Contextualizing Your Social Networks: Reid Hoffman

Michael Arrington, who is supposed to be taking a break from blogging, has a great Davos interview with LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman.

Key takeout:

MySpace is like a bar, Facebook is like the BBQ you have in your back yard with friends and family, play games, share pictures. Facebook is much better for sharing than MySpace. LinkedIn is the office, how you stay up to date, solve professional problems.

DeWolfe Talks Up MySpace

Speaking at the Reuters Media Summit, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe forecast advertising revenue growth in 2009. While advertising in general has slowed, he points to a continued switching trend form off to online media.

Still one of the world’s largest social networks, MySpace enjoyed an 18% year on year growth in revenue last quarter. It will indeed be impressive if they are able to keep this up.

There is growing speculation that MySpace may move towards a subscription model, something that DeWolfe does not corroborate nor does he rule it out.

He further points out that now is a good time to be contemplating acquisitions for cashed up companies (and private equity players looking to put their funds to work) as valuations are dropping off significantly.

MySpace Taps The RIM: Record Breaking Blackberry App

Designed to help Blackberry users stay connected to the MySpace social network, a new app from the Fox Interactive company has been downloaded 400,000 times in its first week. This goes a long way towards dispelling the unhipster Blackberry myth.

A Facebook app, which launched in 2007, has been downloaded 2.5 million times.

Social Network User-Placed Videos Get Auditude With MySpace and MTV

Palo Alto-based Auditude is a startup focused on identifying videos, and parts of videos, uploaded to the web and then overlaying ads within these clips. They’ve amassed a database of over 250 million videos and 4 years of TV content and have now done a deal with MySpace and MTV that will allow these parties to monetize the videos being uploaded by MySpace users.

As MySpace’s president of sales and marketing is quoted as saying in the LA Times, “This is a game changer.”

No longer are the content players swimming against the tide – if this holds as a precedent, we should see a complete about face and some strong strokes as they all try to pull ahead in the race to monetize their content.

Open Mobile Markets: How To Drive Impetus

Open mobile platforms and markets are all the rage.

Apple generated $30m in the first month with its iStore, and has attracted a plethora of app developers of all shapes and sizes – from Electronic Arts through to start ups like Palo Alto-based Tapulous.

The first Android-powered GPhone is about to hit the streets and this means the Android market will be open for business. RIM is working on something similar and Microsoft is creating a platform for selling apps on its Windows Mobile systems called SkyMarket.

But take a closer look at the Android Market and one thing is glaringly obvious – it’s relatively deserted. Sure it’s a chicken and egg thing, but what made Facebook’s F8 platform so successful in gaining immediate impetus was the critical mass element.

Currently, only a handful of apps are ready for Android – MySpace has a basic version of its soc network ready, imeem’s Internet radio service and a number of weather related apps are the pick of the bunch.

Where is everybody? EA’s Spore, which is the best mobile game I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing would be a great marquee.

So here’s the rub. The beauty of the iPhone Store was that you could generate revenue immediately. The Android Market is currently missing that key revenue enabler – a closed commerce system.

As the number of app markets proliferates and the total addressable market mushrooms I suspect we’ll see a number of meta solutions appear. In particular meta systems that can market, track and monetize apps across all the platforms as well as tools that allow developers to code once, and release cross platform.

In the meantime, app store owners need to focus on getting traffic in the door, app developers buzzed about their platform and a monetization mechanism in place.

It’s High Time For Blogging To Embrace Social: Digital Life Aggregation

I totally agree with Om Malik’s prognostication about blogs embracing the social, lifestreaming features of services like Dopplr, Friendfeed and Twitter.

Om was writing in response to Six Apart’s release of Moveable Type Pro:

Six Apart is making the right move, for it is time for blogging to evolve…blogging is not just an act of publishing but also a communal activity. It is more than leaving comments; it is about creating connections.

He sees your personal blog acting as your digital life aggregator – an aggregation point or hub for all the various lifestreaming services or features you want to utilize wrapped or skinned with your unique identity.

The big question here is around ease of use and mass adoption. MySpace, Facebook and other services have done an incredible job in solving these two points so that anybody can very easily set up a semblance of a personalized digital life aggregator.

Does Moveable Type Pro (and hopefully soon, WordPress) go far enough in extending this metaphor for those who want to increase their independence and assert their unique identity?

In other lifestreaming news, AOL has acquired Socialthing!, which was still in private beta, and will be integrating it into the People Networks division, alongside AIM, Bebo, ICQ and others.

IGNite The Site Applications Competition Launches at MySpace devJam

At today’s MySpace devJam in Sydney I launched the IGNite the Site competition. With a cash prize of $4,000 and the opportunity for the winning app to be showcased to over 2.5 million MySpace users, this is a fantastic opportunity for Australian and New Zealand app developers.

To be in the running, developers will need to utilise the MySpace Developer Platform to create an app that both promotes and captures the spirit of, the number one gaming and entertainment website in the region.  The winner will be selected after the competition closes on Friday, 5 September 2008 and the judges will be looking for originality and usability and the app’s ability to promote IGN to the masses.

Go here for more info, and to submit an entry send a friedn request for your app to with the title of your app and your contact details.

