Tag Archives: Twitter

PJ’s Equation of Tweeting

Twitter was a product till few years back., its now a powerful communication tool. A medium to stay updated! What you get out of Twitter is simply based on whom who follow.

As a open communication medium, one needs to tweet responsibly! Twitter can get highly addictive and if you are tweeting too much, you may be spamming your follower’s timelines with tweets that may be senseless for many.

I have followed this equation, which now I call the PJ’s Equation of Tweeting.

PJ’s Equation of Tweeting: Total Tweets < Followers x 10.

PJ's Equation of Tweeting

PJ's Equation of Tweeting

Though it looks simple, it really works (for me at least).

  1. One needs to Tweet responsibly, cause the tweets are limited.
  2. With every new follower, you earn right to tweet (10 tweets); and with every lost follower you lose that. Makes me tweet with care.

PS: Total Tweets includes everything – tweets, replies and retweets.
PS 2: If you just joined Twitter, the equation will not work. But as you get regular, it should.
PS 3: If you are celebrity in real world (or if you think you are) then: Tweets < (Followers / 10).

API based Advertising. Maybe Google lost a Billion Dollar Opportunity…

Google is undoubtedly the master in text based advertising with its Adwords platform (that continues to be the largest contributor to Google’s revenue). It relies on a two formats of text advertising – through Search (display relevant advertisements to users on search results page) and Content Sensing (display advertisements based on content on the page user is browsing).

With advent of Twitter / Facebook and similar such platforms, emerged another prominent format of text outside boundaries of Google’s prominence – ‘status messages’ or ‘short text content’ or even ‘short text messages’. This text format originates and is consumed as quickly as it is generated. Concise, one-to-all (FB / Twitter) or one-to-one (SMS or chat).

Twitter owes its success to its API. Back in 2008-09, while developers were building applications on top of its API, I read/heard many say – “APIs is the product distribution” or “APIs is product marketing”. However, no one said “API is the next Advertising” (in context of text based advertising).

Imagine this simple hack – post the ‘short text’ through API to Google. The service would intelligently interpret if the ‘short text’ has any intent-value and revert back with the most relevant advertisement which the developers can embed back in their application the way they want it as part of their core product experience. The API could have options for Geo / Context, etc.

Is the opportunity huge? Its massive! Facebook is already under-fire for not having enough on its monetization plate. FB is monetizing via demographic targeting, while millions of status messages with a intent-opportunity go without monetization everyday. Twitter faces similar challenges, wrote about this earlier. Instagram, for example – you see this amazing photograph of a Pizza, you immediately want to eat one – show a relevant advertisement. Or two people on a IM like Whatsapp – making plans of a vacation to Canary Islands. This list goes endless.

There has been a radical shift in Internet (read content) over last 10 years, but web-monetization still continues to be same old method – either search or display. Companies involved in mobile advertising copy-pasted the web model to mobile. Web/mobile monetization models are ripe for disruption. While such kind of API based advertising requires a long-tail of advertisers, like the one Google has. But it will be difficult to under estimate startups who would want to get a slice off such very large opportunity; which otherwise will be Google’s lost opportunity….

 

Google in its mid-life crisis!

Few days back, read an article about Larry Page, Founder and now-CEO of Google attempting to pull Google out of its mid-life crisis. The article headline was catchy, but no justification of what exactly is this mid-life crisis about.

Below are my views on what I believe are the 10 biggest challenges Google is facing right now and why it might be a tough-time forward for the Internet giant. Flip through the presentation below or read the long post below.

 

1. Search

Yes – Search. Google’s core product is facing threat from another format of search: Real-Time Search.

Google continues to add more capabilities to index real-time information to its search algorithms; but fails to realize that traditional web-index based search is different from real-time search. Last year (April 2010), in its caffeine update Google claimed to provide 50% more fresher results. Nov 2011 it rolled out another set of changes to its search algorithms that affects 35% of all search queries. Again same month, it was discovered that Google started indexing comments on Facebook.

In real-time search, the context in which the information retrieved is no longer valid after sometime. In case of Twitter it does not last beyond a day. Or a week? Same with Facebook. At this same point while consumer search for this information on Google – it is impossible to figure out the context of that search query – real-time info or traditional.

Example. Apple launches its next smartphone – iPhone 5. Consumers looking for “smartphone” on Google Search are shown iPhone 5 results, even when they are not looking for it.

Methods of information indexing, querying, trending, and even consumer mindset for real-time search are different than traditional search. Google may end up killing product experience of Traditional web search with such attempts.

Content index based web search & real-time information search are different products. If Google intends to capture a mind-share of Real-Time web search; it needs to build a different product.

 

2. The Rise of Discovery Platforms

For years, Search was our only means to discover websites, content, products, services. Google was our gateway to the Internet.

