The Commoditizing of Social Networking Sites

GigaOm makes his point on something I fully agree – social networking will become a feature.

Why? Because social networking as an independent subject matter by itself gets boring after a while. Scale has already been achieved by those that focuses on social networking as the end goal – MySpace and Facebook. You have to provide a greater utility beyond just “linking to your friends online”. Nor will explicit dating as the end-goal be a compelling reason for people to join a social network. I rest my case for networks like Xuqa that plastered hot chicks on their homepage a while back in order to lure desperados.

But I do not think the social networking war has ended. The definition of social networking is pretty wide to encompass just about any site that allows you to browse other people’s pofiles and connect with them as “friends”. Friendster used to dominate a few years ago, and then usurped by a new generation of teeny-boppers who never heard of Friendster but used MySpace instead. Similarly, MySpace will also be susceptible to an upstart social network – one that began by being highly customized for a local niche group, like the high school students 5 years from now who think MySpace is lame and want something their own generation created. There is, after all, a limit to the number of friends you can maintain online, hence network size, which MySpace has now, might not ensure its longevity. Secondly, a premium-content-based approach taken by Fox to make MySpace an entertainment portal is still an experiment by Old Media to see if they can transplant their ways successfully to a new medium. First movers never always win.

What do you think? Want to make your own social network today? See a list of turnkey solutions here.


Yahoo’s Major Mobile Ad Deal Includes Singapore Airlines

Yahoo ramps up it advertising deals with top brands today, according to Reuters. In a show of its clout among brand advertisers, Yahoo has signed a multi-country mobile-phone advertising deal with companies like Hilton’s Embassy Suites, Infiniti, Intel Corp., Nissan, Pepsi & Co, Procter & Gamble Asia-Pacific and Singapore Airlines. This is expected to be the first wave of customers.

The new service is available in Western Europe in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and in the Americas in United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

It also plans to offer the advertising service in Asia-Pacific markets including Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

How will it work?

Advertisements will run along the top of Yahoo’s home page on the Internet screens of mobile phones. Consumers can click on the interactive ads to learn more about an advertiser’s offer or call the advertiser directly for details.

Yahoo Japan Corp., the company’s joint venture with Softbank Corp. has been running ads in Japan for several years in what ranks as one of the world’s most advanced mobile technology markets.

Its interesting to note the aggressive push of Yahoo into the mobile markets of 6 major Southeast Asian markets. Yahoo’s expanding reach across Southeast Asia, in recent years, has focused on building up an advantage in working relationships with local content and service providers, giving it a heads-up advantage over competitors like Google which is still very new to the region. Granted that direct response advertising don’t really work well on mobile phones anyway (simple no screen space to serve them alongside search results), Yahoo is proving to be faster in understanding that their strengths lie in brand-based marketing and scaling those relationships to the Asia-Pac region.

The Yahoo Japan example in the news article is a curious misnomer. Everyone knows Japan’s 3G (or beyond now?) networks and user habits make them an anomaly in global digital culture. The Japanese read mini-novels, watch TV and play geo-dating games on their phones, all of which are ideas still largely being incubated in many media and research labs around the world. While Singapore might boast a decent 3G infrastructure, user habits are unlikely to shift dramatically overnight to make branded ads a painless component of mobile internet usage. I already find loading webpages on the Nokia 6280 and Motorola Razr V3X a time-wasting hassle, let alone wait for a static graphic ad to load at the top of my browser.

Credit to Marketing Pilgrim for breaking this news.

Moving On: Web 2.0 Australia

The Readwriteweb has a good review of the scene Down Under. I found this remotely similar to Singapore.

Other than a few exceptions (such as TVP and NEO) Australian VCs are too conservative and have little knowledge of Web 2.0 and Internet business models. For this reason a number of Australian startups – like Omnidrive, Touchstone, PodCast Network and others – are actively looking for VC funds in the US.

The Aussie scene is notable for two Techcrunch-profiled startups I read about- OmniDrive and FwdItOn. I also found this new Aussie real estate search engine, Suburbview, particularly appealing for prospective Singaporean retirees once it has developed more features like integration with existing classified listings, land valuation data, amenities listing, close-up pics or relevant legislation guidelines. A model to follow will be Zillow or Trulia. A Singaporean equivalent will be tough, even Google Earth dun quite capture the 3D effect of our residential landsape. I wonder what other vertical cities like Tokyo has in terms of Web2.0 real estate search engines.. hmm..