[Disclosure: Randal Leeb-du Toit is an adviser to Fox Interactive Media, the parent company of both MySpace and IGN.]

Social Media Apps: Showing the Way

In this piece I’ve written for Digital Ministry , I  discuss why developers should take an interest in social media apps and provide some key tips for building successful apps.

Why do social media apps matter?

RockYou, one of the leading app developers has over 150 million app views a day. Across their ad network they are receiving 2 billion pageviews a month.
To achieve such scale takes hard work, but it is achievable.

When BJ Fogg and Dave McClure decided to run a course on Persuasive Apps & Metrics at Stanford University the Facebook platform was already up and running. So they decided that students attending the course would use Facebook as a ‘petri dish’.

The result was over 50 apps created by 75 students with a total install base of 20 million and a total daily active user rate of 925,000. Five of the apps created by the students hit the Facebook Top 100 and almost $1 million in revenue was generated in 6 months. The course also led to 5 commercial projects, 3 companies being formed and 2 companies being acquired.

The key learnings that came out of the course were:
1. It’s never too late to create a winning app – when the course launched, over 6000 Facebook apps existed, 10 weeks later, students already had 5 apps in the top 100;
2. Simplicity and clarity are key to app success – apps need to be easily understood with a clear value proposition and they should be easy to use. Clever names and too many features are will stall user acceptance;
3. Speed and flexibility in both launch and iterations is key – many crummy trials beat deep thinking, flexibility beats quality. Don’t get too attached to one app idea;
4. Community cooperation leads to success – sharing code, tips, insights and listening to the community are great ways to leverage up your individual skill base;
5. Individual opinions about an app are worthless – don’t be swayed by one person’s opinion, just get the app out there and see what happens;
6. Copying success is a cheap/fast way to succeed – novelty isn’t the best approach to apps. The flipside – if your app is doing well, expect imitators; and
7. Metrics do matter, but today’s tools are too weak – instrument your apps to track viral aspects.

Over the past year a lot of action has taken place in the social media arena. Facebook launched its app platform in May 2007. A few months later Open Social arrived. Open Social is a common open set of APIs for building social applications across multiple sites. The MySpace Developer Platform has since emerged as the largest implementation of Open Social.

The stats over the past 12 months reveal that over 24,000 apps have been made, 95% of social network users have installed an app. One of the key successes to these social media platforms has been and continues to be the opportunities that developer have to monetise.

The company SocialMedia, which runs an advertising suite has paid out over $8 million to its network of 1,000 developers on Facebook and OpenSocial through May 2008. The company itself secured $4m in financing and has grown to have 25 staff and expects to generate revenue in the double digit millions for fiscal year 2008.

In short – social media apps matter, big time and web developers, strategists and marketers should sit up and taken notice.

The Web as Social Media

The Web is quickly changing from being purely informational to becoming more social. This can be seen by the rise in popularity of social networks, with their users becoming more and more engaged. These social networks are part of a growing fabric of social platforms, onto which apps are spreading.

Charlene Li, an analyst with Forrester, sees social networks becoming ‘like air’. Within this ubiquitous fabric, applications are an extremely effective way to micro-touch and communicate with users.

There are four points Li calls on developers to remember when considering what apps to build:
1. Create compelling social experiences, not social graph lock-in
2. Develop social apps that have meaning
3. Integrate into existing activities
4. Design business models that reflect the value created by people?s social networks

When designing apps developers need to find a balance between virality and engagement. Virality involves getting users to spread to others with one users causing at least one more user to install the app. Engagement on the other hand involved building individual user experience, increasing pageviews and loyalty.

Achieving viral engagement is the nirvana for app developers. RockYou identifies that there are four distinct audiences, all of whom require different approaches for increasing viral engagement.

The first group is new users. By building clean flows and focusing on linear, one-action flows developers can maximise new user activation. Requiring new users to register can severely diminish uptake.

The second group is direct friends. Apps need to communicate a clear value proposition to a new user for inviting their friend network to install that app. The invitation itself should be within one or two steps of a new user installing so as to maximise that user’s viral value.

The third group is indirect friends. With this group the focus needs to be on messaging –  friends of friends will be driven to install apps that communicate increasing and simply understood value via newsfeed or profile messages and notifications.

The fourth and final group is interested parties. Simple tools such as answers, comments and ratings allow for interaction without full engagement and can drive more universal use of an app.

There are a number of other factors to take into account when building apps – including genre and demographic targeting, creating viral loops and building in monetisation hooks. If you would like to learn more about the huge opportunity social media apps represent contact me at rand at metarand dot com.
In addition, I’m hosting a series of MySpace devJams during the month of July at which developers can learn more about building social media apps. For more details of these events check out: .

Announcing MySpace devJams across Australia

Following on from an awesome devJam in Sydney on June 5th, I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to be hosting a further three events in Australia in July.

These events are a must attend for everyone who codes and has an interest in building social media apps.

There will be door prizes and the opportunity to head over to San Francisco and/or Tokyo – read more about these opportunities and each of the events from the following links:

We are working on rolling out similar events in other major cities across Australia.

I’d like to thank the guys from Mitchellake for providing us with their uber cool offices for these events.