Google is Social

Google’s lack of a clear social strategy has created a lot of fodder for those that follow tech. Google is overwhelmingly known as a search-centric company (for good reason) but the rise of Facebook in recent years has created speculation that their golden egg could indeed face stiff competition from Facebook (and its 650M user base) should they eat into search. Turning the tables, it’s been pretty clear Google needs to respond to the rise of “social”, leveraging their significant assets to ensure the field isnt a one-company show. At theSocial-Loco conference this past week in San Francisco, there was more revealed by Marissa Mayer of Google and others.

One of the panel moderators at Social-Loco cited a term coinage by noted Silicon Valley investor John Doerr that’s more useful to understanding what Google is up to than the concept “social” alone: SoLoMo, or social + location + mobile.

SoLoMo offers a reminder that data sets do not exist in a vacuum. Search expert and Web 2.0 Conference co-chair John Battelle has described several categories of data that are relevant to Google and its kin: There’s the social graph (contacts, friends), interest data (likes, tweets, recommendations), search data (queries, history), purchase data (what you buy, credit card numbers), location data (where you are, have been, and are going), and content data (behavior when engaged with content).

As for mobile, it’s more of a mode than a data type; it’s relevant because mobile data comes from customers who could be ready for commerce in the real world rather than the online one.

These categories can be combined and redefined, but together they represent the scope of information that’s meaningful to Google and its competitors. While Google may not yet have a social graph to match Facebook, it has other kinds of data, like geo-spatial data. Google Maps and Google Earth form the foundation of the social layer the company is building. Google Places, which relies on Maps, has five million reviews–the product of social connection–and that number is growing at a rate of a million per month.

In an interview following her presentation at Social-Loco, Mayer suggested that Google and Facebook are approaching the same problem from different angles. Asked whether she thought it was fair to say that Google’s approach to social is more geo-centric than Facebook’s, she said, “Maybe. I do think that having imagery, having the platform to provide the maps is a big investment. So we have a lot going with Google’s hardware and our cloud and the investments we make there. Being able to do something like Street View and developing our own ground-truth maps in various countries, that’s a big investment and a lot of smaller companies may not start there. They start somewhere more social.”

“We’re starting with this investment that we’ve made to really have this amazing mirror of the physical world available in digital form,” Mayer continued. “And now I think we’re building on top of that platform to think about what we can do on the social side. We’re all coming at the same problem, but based on investments to date you might start at a different place.”

Google’s platform is an advertising platform, one for which SoLoMo is increasingly relevant, but is also problematic: Social data and location data raise significant privacy concerns. Apple and Google were reminded of this recently when reports about iPhones storing location data and Android phones transmitting it had to be explained away.

To read full coverage of the conference from InformationWeek click HERE

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HIMSS11 Underway

HIMSS11 is off to a big start with almost 31,000 attendees focused on the role of technology in our healthcare industry. The top IT vendors in the country are in attendance and the vendor showroom officially opened Monday afternoon with hundreds and hundreds of vendors in attendance.

One of the highlights of the talks Monday morning was the social media presentation given by Lee Aase from the Mayo Clinic. Lee acknowledged that he holds Guy Kawasaki and his presentation rules in high esteem but then jokingly said he was going to completely ignore them for this particular talk. Lee’s talk was funny, humble and enlightening. He closed his talk with this delightful video highlighting the Mayo Clinic’s contributions of music to the healing environment. If there was a theme to the talk it was that Social Media is here to stay and organizations need to refrain from practices like site-blocking and over-regulating.

The Mayo Clinic recently launched their Social Media Health Network Site. Yet another display of their efforts to further discover ways social media tools can be harnessed to improve health care, promote health and fight disease.

To get Lee’s full presentation, CLICK HERE.

Physicians Thinking About Using Twitter

Twitter, like most social media, is evolving rapidly. So, while I posted on this topic last year, it warrants an update. Even though most physicians are not directly familiar with Twitter, more are building an awareness and curiosity each month. This post is written mostly for those of you new to this tool or giving it consideration.

