This post has been moved to my new home on the web www.steve-e.co.uk. The post itself can be found here. 23Musings is going to remain dormant for now and some of its more popular posts will be transferred to the blog at my new site.

My reason for moving and not taking the years of posts with me is the need for a fresh start, 23Musings had been dormant for long enough for me to feel it was time to start my blog from scratch.

Don’t forget to check out my new blog! www.steve-e.co.uk/blog

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There’s an interesting post over on the Nielsen Wire blog from Jon Gibs (their VP Media Analytics) about the methods people are now using to discover content. Their findings show that a lot of surfers now make social media their starting point when trying to find information online. 18% of the people Nielsen quizzed said they start a search for new information using Wikipedia, blogs or social networks (such as Facebook or Twitter). That’s a pretty big percentage, especially when you consider that only 37% said they started their hunt on a search engine (which you’d traditionally think might be the starting point).

It’s not really a surprise to see web users learning to trust information that is recommended by their peers, or info that comes from within their sphere of influence on social networks. Recommendation is a powerful thing online and crowd sourced recommendations are a great way to answer certain queries. However, as networks are inherently distributed are they as likely to get an accurate answer to their more complex info needs as they would on a search engine?

In the same report 26% of respondents who identified themselves as socializers (the ones likely to start on a socnet) said that they feel ‘there is too much information online’. Perhaps this is what draws them to social networks for their information searching needs? Maybe the trust factor that someone has recommended some information to them gives them the confidence that they will drill through the dross and find the nugget they are looking for. However, if they feel overloaded now that is only going to get worse as networks grow.

Social network contacts are never going to be able to answer all the questions that intelligent use of a search engine would (unless your network includes some of the finest minds). If we, as web users, rely too much on social networks for finding information are we going to lose the ability to really search when we need to? Search can be a bit of an art form; some people struggle to get how to think laterally when searching for a niche topic, others can get there in one or two searches by using word combinations and booleans cleverly. Could reliance on social networks for the answers to questions destroy the art of searching or data mining that the web has historically been so good at encouraging? Social networks are great for recommendation and serendipitous discovery of content but how do they cater for people who just want their questions answered? Do they need to branch out more deeply into indexing and search or perhaps encourage search to begin on their networks by providing tools to do so?

I’m not offering any answers as this is a shift in habits which has been underway for a long time, but as more users become socializers (inevitable), and information becomes more and more realtime, someone needs to provide a way they can divine the realtime stream for the information they seek. Either that or search engines need to provide new, more social ways to search their indexes. What do you think?

PS. Just in case you think I mean divine in the Biblical sense, have a look at this.

This post has now been moved to my new blog and can be found here.

Couldn’t agree more with this post (or as he says rant, though I think I sense some holding back) from @builtbydave today. Expert is a phrase used far too often in many fields, particularly in relation to social media. Being social is a skill in its own right, and one that far too many overlook.

People often use the term social media to describe online communities and blogging and seem to think they’re something new, where as anyone who remembers newsgroups would remember just how social they used to be (uk.music.rave anyone?). I used to work for a company who specialised in community portals in the mid to late 1990’s, the concept isn’t new, just the technology has moved on significantly. Campaigns have been built around places people congregate on the web for many years.

But there are people who are very good at building campaigns based around various community platforms, blogging, networks, forums etc and specialise in that as a discipline so we do need a word for what they do. Perhaps ‘social media’ is just the wrong one, is it trying to encompass too much?

It’s a hard thing to define though, and I’m not going to pretend I can do it, but I am going to pose a few questions. Do we need to define social media? Can you define it acceptably? Should we segment the skills into online PR, community building & management, blog media experts etc; would that make it more palatable? Or do we just need to accept that the best person for the job is one with an open mind, a sociable demeanour and a deep understanding & passion for the web as a whole? I tend to side with something an old boss of mine used to say before we interviewed ‘the best people are web people’.

20071102104425backhander_istockj203jpgIt’s one thing to make money from adverts served to and targeted at your audience based on their behavior and connections on your site. Most people accept that this is how sites like Facebook intend to kick start a revenue stream. We allow sites to serve us adverts based on our preferences, past behavior, groups we join, friends we have and interests we disclose under the knowledge that this is now happening across the web on most advertising funded websites.

Now we’re told (via the Telegraph) that Facebook has a new revenue model, by turning the platform into a tool corporates can use for market research. Facebook will (says the Telegraph) allow companies to selectively target Facebook users to research their new products. They say companies will be able to pose questions to selected members, using the social network as a kind of straw poll. That’s great for companies, it can take a long time to get the right people selected for a survey or focus group, but you can make the selection process much quicker when you have access to the kind of data Facebook has about users.

So, what incentive for the users? I don’t know about you, but if I start getting random questions popping up in Facebook from brands who want my opinion I’m unlikely to respond unless I feel there’s some value in me doing so. If brands are going to use me to improve their product offering; and out of that Facebook is going to make some money, then should they be paying users for their time and opinions?

Widget spend to grow

March 19, 2008

Widgets are gaining some serious traction! U.S. companies have spent approx $15m on widget based campaigns in 2007 and that is projected to grow to $40m in 2008.

That spend reflects only 2.5% of the total amount that is projected to be spent on social network advertising in the next year. Now that’s quite low, I believe this is because so many widget campaigns have been so poorly executed in the past year and corporates are having difficulty seeing the potential ROI in comparison to traditional banner advertising and more brand led efforts (such as sponsored pages and profiles).

I stick by my earlier prediction that 2008 will be the year of the widget; if portability, engagement and usefulness are all kept in mind then a widget campaign can serve both branding and conversion. For more on my thoughts on widgets see this post.

For more on widget spend visit eMarketer.

A study has come out which says that people who blog can feel less isolated and more satisfied with your friendships both online and in the real world. The two month study found those who blogged felt they had better social support and friendship networks than those in the study who didn’t.

Could this be because bloggers have a platform to vent frustration and express emotion? Or is it that we’re a bunch of egotists who like to think people want to read what we have to say 😉