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Memo to Daniel Lyons: It's the Facebook Apps, Stupid!

Facebook_2 I really enjoy Daniel Lyons.  His Forbes articles are interesting and entertaining, but it's his alter ego, Fake Steve Jobs, that I appreciate the most.  In fact, his Fake Steve book, oPtion$, just came out and I picked up a copy at B&N over the weekend...can't wait to read it.

So with all the respect I have for the guy, imagine my disappointment when I read his latest Forbes article, Party Crashers, where he pokes fun at Facebook, pretty much writes it off and scoffs at all of us oldsters who are flocking to it.

Daniel, please realize Facebook is a platform in transition.  The decision to open it up to third-party apps will help it evolve into a more useful resource for all ages.  Yes, most (all?) of the applications that exist today are silly time-wasters but that doesn't mean this will always be the case.  Have some patience, realize that a younger generation already spends loads of time there and have faith that many, many useful applications will rise above the rest.

Btw, although I think Lyons is dead wrong about Facebook, I totally agree with his Twitter observations.  I don't want to read a blow-by-blow description of anyone's day, so I'm sure as heck not going to bother Twittering my own!  It reminds me of that wonderful book, No One Cares What You Had for Lunch.

Comments

Ellen Gerstein

I'm in total harmony with you on this. We asked Chris Webb to speak to the marketing group about "Twitter", because we sure don't get it. I attended an advertising club meeting yesterday where 2 of the 5 panelists said that Twitter is an awesome resource/tool for markters and project managers. HOW it is those things is just beyond me. Just waiting for someone to show me the light.

Dianna Huff

I have to agree about Twitter. Why would *anyone* want to know where I am or what I'm doing at any moment of the day?

I disagree with you about Facebook. I have an account but I'm not sure why.

Chris Webb

Like all social applications, the usefulness in Twitter is in the way you use it. Think larger - it's not "What Are You Doing? - I'm eating a sandwich" but it's:

What is your company doing?
What are you doing for your customers?
What are you thinking of doing with a new product line?
What would you like to ask your customers?
What would you like your customers to know?
What are you excited about?
What partnerships are you seeking for a new venture?
What help do you need?

Engage! Think people aren't talking about your products, your company, your industry on Twitter? They are.

Here's a little challege: Get a Twitter account and use it's "track" feature to track conversations on a particular company, topic, or product. No need to add a bunch of people to follow or even accept follow requests - just listen.

Too often we are looking for an all-in-one solution to the big "social media question." I believe successful companies will assemble a social media toolbox, and fill it with tools like Twitter, Facebook, Ning and others. Each tool has an application.

Joe Wikert

I tend to think there's a point on the continuum where the model becomes significantly less valuable, heck, even silly. Twitter advocates would be outraged of course, but I look at Twitter as a practical joke that somehow got taken seriously.

Where do you draw the line? What if I would have come to you 5 years ago and said, "hey, this blogging thing is really taking off. Let's see if we can create a micro-blogging phenomenon now by limiting the entries to 140 characters?" You'd have rightfully said I'm nuts and ask me why anyone would need that feature? After all, what's preventing them from limiting their blog posts to 140 characters already?

Put another way, what if I come to you today and say, "hey, that Twitter thing is really taking off. Let's take it to the next level and create a pico-blogging tool that limits the entries to 70 characters. That's half the length of a Twitter entry so that means our new service will be twice as good." Silly, I know.

So where do you draw the line? Why is 140 the right number?

Btw, all the questions you ask are the typical FUD ones every hack market research organization asks when trying to hawk their wares. "If you don't do it, your competitors will." I don't buy it.

There must be a minimum amount of content and context to enable meaningful measurement. I'm sorry, but 140 characters is nothing more than a few grunts and groans, as well as the "look what I had for lunch" stuff. If this really has value I'm serious about creating that 70-character version...

OK, I'll do what you say. I'll create an account and tap into a stream to see what it's like. Besides, my experience will undoubtedly make for a good follow-up post.

Chris Webb

I'm glad you are going to try it, and I will be interested in your results.

FWIW our Wrox Twitter stream continues to grow, and I am talking with many programmers/readers there. To be a bit more specific about the "FUD items", via the Wrox experiment I have:

1. Acquired new authors
2. Hired new technical editors
3. Communicated with key product managers at Adobe and Microsoft
4. Secured book reviews
5. Conducted polls on potential book topics with near instant results
6. Discovered new products
7. Promoted goodwill for the brand (http://benjisimon.blogspot.com/2007/09/another-use-for-twitter.html)

I have been pleased with the results thus far, and still think if it is used smartly, and kept in perspective Twitter can be a useful tool.

Kim Haynes

Joe,

Actually, our organization's marketing (www.bulldogsolutions.com) leadership subscribes to a very similar thought process that Chris Webb outlined in his comment. We have chosen to be early adopters to Web 2.0 technologies that we deem as possible places to either market ourselves or figure out those marketing strategies for the benefit of our clients.

And you are completely correct in the fact that you have to grab and account and start trying it out. For you though, be sure to do a few keyword searches and then add those folks to your "Following" list. You'll be amazed at the content you'll receive when you get past . . . this is what my dog did today. Yes, I post those silly comments too, but I've also been participating in Podcamp Boston from a distance this morning and learned to claim my blog and Twitter stream on Technorati all from watching Twitter feeds.

Additionally, I found a possible candidate for an upcoming position off Twitter this week.

I can continue making business cases on why it works for us, but you'll have to make that decision on your own.

Steph Mineart

Regarding twitter - "tweets" are 140 characters because that's the average text message length.

Check out the recent wired article on how the Redcross is using twitter to disseminate emergency shelter information, and how people's "we are safe" tweets to their friends are able to get through because they're packet based even when cell networks are jammed.

We used twitter throughout our 4,500 mile cross-country road trip to keep family and friends informed about our destinations and safe arrivals, which is a bit of a comfort when you're crossing the Mojave desert, and practical when you don't want to make ten phone calls with the same information.

Our programmer friend did the same thing, only with an app that grabbed his twitter rss feed with location information and mashed it up with a google map that plotted his locations with twitter posts.

I'm harvesting my twitter posts RSS feeds connected to a calendar, which allows me to look up when I last when to the grocery store, visited the dentist, had a hair cut.

The practical applications for a distributed short messaging system are bounded only by your imagination. If the only think you can think of to share is what you're having for lunch, then perhaps the problem some creative thinking is in order.

Tim Wilson

Interesting. I'm reading this article because of Twitter and a co-worker who shot me a tweet to check it out. It's relevant and more immediate than even e-mail.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't necessarily "get" Twitter yet. I'm hit or miss with my own Twitter postings. BUT, it's an imminently practical way to keep in touch with friends, co-workers, and relatives. It's faster than e-mail (because of the 140 character limit), and it's not as immediate/intrusive as IM. I'm following people I don't know at all...and will probably change that in the near future.

What Twitter has going for it is that it's cheap, simple, and easy. And it's gaining rapid adoption. If it really doesn't add value, it will die. If it does add value, and it may do that in two or three distinct ways, then it will stick around. I was a skeptic of instant messaging when it first came out...but I am infinitely more productive because of it.

Joe Wikert

Kim, Steph and Tim, thanks for weighing in on this. Your insights are very much appreciated. I'm glad to see that a lot of people are indeed seeing real value from Twitter. Tim, I think one of your points sums it up quite well: If Twitter doesn't add value it will eventually die. Well, sort of...after all, millions of people entertain themselves every day watching trash like Jerry Springer, so I have no doubt there are plenty of people who could keep Twitter afloat even if it's only to watch everyone else tell them what they had for lunch.

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