iForget – the social app you will need for 2012

The big difference from what Orwell described in 1984 is that we are the ones who installed the telescreens and we are the ones recording. With social media we record every aspect of our life. And if we don’t record it, there is always somebody else who will be recording it. Facebook has probably more than 1000 pages of historic data on you, most likely no other service (national and international security services included) will have so much information about you, and Facebook is just one of the many services in the social media landscape. It is the big memory of the Web, if you like it or not.

It is great to have the opportunity to record everything of everybody, since you can revisit things, just like you might have done in the ‘old days’ with photo albums (the offline variant). However a photo album used to be something that was stuffed on a shelf in your house and when you wanted it you would get it out and share it with others. The sharing part was very limited and often only initiated by you and sometimes by somebody else who was visiting you and wanted to see the pictures. However sharing today is 24/7, there is no limit on who is accessing it and when the content is being accessed. Your digital footprint will be always there.

The great thing about our human brain is that we forget things, it is often an undervalued ability. By forgetting things we make a distinction between stuff worth remembering (or stuff we get remember of by others often) and stuff not worth remembering. Facebook (and other services) have just one setting: remember everything and even worse: make everything searchable so you don’t even have to remember it exactly to catch up.

That is why I think there is the need for a new kind of app (or layer, building on other infrastructure): iForget, which makes recorded data more fluent. Data is not stored for ever anymore but only for a short period. Still everything is recorded, however not everything is stored for ever:

  • Your social checkins: just for a day or so, after that nobody cares where you have been, plus it is good to not leave a trail on that.
  • Your holiday pictures: just for a few weeks so people interested can view them, however we don’t have to revisit them over and over. Sometimes remembering an event is a better experience than revisiting it.
  • Your updates: just for a few days, it is awkward to have every conversation recorded and being replayed, if the thing you were saying was important people will remember it.

iForget will enable you to record everything you want, however it will enable you with the opportunity to digitally forget as well. Since if you cannot revisit everything you did it will help you to have a more relevant digital footprint. Though it will also help you remember the really important things, since things you remember shouldn’t necessarily be the things you could record, it should be things that you can relive when you close your eyes, things you want to share with others even you don’t have any recorded media about.

You share your content for the moment with iForget, not for a lifetime. Since moments are worth sharing, though not for a lifetime.

——

For the ones that were wondering, no this isn’t the app since the app I wrote about is still fictional, though it would be nice if you could make a digital footprint disappear so easily.

Enterprises: the sun doesn’t revolve around you

Yesterday we had an issue when checking in for our holiday at Landal GreenParks. We received the confirmation for our dinner on Boxing Day however we hadn’t received a time slot yet. So we decided to ask what the time would be and all of a sudden we heard that we wouldn’t have dinner at all at Boxing Day since they were fully booked and they hadn’t received the confirmation from the head office, or the confirmation was somebody in their spam etc etc. Instead of solving our issue, they only focused on explaining what their problem was and why it wasn’t their fault.

I suppose it is fairly obvious that is the wrong way around, though most organizations still think that the sun revolves around them, so their issues are the most important. That my wife, my son and I wouldn’t have any dinner on Boxing Day seemed like a lesser issue than that they weren’t to blame for all kind of bad reasons.

Just some small tips for organizations when something goes wrong and you have to explain it to a customer:

  1. First and foremost: solve the issue. Basically that is the primary interest of the customer, something went wrong and now it should be fixed.
  2. Don’t tell me who is to blame for this. It is your fault anyway since you are of this organization (in my case Landal) and I don’t care if there is a head office to blame, or that it is your colleague, or that it happened because somebody had bad karma. You are the one way who should take the blame and you are the one who is going to solve it
  3. I am not interested in your technical infrastructure and how poor your IT department is. The only thing I am wondering about is why you even have the idea that you want to serve you customers while it seems you haven’t even got the basics right. If you cannot manage my booking, how should I expect you to manage my food (since cooking is often more complex than IT).
  4. Don’t let me solve the issue. My work is solving problems, however when on holiday I am your customer and I would like that you treat me as your customer and make sure that things work out without me having to put extra effort in it. I shouldn’t even notice that something went wrong. If you want me to solve the issues for me created by you, you can hire me for my standard rates.
  5. If things go wrong, please give me the feeling that you are in control. We got a call later in the evening that they were trying to change things and that they would hope that things would work out. “Trying” and “hope” are poor verbs, you either change things and you solve it, or you just don’t tell me about the things you try. Just send me the message when things worked out, don’t disappoint me for a second time.
  6. Don’t just solve the problem, make me trust you again. Later that night things were all of a sudden solved (basically we got really angry and the queue behind us was growing steadily and we made sure that everybody in the queue was aware of the lack of service of Landal), however our problem wasn’t anymore just not having dinner at Boxing Day. In the meantime our son started to cry since he really looked forward to it, we got quite angry and annoyed since we booked everything months upfront to be sure everything was taken care of and we had to talk with somebody who blamed everybody for everybody but didn’t take any responsibility. Having the dinner at Boxing Day is something we planned for, we didn’t plan for a total lack of service and responsibility so you should work twice as hard, not just keeping your promise you made in the first place but also fixing the trust issue that was created by yourselves regarding service and responsibility.

In the end things worked out, though I think it only worked out because we complained (for at least 20 minutes) and we got the things we already paid for in the first place. If Landal would have focused on our issue, instead of on their problems this would have never happened.

Social: Campaign or Channel?

Comments are often a source of inspiration to write new content. This time it was the comment from iknovate on a YouTube video from KLM:

Based on the comments, it’s clear that KLM has treated social media as a campaign and not as a channel for improving its relationships and being willing to fundamentally change the way they DO business.

Too often marketing activities on social media are seen as a social activity, while these are just activities on a social platform, nothing more and less. If you take a look at what marketing is, you’ll understand why marketing has nothing to do with social activities. If you have a mediocre (or to put it more positive: not really a distinctive or good product) it is likely that you have to buy advertising. Basically advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service. Marketing is the way to prevent to pay for advertising, marketing is the process by which organizations create customer interest in goods or services so the customer will buy the product or service.

There is anything is social advertising and there isn’t anything social in marketing. Since both activities only focus on the outcome for the organization, not on the outcomes for other people. Basically the latter is the essential part of social media: it is not about you as an organization is about them (customers or other people in general). As long as the main focus is on making people buy your stuff, you are not participating in any social activity, you are advertising or marketing.

Treating social media as a channel is better than treating it is as a campaign. A campaign is traditionally a military term to identify a series of military operations intended to meet a particular goal. Again, that is only about the goals of the organization, not about the other party. Treating social media as a channel might be better since this approach could mean that you are also focusing on delivering value for others and you are less organization centric.

However just focusing on social media being a channel means that you are limiting your scope to communication. Though social is more than just communication alone: it is about the way you think and the way you act as an organization and about delivering value to others instead of focusing on an organization-centric advertising/marketing/selling model. Long term relationships instead of short-term cashing and people centric instead of organization centric.

Are you hiring social media users or actual expertise?

Currently Social Media expertise are treated in a similar fashion as we treat statistical expertise. Let me explain that a bit with this quote from Peter Donolly:

So if a pediatrician had come out and said to a jury, “I know how to build bridges. I’ve built one down the road. Please drive your car home over it,” they would have said, “Well, pediatricians don’t know how to build bridges. That’s what engineers do.” On the other hand, he came out and effectively said, or implied, “I know how to reason with uncertainty. I know how to do statistics.” And everyone said, “Well, that’s fine. He’s an expert.” So we need to understand where our competence is and isn’t.

Just because people can do basic math people tend to think they have statistical knowledge. Social Media is going down the same path: just because people have a Twitter account, can create a Facebook page, are participating on their internal Yammer network and know how Google+ works doesn’t provide them with any special expertise on social media. They are just users with  knowledge on how to work with a tool. Best case they know a lot of the tool, though still that doesn’t mean they have any expertise in social media, they just have tool knowledge.

Next time you need help on social media related activities check if you are hiring a social media user, or somebody with actual expertise. If you need an expert on a tool, hire the user, though every tool will disappear in the end.  However if you need something more sustainable hire somebody who has a proven track record and is going beyond just tools.