Today, with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and similar; consumers are discovering more and relevant websites, content, products or services. They come to us with recommendations, shares, comments from our contacts – and are more relevant. Interpret this as – Google is no longer the only discovery mechanism.

User adoption for Social Networks is increasing; they continue to have high mindshare and also consumers are spending more time on social platforms today. In addition to this, a whole new wave of innovative products are launched on top of Social Graphs enabling contextual discovery.

Social discovery methods are threat to Search.

 

3. Social

After 750+ Mn users on Facebook, 380+ Mn on Twitter, 115+ Mn on LinkedIn; Google now does understand the importance of having a Social Product.

Its earlier attempts – Orkut, Buzz, Wave failed. It is making a big push with Google+, trying to create a new Social Graph, without realizing that they are already established.

Social Graphs are reflection of our Social Relationships in real world. And they are:

  • Close Relationships: Facebook
    Family, Friends – People you know personally!
  • Professional Relationships: LinkedIn
    Colleagues, Partners, Business Relationships
  • Loose Relationships – Twitter
    Celebrities, Domain Experts. People you know, but they may not know you.

There is no room for creation of another graph. And for Google+, I strongly believe that it will fail again as it is still miles away from being a great social product.

On other hand – Spotify, Netflix, Hulu and many other products and startups are riding the Facebook Open Graph / Social Graph to increase social engagement and usage. While Google is missing the opportunity by not leveraging Facebook’s reach for its own products like YouTube, Google News and similar.

Social is not in Google’s DNA.

 

4. Continued Fascination with Google+

The rule to build successful products is – “Build quickly, learn, build, deploy. Doesn’t work, discard. Start again.” Google taught us this rule; and is now breaking it again and again.

Google should rather focus on building Google+, showing users the value proposition in this platform. Instead it is doing its biggest mistake – forcefully including Google+ in its other products. And in this process killing the user experience and usability of its successful products.

  • Search:  Introduced Google+ profiles of users who shared respective URL in search results.
  • Adwords:  Introduced the +1 button to Adwords display advts.
  • YouTube: Introduced videos shared by Google+ users on YouTube homepage.
  • Gmail: Introduced notifications on Google+ updates on Gmail header toolbar.
  • Google Reader: Introduced sharing options, adding users to Circles from Google Reader.

In any of the above products, Google+ additions are not enabling any core-feature of the main product. These would have been great things to do if Google+ had proved its own value to users. Google is simply leveraging successful products to promote Google+.

Didn’t Yahoo try his before – everything Yahoo. I didn’t work earlier, it will not work now.

 

5. Fixing whats not broken

Google wants to act fast and speed up its innovation. While doing this, it is actually fixing whats not broken.

Gmail –

  • The new design update Google is planning to push to all its users – is uncalled for. The functional updates are great thing to do, but the changes to its look are at the expense of product usability and could have been avoided.
  • Google announced launch of a very buggy version of its Gmail client for iOS; and recalled the same from app stores within hours.
  • Stops support for native Blackberry App. While Blackberry itself is on a decline, it still has a significant 19.7% share in US smartphone market and continues to grow in countries like India.

Search –

  • Started with its Caffeine roll-out in June 2010 to include fresh content.
  • In Nov 2011 – it pushed another big roll-out that impacts 35% of search queries.
  • Labnol discovered that Google is now indexing Facebook comments.

In search of freshness, Google is playing too much with its core search product. As mentioned earlier in this post, Real-Time search needs to be a different product.

Google Maps –

  • Announced pricing for Maps API High-volume usage.
  • Location is a key to future product innovation on top of Maps. This move is likely to affect a lot of startups innovating on top of Google Maps.

YouTube –

  • Homepage displays videos from People you follow on Google+

Google is also implementing design standardizations across all products – Search, Gmail, Reader, News, Books and more others. Google is killing uniqueness of its products by standardizing its look and feel and continuing with its fascination of Google+.

 

6. Siri

It may not be easy for anyone to dismiss Siri as a feature on iPhone 4S. Siri is not just voice recognition; it is another input methodology. Siri’s natural language interaction is far more superior than the syntax driven VA (Voice Actions for Android). VA is anywhere between 1-2 years behind Siri. That is a (HUGE) advantage Apple holds.

As the technology improves, one can start talking to Siri as –

  • “Siri, search for ‘MP3 Player’, take me to the best result!”
  • “Siri, show me the map of Mumbai.”
  • “Siri, who is offering the lowest flight ticket from Mumbai to London.”

There are infinite possibilities what Siri can develop into quickly. Most importantly – the potential it holds can make many Google products and services around it irrelevant, like –

  • Search – Ability to discover new websites and relevant services without using Google Search.
  • Adwords – Google relies on clicks for monetization. Siri means no clicks, just talking.
  • Maps – No longer view maps while driving, Siri will look up to them and speak out the directions.
  • SEO – What happens to the SEO ecosystem around Search? Will the new optimization be SVO (Siri Voice Optimization)? How will it work?