Re: Singapore’s Web2.0 Readiness

This is sort of a reply to James Seng’s post. James is considered one of the Internet pioneers in Singapore, based on Wikipedia. He is also an advisor to the non-profit organization my friend Ming Yeow founded – The Digital Movement. I should start by thanking him for approving the E27 submission on, Singapore’s top social media news outlet (which James founded). Thanks, James. =)

James had 3 points on why Singapore is not ready. I generally agree. I am nowhere near James in terms of repute nor experience and all I am doing is to offer my humble viewpoints. Almost exactly a year ago, I blogged about finding zero Web2.0 startups in Singapore, only to amend that statement when I found some and profiled them at the first E27 event. Still, we are a far cry from the Web2.0 frenzy in Silicon Valley. I know its unfair to compare, although recent media exposure on the national (rather the government’s) desire to create the next “Youtubes and Skypes” from our shores have made this a hot topic again. Below are my personal views on his various points. Continue reading

Naked! A Generation on the Web

Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry—for God’s sake, their dirty photos!—online. They have virtual friends instead of real ones. They talk in illiterate instant messages. They are interested only in attention—and yet they have zero attention span, flitting like hummingbirds from one virtual stage to another.

halloweensf.jpgHave we not heard this from many of those old fogeys who dun really GET IT? Those who thinks blogs, social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook, Friendster are just disasters waiting to happen because they read about online paedophiles, spammers, stalkers, phishers who steal your account info, from the newspapers? How many of your friends are real camwhores?? =) FYI, i am not one but just to prove a point to you on the pic to my left: a complete stranger at SF Halloween Parade 2005.. (yea, its an old pic, check me out on facebook for newer ones) Well, its true they dun get it, they think the web is a fad and that the young today simply have no sense of decency nor understand what privacy is…

They could be dead wrong, but the young generation’s new web habits of exposing our public lives is certainly no different from the “Rock and Roll” culture that swept mainstream society decades ago. Titled “The Biggest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll”, New York Magazine has this fantastically well-written article on what we know and identify with while the rest simply are clueless…

Thanks to Lightspeed Ventures for this..

Regulation of social media?

UK seeks to ban and criminalize companies that engage in creation of fake marketing materials like flogs, splogs or other websites and claiming them to be users/ customers’ creations. Under charges of misrepresentation, social reviews will now be regulated to ensure higher authenticity. From TimesOnline:

Online consumer reviews are playing an ever greater role in shaping shopping habits, with websites such as TripAdvisor for the travel industry being seen as increasingly influential.

However, a string of businessman in the UK and the US have been caught posing as supposedly independent customers in an attempt to boost sales.

A recent investigation found that poorly rated travel establishments could lift their reputations from one to four stars in hours by posting fictional positive reviews.

Could this be the kneejerk response following Edelman PR agency’s unsuccessful forays into blogging for their clients, particularly “WalmartGate”? And more recently Pay Per Post’s brush with the FTC guys as covered here, here and here?

What next? Is this the beginning of an avalanche of legislation by govts around the world? Will Big Brother be stepping more to regulate the blogosphere?

Going Gaga over Citizen Advertising

Church of the Customer blog has the lowdown on user-generated advertisements making it to the Super Bowl this year. But first, see this CBS News article for a view from mainstream media.

This is not good news. The shift from professionally produced to user-generated advertising makes us poorer in both economic and cultural terms. The arrival of user-created commercials at Super Bowl XLI represents the American Idolization of traditional entertainment — the degeneration of professional content into a “talent show” for amateurs.

In complement, CBS was really mournful in the rest of the reporting, with phrases like “the professional creator is being “disintermediated.”, the “tsumani” of downward pressure on wages created by new technology” because amateur productions cost a minscule fraction of professional ones.

Amid all the hoopla of traditional advertising agencies dying or making a renaissance with this new channel of ad-making, I found this excerpt from Church of the Customer insightful:

Madison Avenue is not in the business of creating fans — it’s in the business of widespread message distribution. But Mad Ave’s influence and energy are fading not just because technology-assisted creativity is commoditizing their business, but because citizen-created content doesn’t care about New York’s infatuation with status and positioning debates. The power centers of influence are shifting to Google’s server farms and thousands of online communities. The fans have co-opted Madison Avenue’s work. Super Bowl ads are a circus freak show, and that’s how about much influence they carry because the minutiae of product, brand and company discussions are being shaped in online forums, which Google follows like a studious court reporter. The points made in those forums are often carried forward to offline discussions, where they’re added to the mixing bowl discussions of personal experiences of people and ultimately, their purchase decisions. There’s your advertising.

Change is good if its for the better. The dynamic range of quality for amateur productions is undoubtedly way higher than professional counterparts. But feeling apologetic for slow-moving dinosaurs in the advertising world who do not understand the new realities of social media today is wrong.

Who feels sorry for retailers with great products who cannot afford the huge fees of ad agencies? Who feels sorry for the customers who pay inflated prices? Why feel sorry for traditional advertising when you can use web forums, blogs, podcasts to reach out and interact with your consumers directly and more personally?

An example of a user-gen ad here