Even better check if the person knows where his competence is and isn’t, the social media user will explain you that everything is possible as long as you use the right tool (or even worse: the right hash tag) and if it isn’t possible, then it is the fault of the tool, not of the user. The one with social media expertise will explain you that some things just aren’t possible. Either because he knows he cannot do it since he lack the competence to do so, or because he knows that some things cannot be achieved via social media.

It is never the tool that cause a failure of a social media projects,  it is about the competences, or better said: the lack of competences. Don’t blame the social media user for that, they just lack the reference that social media is a competency, a specific skill and more than just being great on Twitter or Facebook. Blame your hiring skills that you hire a user while you need a specialist.

How Google+ Will Get To 1 Billion members

A year ago I wrote on how Facebook could finance its growth to get to 1 billion members. There now is a new player on the rise (even though on the rise is not the right expression): Google+. And besides the challenge of fading user interest, Google has another challenge: how to get to 1 billion users, how to get away from the relative niche positioning and get mainstream. The answer is rather simple: start an exclusion strategy.

Google is about search

Social impulses are important for search since these impulses provide additional insight on how important certain pieces of content are. Bing has social integrated in its search, and social is in this case from two important sources: Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is something that is likely not be integrated in Google search and Twitter used to be integrated, however Google didn’t extend its contract.

So basically  it comes down to this:

  • Bing: has social impulses
  • Google: has no social impulses

This is where Google+ is popping up. G+ is Google’s way to collect social impulses and to build a new social graph not based on their competitors like Facebook or Twitter. However what is the incentive for people to do so. Why would you invest a lot of time in building your new social graph in a new social environment without getting really additional benefits.  An exclusion strategy could solve this issue: instead of focusing on what you have to add for people so they will participate, view it the other way around: what will people miss if they don’t participate.

The big exclusion game

Google introduced just after the start the feature that a small icon of the author is displayed next to a search result. Requirement is that you have linked your Google+ profile to the site you are publishing on. Next up could be that your blog posts will not show up in the search results if they are not linked on G+, or that even your corporate site is erased from the search results if you don’t have created a company page for your organisation. Or that if you don’t plus (pressing the +1 button) anything, you will get rather irrelevant search results, since it is the unplussed results you see.

Don’t be evil

Of course Google has the motto adopted of ‘Don’t be evil’, however does it mean you don’t have to worry? I would say you even have to worry more. Since if you aren’t planning to be evil anyways, why would you need a motto that says ‘Don’t be evil’ at all.

Why you never create just a Facebook page

Recently the Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia & the Latvian Institute (with the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) as a supporting partner) launched a competition to create a Facebook page for Latvia. And there are already quite some participations, however when somebody ask you to do something, first ask what, in this case, Latvia really wants. Since I think they don’t want a Facebook page, they want a sharable experience with Facebook as a distribution platform:

The assignment is to create a unique and engaging Facebook page in English to communicate internationally about Latvia. The page’s target audience is Facebook users who are interested in or could be interested in Latvia. The aim is to help Latvia communicate more effectively with the rest of the world using social media, informing and engaging people across the globe.

You don’t need a page, you need a sharable experience

How I interpret the request from Latvia is that it is about sharing Latvia and all the things within Latvia with the world and show and tell them what can be done in Latvia. And it is not only about broadcasting, it is about sharing the Latvia experience. Latvia should be(come) an experience, since experiences are worth sharing.

As soon as things are worth sharing, make it easy to share. Since everybody has a mobile phone though roaming costs are manic (understatement…) Latvia might want to focus on free (or very cheap) wifi / 4G networks. Since if I can be really easy connected to Facebook on my phone, it is really easy for me to share what I am doing now in Latvia.

Make it a relevant experience

What Latvia needs is not a Facebook page, they need something with which I can easily share my experiences, or to add an additional requirement: something that makes it really easy to share my experiences on Facebook with my friends.

The downside for me regarding Latvia is that I just know one person there and I don’t know anything about Latvia. The classic approach would to provide me with a brochure with a lot of information I am not interested in. What Latvia could do is provide me with a digital brochure which could be installed on my mobile devices and as an app on Facebook.