The AMA recently posted an article entitled Physicians on Twitter (logon required) and here is a synopsis of their study:

-The study focused on 5,156 tweets from 260 self-identified physicians with 500 or more followers between May 1 and May 31, 2010. Three percent of the tweets were categorized as “unprofessional,” meaning that they included profanity, potential patient privacy violations, sexually explicit material, or discriminatory statements.

One percent of the tweets were marked “other unprofessional,” which included unsupported claims about a product they were selling on their website or repeated promotions of specific health products. Ten of these statements about medical therapies countered existing medical knowledge or guidelines, potentially leading to patient harm. –

While the percentages in the study don’t seem particularly alarming as compared to any other communication channel, as a physician trying to determine the value of Twitter and how one might or might not use it, I offer a few suggestions:

1. Twitter is a good tool for disseminating information. If you find articles or have opinions you want to broadcast, this is your tool. As @KevinMD remarked one time: Twitter is a headline….blogs are for fully formed thoughts.

2. Don’t buy into the hype. If you don’t use Twitter, or even if you just “lurk”, you will not become irrelevant to either your colleagues or patients.

3. Unless people that follow you are drastically different than the vast majority of people, no one cares when you are going to bed, what you are making for dinner etc. In other words, don’t use Twitter as if it’s your opportunity to star in Truman Show Part 2.

4. If you decide to use Twitter for two-way communications, ask whether or not a message would be more appropriate over email. How to decide? Do others benefit from the conversation in any way? If not, it’s likely noise or narcissism, and both are worth avoiding.

Finally, no one knows where Twitter will go. It may grow in its influence or it could just as easily flame out as something more effective comes along to fill the void. Regardless, it’s got a pronounced foot-print at the moment and worthy of your consideration. Here is a funny video mocking Twitter with a hat tip to the Facebook movie The Social Network.

Related Posts:

The Doctor Will Tweet You Now

How Twitter Hashtags Can Start Medical Conversations

Bubble 2.0?

On a plane flight this week-end I was reading through a litany of tech news and came across the latest example of the frothy start-up valuation bonanza: Zynga is supposedly raising capital on a $6B+ valuation. I fired off a few notes to friends with the Subject Line: WTF!

Those of us front and center to the “.com bust” in the late 1990s recall the same mumbo jumbo about how valuations for Internet companies were subject to different metrics than the old world investments. Blah blah blah. Bust!

Today I came across a Slate post by Annie Lowrey titled “The Social Media Bubble” in which she does a nice job dissecting why the current hubris may not be as problematic as it seems. First, and perhaps most importantly, the scope of investors playing in the heady market that includes the likes of Zynga, LinkedIn, Facebook and Foursquare is small and mostly limited to “professional investors.” If these properties fail to deliver adequate returns at these stratospheric valuations, few outside this elite crowd will experience any deleterious effect. In other words, if they want to play the buy high and pray game, more power to them.

If, on the other hand, these valuations turn out to create a new normal for high traffic social media/Internet properties, then all the better for those in the space. As Ms. Lowrey insinuates in her post, perhaps we should be delighted in a boom, even though we carry a healthy dose of skepticism born from a remembrance of history.

Is Social Media a Fad?

In a January 19, 2011 InformationWeek article, Rajan Chandras posits whether the “Social Network Frenzy Signals Another Tech Bubble.” In short….No!

Before I get to why the fundamentals of “core” web 2.0, social media, social networking (insert your favorite buzzword here) are sound, it is worth getting the valuation issue off the table. I have been telling colleagues for months that I think the valuations on some of the high profile web 2.0 companies are absurd. In order of absurdity, I’d list Groupon, Twitter, then probably Facebook.