Google mastered the standard text-input methodology on Internet (Computers + Mobile). But the threat from Siri is Real. Of all challenges Google faces, Siri is the biggest. The last known big transition for input methodology was finger-based touch inputs (introduced with iPhone). In last couple of years, it replaced traditional keypads on all smartphones.

Siri should be a big bouncer to folks at Google; caught them off-guard and completely unprepared.

 

7. Android v/s iOS

Google scores a big thumbs up with Android capturing 43% of US smartphone market. Apple lost opportunity in developing countries due to its high-priced iPhones while Android phones & tablets flooded the markets with price points from $75 to $1000.

In my own view – I find Google strategy to enter smartphone market extremely fascinating. Samsung, Motorola, HTC, LG and many others were excellent hardware manufacturers with poor software / applications / user experience capabilities compared with Apple or even Nokia. Google gave what these partners lacked – an mobile operating system and ecosystem of applications.

Distribution of Android phones provided Google the opportunity to monetize the mobile search queries. Current trends in mobile are slightly more inclined towards building Apps & HTML5 websites, most developers and product companies want to ensure a seamless experience on phone and also presence with a native client. Google also aligning itself by directing mobile publishers to Adsense and enabling AdMob for Mobile applications.

Google acquired Motorola Mobility to debut itself as an Software+Hardware play (like Apple?). But it may have limited or no advantage with its own hardware play (through Motorola) as it will face tough questions from global Android partners like Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG and others who are responsible for large distribution of Android OS and its popularity. For now, the Apple dream may look difficult.

There are also few more challenges facing the Android ecosystem –

  • Apple still largest and extremely focused contender with its one-phone market strategy for iPhone
  • Android being open; Consumers have a huge choice for Android phones from $75 to $750.
  • Only differentiation between Android phones are hardware capabilities; hardware edge is tough to maintain.
  • Brands like Samsung, HTC, others will require to have devices at all price-points to ensure growing market share. Only significantly high volumes will bring profits.
  • Tough competition on price from Chinese and low-cost android phone manufacturers.

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8. Monetization

2004: Google’s largest contributor to its Revenue: Adwords
2011: Google’s largest contributor to its Revenue: Adwords

In 2004, Advertising was only large scalable online monetization model. In the quarter Google debuted on Nasdaq; Amazon reported profit of just $54 Mn.

In 2011, there are various scalable monetization models:

  • Online Advertising / Search & Display (Google)
  • Online Advertising / Social (Facebook, LinkedIn & similar)
  • Mobile Advertising (Google, InMobi & others)
  • Local Advertising (Groupon, Foursquare & similar)
  • eCommerce (Amazon & others)
  • Enterprise, CRM (Salesforce, Box.net & others)
  • App Stores (Apple)
  • SaaS Products (Dropbox, Evernote, others)
  • Payments (PayPal, Square, others)
  • Smart Computing Devices / Tablets, Kindle, Smartphones (Apple, Amazon, others)

Multiple scalable monetization models evolved over last few years. Google unfortunately has not moved beyond Adwords.

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9. Lack of Innovation

Over years, Google is struggling with innovation. Many existing and high potential products are on decline.

  • Blogger: Introduced the world to blogging. Lost battle to WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous.
  • Google Books: eBooks store of the World? eBook for Android phones?
  • Google Docs: Never really went beyond Gmail attachments. Evernote? Box.net?
  • Google News: News recommendation service or aggregation. Pulse?
  • Google Apps: Endless opportunities in Enterprise services.

Google also abandoned or mis-managed on some the big ideas –

  • Chromebook:
    Post launch announcements, not much has been heard about Chromebook project. If Chromebooks were built to optimize over web, why did it not follow the Android platform? Ideally it should have built and optimized version of Android for laptops & tablets (Android 3.1 Honeycomb for tablets came much later).
  • Orkut:
    Google never realized the potential of Social until too late. Orkut which could have been the default Social Networking destination for world, never innovated beyond UI changes and probably never got the resources that it deserved.
  • GDrive:
    Google was to launch an online drive for storage back in 2007; much ahead of Dropbox’s launch. The project was abandoned and Google is reportedly working on its revival once again post Dropbox’s success.

Over years multiple products have evolved that Google has not paid attention to. Some of the hottest startups and businesses today are in product domains like – Multiple SaaS domains, Social Commerce, Social Products, Local Businesses and so on.

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10. Failure to execute Acquisitions

If you can’t build it, acquire it. Google has done some awesome job with many of its acquisitions, but unfortunately not the ones in Social. The big lost opportunities here are Aardvark, Dodgeball and Jaiku.