By authorizing this app to use my Facebook data, it can make the brochure relevant. Plus what might be even better: it could show me the experiences from my friends who already are in Latvia or have visited in the past. Plus it could use my interest graph to filter the brochure for the topics I am interested in.

Frictionless sharing

With Facebook recently announced frictionless sharing Latvia could make sharing easier for everybody. Since everybody wants to remember the highlights of their holiday and if you are a citizen of Latvia you probably want to record your most important things anyways.

Allow people to plan, using the app I mentioned earlier, where they are going to, let their mobile device being their travel guide. And when you reach the place, just make sure people are checked in automatically together with the people who are there. Invite people to take pictures and to record video and share it with their friends.

Go beyond just asking people to share: Latvia could provide every tourist with a photo album based on the information shared on Facebook, it can delivered just the morning before they are leaving or that they can pick it up on the airport: “Your holiday memories, powered by Latvia”. And for citizens this is something that can be done as well: “Your year in Latvia in review, powered by Latvia”.

What about the Facebook page

However, what about the Facebook page Latvia requested? The Facebook page is the hub. It is where all the sharing comes together. It shows the things Latvia wants to broadcast, however more important: it shows the Latvia experience by everybody in Latvia. It is connecting the dots and it shows what is worth sharing, not necessarily what the government thinks is the best for you, but what the people in Latvia thinks is best for you or even more relevant: what your friends think is best for you.

By letting other people share the content, it doesn’t mean that Latvia doesn’t need 1 or 2 people who are full time curating this Facebook page. Latvia will need people to do this, you need people who guide others, who structure information, who highlight important things and who filter things, you need people who lead and who are proud on Latvia. Leading by example is key, it not about building a page or building an app, it is about making it worth sharing, about leading by example, about making it relevant for people and by providing people with a strong incentive to share with their friends.

Promoting Latvia? There should be an app for that.

Like culture: bringing happiness to the world?

Like, a verb that has become a noun. Liking used to be something we had to feel, nowadays it is just pressing the blue Facebook button and we liked yet another thing and more important shared this small spark of positivity with our friends. Nothing is nowadays easier than liking stuff online.

The remarkable thing of ‘liking’ (the activity of adding a like to stuff on the web), is that it is only positive, there is no negative counterpart available. Facebook did not provide the denounce button and as far as I know they are not planning to in the near and not so near future. Therefore in the world of Facebook there is only positivity, of course if you would like to you too can create an ‘I hate Justing Bieber page’, however to show other people that you hate Justin Bieber you have to like the page and as a Justin Bieber fan you cannot denounce that page.

In a (Facebook) world with only positivity, one would say that things would be better than in a world where there is also negativity. So the upcoming generation that grew up with only liking stuff, with sharing positivity with their friends, will that be a more positive generation? Will that be a generation that only will be publishing positive, or better phrased: like-able stories? Imagine what TV would look like or the newspapers if there is only like-able content in there.

Is sharing only positive things making the world a better place, or is just hiding the negative things in life, not showing them to your friends, hiding them from public life so we can create our own utopia.

f-health: the infrastructure is there, it now up to you

With the launch of the new open graph by Facebook yesterday Facebook build a foundation for many things including f-health. f-health is a bit identical to e-health, though the main differentiator is first of all that everything is part of the Facebook ecosystem and second of all that all the data you share about your health has a connection. A connection to you, your friends, your meals, your activity, your location, time and what ever meta data is meaningful.

This might sound scary, sharing your health on Facebook with your friends, or in some cases with everybody on the world. On the other hand isn’t your health worth more sharing than your Farmville updates? Isn’t it important for your friends to know how you are doing, it even could be the a peer pressure platform to helps you achieving meaningful and healthy goals.

Imagine that you are trying to lose weight, except for weighing in with something like withings’s scale and share that, you can also measure your blood pressure and share it, your cholesterol levels and maybe even better you can share your eating habits (preventing you from eating four cheese burgers in a row). Facebook made this sharing no longer an activity you have to do, they made it something that happens. You have to set it up once and after that all meaningful data or interactions with important health indicators in your body can be shared on Facebook. So you don’t have to think about sharing, you can just think about your health.

