Think of your stay-at-home mom in the midwest that is using Facebook to keep in touch with all her friends. She wants to subscribe to businesses to get deals and see what her favorite TV stars have to say. What's she going to do? Try out Twitter with its lack of inline photos and videos and unintuitive nonthreaded comment streams, or become a fan of their Facebook fan pages and have everything cleanly inserted on her Facebook home page? No brainer.

As reported in Techcrunch, Comscore shows Facebook continuing to grow while Twitter is flattening out:



Twitter is great and all, but it needs to fix its UI ASAP if it wants to grow. And no, expecting moms in the midwest to find random 3rd party applications does not count!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Accelerating Speed of Business

The way that Internet companies do business has fundamentally changed over the past couple of years. Platforms like Facebook and the iPhone have accelerated from nothing to ubiquity in just a year or two. How can a business keep up?

Well how does Facebook itself operate? Scrum style engineering. Bold new features that are pushed out and then iterated. Marketing is accomplished via blogs and PR. Sales are self-service, and some features such as Apps are free.

Here's a summary of how the new way of operating impacts each functional area of a social Internet company:

Wired
Tired
LeadershipLaunch and iterateConsensus
EngineeringScrumWaterfall MRD/PRD/spec/etc.
MarketingBlogs and TwitterWhitepapers, emails, and webinars
SalesSelf-service freemiumDirect sales and limited trials


Recently I have been interviewing a lot of executives. The most challenging thing is that a lot of really good, solid people are steeped in the way we all did business 10 years ago. It is hard to figure out who can adapt to this new way of doing business.

This market moves very quickly. There are no visionaries here, but people who know the market well. When it is clear to the people who know the market well that something is about to change, what should a company do?

One way to accomplish this would be to have a series of meetings where the team would seek input from everyone impacted and attempt to achieve a consensus that a new feature should be added. Then marketing would meet with customers and create a Marketing Requirements Document that the team would iterate on and approve. The next step is a Product Requirements Document that the team would again iterate on and approve. Then engineering can create a detailed specification to match the PRD and meet with marketing to ensure that the specification matches the PRD. Up next is user interface design and iteration. Then engineers can implement the feature for the next big push of the website.

As I am sure you have guessed, companies that operate this way are dead or dying. The competition has just shipped 10 features in the same amount of time.

The new way to do this is to quickly create a wireframe of how the new feature should work. A cross-functional product team should in real time edit this spec and remove functionality until the bare minimum for a functional feature is left. At this point there should be a go/no go gut check decision now that there is a concrete wireframe to look at. The wireframe is then quickly skinned and implemented, and shipped with the next maintenance push of the website. The feature is announced via blog and Twitter. If people don't respond to the feature, the company has learned very quickly with minimum wasted time that it needs to move on. If people respond to the feature, the team can then iterate on the feature based on user feedback now that there is traction. Once there are sufficient users and higher level features to add, there is a self-serve upsell opportunity for the feature.

I visited Zynga this morning, and one of their company mottoes is "Zynga Fast". Facebook moves fast. Zynga moves fast. Companies in the social and Internet ecosystems need to move as fast if not faster. Which means people at these companies need to be just as agile. The way we did stuff 10 years ago no longer applies.