  • Jaiku:
    An micro-blogging service that launched well before Twitter and acquired by Google in Oct 2007 had the potential to be Twitter or a tough competition. Twitter today has over 380+ Mn users and valued at an estimated $8 Bn.
  • Aardvark:
    An social QnA service created before Quora was acquired by Google for $50Mn in Feb 2010 had enough time to learn and innovate. Google announced its closure in Sept 2011. Lost opportunity – Quora is now valued at over $1 Bn.
  • Dodgeball:
    One of the earliest location based social products for mobile was acquired by Google in 2005 and discontinued in 2009. Dodgeball’s founder Dennis Crowley launched Foursquare which is one of the hottest location based products today with over 10 Million users.

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Ending Notes

Design standardizations that kill identity of products. Inability to build competitive products and match speed of innovation. Failed attempts at Social Networking. Fascination to promote / push Google+ through its successful products. Failed acquisitions.

Google is currently showing all signs of being the next Yahoo. At this pace, engineers will sense more challenges and opportunities to innovate outside of Google. Its not too late, but yes – Google is in its mid-life crisis.

Concluding Notes for myself and other startups – “Don’t try to do something in everything. Rather focus on doing everything in something.”

Google+ may be miles away from being a great Social Product!

A Product Manager’s view – Why Google+ may be miles away from being a great Social Product!

There are various reports on super adoption of Google+, earlier about 10 Mn users and today it reaching 50 Mn users.  The key question is – How many users are engaged there? Also echoed by The Lean Startup author Eric Ries while Facebook has 750Mn active and engaged users.

I am trying to tell myself that first signs of product usage and assumptions change over time. It happened with me for Groupon where the business model was innovative, but not scalable; for Quora post initial adoption; for Twitter (where I was a early adopter) but found no one else there and stayed away for 2-3 years before becoming active again.

Same happened with Google+ my first reaction was Facebook killer, then next was Twitter killer – and over a period of time with my Product Manager’s hat – I feel that it may be miles away from being a great Social Attempt!

 

1. What is Google+? No one cared to answer!

A standard product management and product marketing practice is to tell consumers what the product is. The world knows about Facebook, despite its 750Mn+ active users – every time you visit Facebook homepage it tells you what it is.

  • Facebook – Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.
  • Twitter – Follow your interests. Instant updates from your friends, industry experts, favorite celebrities, and what’s happening around the world.
  • Flickr – Share your life in photos.
  • YouTube – Join the largest worldwide video-sharing community!
  • Foursquare – Check in. Find your Friends. Unlock your City.
  • Quora – A continually improving collection of questions and answers.

While for Google+ – No one cared to answer what product use-case it solves or what should users are expected to do on it.

 

2. How does a user access Google+ ?

Users access Facebook on www.facebook.com; Twitter on www.twitter.com; and so on – is it www.google+.com?

And to prove this point – look at Google+ suggestions on Search –

Accessibility is a big question mark for Google+. The correct way to access Google+ is plus.google.com – which a technology early adopter shall ‘probably’ remember – but even he or she will end up accessing (most of the time) Google+ from within GMail on the notification bar at the top.

This point is also related with next set of arguments – User Psychology & Naming & Identification Psychology. I feel these factors are extremely important to consider while building any consumer product.

 

3. User Psychology for Consumer Products

For any Internet or mobile product – consumers are quick to label it with its strongest product use-case – which is typically the recall product value of the user. Simply stated for a normal user –

  • “I visit GMail to check my emails!”
  • “I visit Google to search the web.”
  • “I visit Facebook to view what my friends are up to.”

Now it is extremely difficult for any product to have a “and use-case” for a product –

  • “I visit GMail to check my emails and Social Networking.” – No!
  • “I visit Google to search the web and Social Networking.” – No!
  • “I visit Facebook to view what my friends are up to and also searching the world wide web.” – No!

“And use-case” works for features that support any product’s core value. Features that would be to better manage emails (for Gmail), to better display search rankings (for Google Search), to show more types of friend’s activities (for Facebook) and so on.

Google is aiming to take on Facebook with a Social Networking product. But launched it like a feature on Google Homepage (Search) & Gmail (Notification Header). In current avatar, Google+ is a feature – and will gain traction as much as a feature can. It will not gain identity as a social-networking stand-alone product.

Also note the big failures of other “And use-cases” –

  • “I visit Facebook to view what my friends are up to and also Buy Local Deals.” – Deals was abandoned by Facebook
  • “I visit Facebook to view what my friends are up to and also to check-in in places” – Places as stand-alone attempt within Facebook failed, but as feature is gaining traction.
  • “I visit Gmail to check mails and Buzz up articles.” – Google Buzz… remember?

“And use-cases” work for B2B products, but have never worked for any consumer web product.

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4. Naming & Identification Psychology

Social Graphs & Social Networks are all about giving identity to users. Currently, Google+ itself needs an identity. Users think and will continue to think of Search when they think of Google, and it is virtually impossible for them to perceive Google as a Social Network.