  • Groupon will go down as one of the biggest investor heartbreaks in history. They walked away from $6B!!!! cash from Google, instead taking $900M in venture money in advance of testing the public markets. Some argue they can afford to do it because all the founders/early investors are now playing with house money since they cashed in early. Still….bad, bad bad. That business is going to get killed, in my humble opinion, not by one competitor, but death by a thousand cuts from the likes of: LivingSocial, Woot, Yelp, Amazon, Tippr, WhitePages.com etc etc etc etc. Anecdotally I don’t know anyone who gives a damn about where their deal-of-the-day comes from. Whoever has the best deals will get the traffic. Some argue the data aggregation and analysis Groupon can perform is what provides the core value. Nonsense! This becomes a commodity function for any reasonably performing coupon shop in the space. Short the stock.
  • Twitter: It’s not a two-way communications tool! Email and Facebook are far more effective and appropriate for point to point messaging. Virtually no one cares about minute by minute updates of people’s lives and thoughts. Twitter is a solid broadcast medium for sharing learnings and information with a wide audience. There is some really good analysis of why the user demographics on Twitter are limited….they spell long-term trouble. Teens, for example, never use Twitter. Additionally, star power was an early driver for Twitter traffic, and the trend shows that all the “A list” celebs have abandoned Twitter like a loser agent at CAA. Again, short the stock.
  • Facebook: Clay Shirky has some really good material on how “new media” is transforming society. It’s not a fad by any measure. Simplifying his research for purposes of this post, after the industrial revolution we divided our days into roughly 3 day-parts of 8 hours apiece: work, sleep and personal time. Old media (magazines, movies, radio and tv) took up the lion’s share of that time over the last 5 decades. The media business was largely built around ad sales. (subscriptions, movie tickets etc are another element)

Old media was one-way. Producer to consumer…no conversation, reaction etc. New media opened up two-way communication between producers and consumers. More importantly, it made production of content easy enough for anyone from 5 years old to 95 years old… amateurish content in most cases, but it didn’t matter. The low cost of content production (a computer or phone) meant there didn’t need to be a financial ROI in most cases. People just want to be heard, to share, to participate. Our pent up desire to be social was unlocked. (there is a very similar social argument for the rapid growth of bricks-and-mortar companies like Starbucks by the way)

[As an aside, new media has been largely focused on consumer orientations or that 8 hour slot of time mostly identified as “personal” time. Increasingly, companies like I’m involved with are taking many of these same tools/models and applying them to the 8 hour time slot reserved for our work-life….(alternative term = vertical markets)].
The revenue model around this new Internet phenomenon is very UNLIKE the Internet bubble of the 90s. The traditional media dollars are being completely re-oriented away from the static one-way entertainment model to a dynamic consumer driven model such as that exemplified by Facebook. Ad dollars are still higher on television than on the Internet despite more aggregate time being spent on the latter.

By the way, the InformtionWeek article referenced $1.2B in revenue for Facebook. The most recent reports have them hitting $4B by year end. While this is not efficient given 600M+ members, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either and it’s early.

The InformationWeek article hits at the very essence of the shift going on in technology and society. Is it a fad? While many of the business models out there are fluff, and there will be far more losers than winners, there is a fundamental shift underway and a huge and real revenue opportunity that goes beyond ordering groceries online and the Webvan busts of the 1990s. (a model that is now working extremely well for Amazon and others by the way)

Social Media Burn Out?

Over the past several weeks I have been a part of discussions with both physicians and non physicians commenting on how social media has overtaken their life. They feel compelled to connect to Twitter morning noon and night. They get sucked into the constant need to post to their blog, they live and die by Facebook updates, Foursquare check-ins and on and on and on.

Technology is supposed to serve us, not the other way around. Social media is no exception. While most of you are just starting to explore social media in all its forms, keep in mind the boundaries you want to attach. It can quickly suck you in.

I am embedding a post by Guy Kawasaki from a few months back in which we highlights his own issues with social media addiction and showcases two products to help tune out from time to time.

Shoot me a note with ideas that have worked to help you maintian boundaries or share how you’ve been engulfed. Either way, your colleagues will find it interesting.

From Guy Kawasaki – How to Find Freedom

Let me confess: I’m addicted to Twitter and email, and my addiction increases the more I have to do something important like write a book. Luckily, I stumbled across applications called Freedom and Anti-Social that really help. I explain how they works here at the American Express Open Forum. If you’re having a tough time prying yourself away from online fun, they could really help.