By not only sharing your status updates how you feel today, but also by sharing how you are (as in: your health metrics) you will create a very personal view on how you are doing and it will provide you with something that might help you to live a healthier lifestyle, since you probably don’t want to explain why you think that eating at a fast food restaurant is good for you, especially if you friends see that you are nearly destroying yourself since you cholesterol is increasing rapidly?

Scary? It might be. Useful? Yes. Is sharing your health metrics something you should do? Yes since it not only helps yourself enforcing you to live a healthier life, it also will help others to do the same, your health updates are likely to be more inspiring than your latest status update about Farmville.

If your product doesn’t integrate with Facebook open graph in 2012, it doesn’t exist

Today Facebook released a new version of their open graph protocol. It is the basis of what you need to enable the Internet of Things: you can connect with (not necessarily like or friend) anything you like: books, movies, news, music, spoons, you name it and you can connect to it. This matters, this matter big time since every connection enables a new way of sharing interactions with the object. Facebook made the sharing of interactions with objects easy: it is a single opt in for an object and you enable constant sharing for certain events.

If you are listening to music through Spotify you can add Spotify to your timeline making it share each track you listen to to be shared with your network. If you read an ebook in an ebook reader you should be able to enable your ebook reader in the near future to share what book you are reading, how much time it will take, what your progress is and what chapters you already finished. What Facebook also did is, that if you have a relation and action of object that is shared with one of your friends, you will get notified, making an even stronger tie between you, your friend, the object and the action.

Why does this matter? This matter because relationships matter, relationships with your friends, but also with the things you do. It is about sharing the things that are meaningful for you with the people that are meaningful for you. However if you a retailer and your products are not enabled for sharing via Facebook open graph protocol, it is very likely that you will lose. Especially since sharing on Facebook enables serendipity and helps us in our poor ability of making choice (“what should I eat?” *read shared recipe from Bob on Facebook* “ah I have what Bob haves”).

Though there remains one challenge: what actions are meaningful and worth sharing in somebody’s Facebook time. There is a basic answer on that: the things worth remembering and the things that are therefore worth sharing. It is worth sharing to let other people know what music you are listening to, what movies you are watching, what your favorite recipes are, how often you go for a run or what your favorite drink is.

If you are selling a product or service, you better make sure to integrate it in the open graph protocol to make the relationship of your customers with this product and service shareable and to make the actions shareable. If you won’t? Others will and they will have the ability to be discovered by the friends of your customers, leaving you behind. Though it doesn’t mean that you have to make sure that your product is spammed everywhere, the shared interaction should be meaningful and worth sharing, that is the biggest challenge: not thinking about selling your product, but thinking about what people do with your product and why this could be meaningful for their friends.

A big challenge to overcome, though it might be literally a billion dollar (or euro) opportunity for your organisation and the product and services you provide, it will enables a potential of 750 million people that will be sharing meaningful interactions with you and your product with their friends instantly.

Your product hardly can become more meaningful than becoming one of the essentials parts of the relationship between friends.

Why Facebook isn’t a social network anymore

Facebook f8 is today and timeline was launched. Timeline is a new way to represent all the information you shared on Facebook, or actually: it isn’t. It is not just your data, your places, your pictures and your videos. It is you. Timeline is the thing that Facebook just made not a social network anymore, Facebook even move away from being a platform. Facebook is now about you, it provides you with the ultimate life recording mechanism there is.

All of the sudden Facebook has become your life, to be precise: all the pieces you decide to share and record on Facebook. Therefore it is not a social network, it is your history, it is about the things you did and with who you did these things. It will be richer than just a resume or just a scrap book since in the end it contains everything you can share with Facebook.

All the things you wouldn’t record anyways, such as your daily commute, the pod casts you are listening to, the blogs you are reading, the people you are with, the things you eat, the movies you watched (and add to all this data additional meta data such a location, time and friends who joined in the activity) can now be part of your timeline. By adding these normally unrecorded things to your timeline you provide so much detail that you revisit certain events not only by viewing a picture, but by listening to the sounds of the event, by viewing the context of it, by seeing who was there, even if you did not see them at the event. It is the nostalgia on steroids.

So Facebook isn’t a social network anymore, it is now the ultimate recording tool for the things that matter most: life.