How consumers relate with social activities – “Are you on FB?” “Can you tweet this?” “Let me share it on FB” and so on. The terminology “Google” or “Googled” is built over last 13 years – will be impossible to change from search to a social context.

For sake of Product identity or for its different product use-case, Google+ should have been outside of Google identity with its own identity (probably a www.plus.com if it was available). But the lure of exploring existing user-base is too difficult to give away – and if that logic was to succeed Yahoo! would have still been the largest internet company in this world. They tried to do everything under Yahoo! brand name (Yahoo! Search, Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Hotjobs, Yahoo! This & Yahoo! That), but for consumers Yahoo! was and always remained a content play.

Even Google’s largely successful consumer products outside Search – Gmail & YouTube were successful because consumers saw it as an independent product identity outside the core of Google’s Search. While Google Video, Google Buzz, Google Answers – all failed. I am strong advocate of one-product = one-identity for consumer web businesses.

 

5. Social Graphs are occupied; No place for Google+ to fit in

I mentioned in my previous post Building Awesome Social Products – successful social products are reflection of people’s offline behavior in the real world. Similarly – successful social graphs are also reflection of people’s social relationships in real world. Social Products reflect activities, Social Graphs reflect relationships.

A typical user’s social relationships involve –

  • Close Relationships – Friends, Family, Friendly Colleagues (present and past) – more importantly people you know personally.
  • Professional Relationships – Colleagues, Business Relationships, Partners
  • Loose Relationships – People you know, but they probably don’t know you. Celebrities, known professionals, domain experts

Facebook covers Close Relationships, LinkedIn covers Professional Relationships, Twitter covers Loose Relationships. So if Google+ is trying to create a new Social Graph, it will be a struggle (big struggle) – simply cause there is no use-case for a new social graph. Social graphs are distinct; by nature, by user behavior and are established over a period of time.

Features don’t make a product success by itself and expect it to later evolve in to a Social Graph; Instead having a use-case for social graph is essential and the features should evolve.

6. It is important to know whom to kill – Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, or what -?

Google+ though it presently looks like a Facebook killer – it is not. None of my friends are using it the way they use Facebook, instead I see more updates from technology adopters in Silicon Valley – and the posts look like extended tweets (beyond the 140 characters). I follow these technology adopters on Twitter, and hence my own assumption that probably it is a Twitter-killer.

Google+ still does not have a clear proposition – and is trying to overlap between all three Social Graphs (Close Relationships, Professional Relationships & Loose Relationships) without taking a clear positioning against one of them.

I am personally not happy with the killer-suffix (no products killers have ever killed anyone – they are still trying to kill iPhone & iPad). But its also important to know who your competition or what your benchmark really is. Or you might just try running behind all, but never able to catch up with any one of them.

7. Developer APIs will not enable Social Graphs; Instead Gmail invite contacts are more powerful.

There has been lot of noise about speculated Google+ APIs for developers to build applications and its release dates or so on. Developer APIs will provide access to features – posting an Google+ update, ability to do +1 through applications, and so on – but this sounds (unfortunately once again) like Twitter APIs or FB app APIs that allow you to post status updates and share pictures and so on. Most importantly, Google+ will not be able to build a Facebook Connect equivalent.

Today Social Graphs when referred are mostly Facebook explored through Facebook Connect (unless you write some algorithms on top of them to bring context to your product). F-Connect allows applications & developers to enable Social Graphs (of friends); which clearly explains why 1000s of applications prefer to have Sign-up with Facebook buttons.

Google+ has multiple circles (friends, acquaintances, doctors, techies – and you can delete and rename any other circle); relationships in these circle are mutually not dependent on each other – and hence cannot be explored even if Google+ comes out with a API to access them. Let me explain this below –

a. A user Larry might add another user Zuck in friends circle; Zuck may add Larry in My Gang circle. Hence social relationship between them is not mutual (as friends).
b. Further Larry might name his friends circle as Buddies; Zuck names his friends circles as Pals; Hence the social graph definition itself is flawed.


This is a huge flaw – Through APIs the developer’s applications cannot reach mutually accepted graph of both connections (mutual friends) or an validated status of their relationships (close friends, professional or loose). Hence at this stage it would be more preferred to use the Gmail Invite Contacts module – for simple reason that it is more powerful and treats all contacts at a same level (a social graph of email contacts / connections).

 

8. Not the best attempt at Social Networking

Google already knows so much about its users – whom do you chat (on GTalk), whom do you mail (on Gmail) or who are my most contacted people in real world (on Android). Google could have actually used a lot of this data, recommended people with circles (I still hate sorting people in circle all the time, but pre-cooked circles by associations would still have been so much better).

With Google holding so much data and wanting to go ahead with a strong social product; it is expecting users to do it again from scratch. Makes one feel that Google+ is a half-baked attempt.

Facebook users usually have about 150 to even 5000 friends. Usually added over years, and all added at a same level – ‘Friends’. However cool the task of adding people to circle is in execution – to add those many people again to circles is a pain. While most people that users see on Google+ are those who are discovered through the people you follow. Every time to add someone to a circle is little more effort than just adding as a friend (on Facebook) or just following the user (on Twitter).

Circle looks like Twitter lists – People get added on them once, later everyone forgets which user is put in what circle. And while the News feed (or stream) stays common for all – the Circles might as well be forgotten just like Twitter Lists.

The next point makes it more clear – why it is not the best attempt at Social Networking.

 

9. Real Capabilities of Social Graphs (or Networks) are absent –

Get this right – Friends (or Connections!) are the minimum one expects out of a Social Network. What stands out are the capabilities to engage those connections. Remember Orkut? – it had all connections; but Facebook just made the engagement so much better.

  • Ability to discover Friends or Connections in context –
    Google+ has done a simple job or fetching contact list from GMail and enabled it with the painful process (yes!) of adding to circles. But by enabling discovery of friends or connections who are active on Google+ – the suggestion engine for friends could have been so much better.
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    Example –
    1. I end of following lot of product enthusiasts & early adopters. There are mutual connections that could be added to my circles – which currently not recommended.
    2. My Gmail contacts list have endless email addresses of people I really don’t want to follow in circles or on any social network. So a smart recommendation based on whom I chat with, mutual friends, top contacts on Android and others need to be made discoverable.
    .
  • Stream or Newsfeed –
    The most important discovery tool on any Social Platform is Newsfeed. In its current stage – the Stream on Google+ is very Twitterish – a timeline of all people you follow.

    Facebook raised the standard with algorithms that help you discover feeds that is most relevant to every user, ranking every story contextually around a user. Newsfeed makes or breaks any Social Product and single most important activity & engagement enabler for any Social Product or Social Graph.
    .
  • Communication or Chat –
    The most cut-copy-paste feature of Google+ is chat – where user can chat with contacts he otherwise can also on Gmail or Gtalk. Quite honestly, this is the most ridiculous feature, with no context to people any user has put in his circles.
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    In context of chat (or video chat) – expecting users to do Hangouts with webcam is a big No. Hangouts are not conversation starters, but should be featured alongside as planned video conversations.
    .
  • Ability to drive Traffic –
    Remember Google Buzz? There was nothing wrong in the idea – attempting a Digg or Facebook Share or Tweet Share. Once a user Buzz’ed an article – it was critical to reach his Social Graph and drive viral traffic to that article. This story failed cause of poor dissemination of activity in user Social Graph. Google should learn lessons from Google Buzz chapter.
    .
    Social Networks like Facebook & Twitter are popular with publishers or businesses due to their ability to drive traffic to their own websites. While few publishers have added the +1 button to their webpages – still drives only an insignificant proportion of traffic to them; and lot of unclarity on how the dynamics of +1 button works for publishers and its benefits to them eventually.+1, Like, Share, Tweet this – are big distribution mechanisms for a Social Network. Should be given its required TLC.

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As mentioned earlier – the product use-case should be driven by features; and not the other way round. Google can always come back and say – we are working on this. But hey, if a product is coming from a product & technology resource-heavy company like Google – even user expectations also very high.

Even these are early days for Google+, web is dynamic and consumer interests change quickly and Google can still do lots of changes quickly and innovate, possibly even work on the above arguments if they agree with it.

This post is written over last several days with some last minute additions on stats before hitting the publish button. Meanwhile Facebook has launched a series of new features, which looks like they are (over)reacting to Google+. Facebook, you are miles ahead, don’t make mistakes, please.

 

The Biggest Innovations never solved any problem!

Being an entrepreneur is exciting. And one question you hear often is – “What is the consumer problem that you are trying to solve?

We try to reserve our weekend lunches for some awesome conversations over products, companies and where the world is heading in connected world. Last Saturday, Anupam Mittal (Founder & CEO of People Group, Entrepreneur behind Shaadi.com), my co-founder and myself discussed this over lunch – “Did Google or Facebook  solved any consumer problem?

Our interaction inspired me to write this post –

Solving a problem and creating a market are two different ways to look at any company or any product idea. Products or Companies that solve a problem are the Million dollar companies, while products or individuals who look at the industry from a radically different approach – are the most disruptive, innovative and create Billion dollar opportunities as they grow.

My conclusions were –
– The biggest innovations never solved any consumer problem
– The founders or entrepreneurs had a different approach to the industry
– In almost all cases, the entrepreneurs did not belong to the industry, had little or no experience in that industry.

Further thoughts are embedded in this SlideShare presentation –

Have a different approach. Think different!

Social Commerce is Simple

Social Commerce is Simple. Here is how you solve it in 24 hours!

The Context of this post: Have been hearing & participating in some awesome conversations lately about Social Commerce. Someone explained me this – Transactional eCommerce is Big. Social media is where all users are today, it is already very Big.

So, Social + eCommerce = Social Commerce = Very very big!

Hence there is lot of interest today in products and platforms that are trying to bridge the gap. Analysts are predicting that its the next big thing and stating it is reaching its inflection point.

Completely agree with all that. But Social Commerce is simple, here is how you solve it.

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Oooops, btw did I tell you that more than $50 Million has been invested till date to solve this Social Commerce problem that merchants can do it themselves in less than 24 hours!

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The following text is not included in above presentation.

Some key insights for players in Social Commerce:

Existing ecosystem of eCommerce and Social Media is sufficient for building a Social Commerce without intermediation of players who do not add any value.

It will be difficult for a:

  • Existing social player to exploit potential of social commerce by introducing a new ecommerce service
    (Facebook or Twitter trying to build a Amazon)
  • Existing ecommerce player to exploit potential of social commerce by introducing a new social service.
    (Amazon trying to build a Facebook or Twitter)

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Most current players who are trying to build solutions are concentrating on building their own ecosystem of users & products – which is not impossible but extremely challenging. Reason being – such players do not own the products or the users (users that have more tight social connections as on Facebook & Twitter)

Unless a third situation happens – someone builds a valuable middle layer that provides affinity to both – social & commerce. As an platform in this case you need to provide enough value to users (either users from Social Media or users from eCommerce).

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One such promising player is FourSquare. They add a new value of – “checking in” to its users that are socially connected. Their current efforts are concentrated on getting these Social Connections to checkin to venues – which is demonstrated by its 6Mn+ users.

For purpose of this presentation I have kept other Social Models out –

  • Foursquare: Because its reach is still 1% compared to Facebook’s 600 Million users.
  • Groupon: It is a commerce player, but not social player. Groupon is not user engagement – view Fred Wilson’s comments here: http://t.co/p78buu0

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Drop me a mail, Available for Coffee and endless Product Management Conversations on weekends :-)

Twitter Business Model – 8th Wonder of the World

Twitter – the microblogging platform that revolutionized social media. Tons of businesses today are revolved around the tweetoconomy (tweet economy) – right from developing applications, social media agencies, and so on.

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While it might be an billion dollar economy that revolves around twitter and social media today, unfortunately Twitter still is trying to evolve its own business model. My argument here is that although the Twitter ecosystem is valuable, its going to be very challenging to monetize it. Twitter may have some business model (as it now has – promoted tweets, trends and users) but it will not justify the investments made in Twitter and the valuation it has today.
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And discovering that business model which justifies the valuation & investment may be as good as finding the eighth wonder of the world. Here is why:
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Twitter ecosystem consists of three factors:

  • Users – who tweet
  • Tweets – the 140 character messages which users write
  • Applications – all applications that allow users to write these tweets

All other functions of twitter – search, trends, lists, etc are functions of these 3 factors.
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Twitter has 175 million users; 75% of all tweets are outside of Twitter website and about 40% of them from mobile devices. Growth of twitter was propelled by three factors:
– Acceptance by celebrities and big brand names, which lead their followers to come on-board twitter
– Twitter became a pet of mainstream television and offline news
– Widespread development of applications by developers across the world. The twitter API was easy to implement and build quick apps, many innovative applications where built by developers which would have taken twitter ages to come out with.
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As per twitter website, as of Sept 14 2010 – there are a whopping 95 million tweets a day. (Imagine the monetization Google will achieve with 95 million search queries!). However most tweets are irrelevant; according to a research report by Pear Analytics – 40% tweets are Pointless Blabber, 38% are conversational, 9% have pass-along value, 6% are self promotion, 4% are news while rest 4% are spam.
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Tweets get a very little attention span. A study did by Sysomos revealed that – 71% of all tweets generated get no reaction – 23% get replied  – 6% get re-tweeted.
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The life-span of a tweet is another big issue – and every tweet gets a fractional life-span before it gets lost on tweet streams. To put it simply, fractional tweets are seen, more fractional tweets are read and even more small fraction of them are responded.

The life-span depends on factors like
– number of followers you have
– % of followers online at that time
– rate of tweeting of people followed by your followers at that time for them to notice your tweet
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Twitter’s Business Model

Few months back – according to internal documents leaked and published on Techcrunch, Twiiter was expected to reach an revenue of $140 million for 2010. The documents were leaked in 3rd quarter of 2009 – post which Twitter launched its 3 business offerings – Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts.
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Was Twitter referring to these 3 offerings to generate an revenue of $140 Million. In that case assuming 33% contribution towards revenue generated for each of them, they have to generate $46 Mn per year – at rate of $125,000 per day.
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Thats very expensive! Should twitter be charging $125,000 per day for these offerings? The answer to this question may surprising be Yes!
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Reports mentioned on sites like Clickz, Mashable, Wall Street Journal, The Next Web, Read Write Web – and many others have indicated that costing of promoted tweets is upwards of $100,000 per day!
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Such high costs are not justified as the business model is still not proven. Advertisers paying for these should be aware that these features are mostly available on twitter.com, while 75% activity on twitter happens outside of Twitter through applications and mobile devices. While there is no or very little context and relevance in which these promoted tweets, trends or accounts are served.
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Twitter’s ecosystem cannot be monetized!
Twitter’s ecosystem may be valuable, but cannot be monetized! Here is why was we summarize each of its component.
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Tweets:

  • Most tweets are blabbers, pointless
  • Most tweets do not have any intent like search keywords, and even if they have any intent – it will be momentary.
  • Most tweets are meant for others (for followers). Finding intents specific to self may be difficult task.
  • An user’s tweet can be completely different than his previous one – hence establishing relevance or context and validating seriousness of that context is not possible.
  • If Twitter is able to build an killer-product that deciphers user’s intent and in real time shows and advertise to the user, the only relevant format in which advertisement can be displayed to user is by tweeting a reply. This will lead to tweet-spam and users will protest!
  • Is the advertisement will include a link (of say ecommerce website) – chances of users to complete a transaction may be very less. Visitors from Twitter are known to have highest bounce-rates with a huge majority of users not exploring beyond 1-2 pages.
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Trends:

  • Trends are collective tweets of a large set of users. Most of the times trending topics are consequences of large offline news events and big announcements made by brands, companies and individuals (celebrities)
  • Its understood by commonsense that a promoted tweet may not cause same impact amongst users as a natural trend. The viral factor in a natural trending topic will be 1000X of promoted trends.
  • If twitter continues with promoted trends – at a costing of $100,000 per day – this model is not scalable and will not appeal to small segment of advertisers
  • Its not even possible for Twitter to monetize natural trending topics as they are usually related to subjects or topics that cannot be monetized. Twitter cannot predict a trending topic; and for an current trending topic which has potential to be monetized, it might be difficult for them to get find an advertiser before the topic stops trending.

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Users:

  • Most followed Twitter users are celebrities or big brands that have pulled more users to Twitter. Twitter will not have been at this scale without such users.
  • Twitter will continue to offer featured users and verified accounts for free, they may not be a business model here.
  • Promoted Accounts is being offered without much reference to user’s behavior or interest. Hence there may be little value to businesses for ‘promoted accounts’ to gather users to whom their tweets may not be relevant.

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Applications:

  • Twitter has indicated it will not allow applications to monetize tweets
  • Twitter cannot charge application developers. With 75% tweets coming from applications, Twitter is more dependent on them.
  • If Twitter starts monetizing individual tweets, they will also need to credit the applications that completed the monetization action.
  • While there are few benefits associated with applications like Quora to integrate with Twitter; stand-alone twitter applications will also need to have a way to monetize. If they are not able to monetize and generate revenue by themselves or through Twitter – they may start loosing interest in building or maintaining applications for Twitter..

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Twitter’s Speculated New Business Models:
Business model speculation and criticism is not new for Twitter. There were reports that Twitter may be be coming up with an eCommerce or News related business model. Here is my take of them:
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eCommerce:

  • There are few tweets shared between users about product recommendations, purchases and reviews. Tweets work in an open environment and Twitter may not be able to add more value to such conversations that are already happening.
    Example., if Dell continues to generate millions of dollars revenue through Twitter, there is not much Twitter can do to get a share if that.
  • In event if Twitter is forcing upon some business model related to eCommerce on to large brands on-board, there are multiple small accounts that will continue to converse as always. A business model that cannot be expanded to cover all its users equally will not last for long time.
  • Twitter itself is not an eCommerce seller like Amazon and can never be one. Neither can it act as an affiliate

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News:

  • Twitter is used by meaning leading publications and individual users to break stories. Once the story is pushed to twitter – its responded by followers, a huge story ends up becoming a trend and initiating conversations.
  • The process of publishing a twitter, spreading to follows, building conversations over it happens in a very short span of time. Twitter by itself is not a news service, any attempt to be in this domain will mean competition from well known and well followed media organizations. For a user – he is still very happy with the existing news publishers on Twitter.

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Concluding Remarks:
Twitter has always remained in the spotlight and seems like raising more capital is not a problem for them. For the fact that VCs have invested over $360 Million, Twitter is surely bound to give their investors a good exit and their quest of finding an business model will be going on for some time.
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Right now, its not clear if Twitter is or is not under great pressure to show an convincing business model, but some point they will have to. Twitter team is no doubt struggling to find a revenue model that fits its ecosystem – an ecosystem which has value for its users but is extremely difficult to monetize for the company that owns it.
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While Twitter is not ready to accept proven online business models like search and display, Twitter’s discovery for its revenue stream will be as good as finding the eighth wonder of this world!