Matrix: Social Media analyzed

With the entrance of Google into the mix of Social Media, there are four major players on this market in the US.

A lot depends on the opportunities and strenghts of each player, but what are they exactly? Furthermore, what should these players actually do in order to gain or sustain popularity?

Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategist and columnist for Forbes CMO Network, wrote a great article which compares the ‘Big Four’.

Situation:  New Contender Shakes Up Industry
Google has entered the social networking play, this time, for real.  There’s a lot of market confusion on how they could stack up, so here’s my take.  Let’s cut the noise and get to the heart of it with a comparison matrix and analysis based upon my insights talking to these companies in formal settings, observations, as a user, my former research and dealing with the brands trying to reach them.

Executive Summary:  Brands Must Stay Focused On Where Customers Already Are
Google’s entrance causes media havoc but web strategists should stay focused.  Find out where customers already are through developing data around consumer behavior called socialgraphics.  Facebook continues to demonstrate a sophisticated marketplace for consumers and brands to mix about, however don’t discount MySpace’s active consumer based –if your customers are there.  Continue to monitor Twitter and respond if customers are there –but they’ve yet to indicate sophistication to help marketers, instead rely on third party tools and agencies to respond.  The feature set of newly spawned Google Buzz isn’t important, what matters is their ability to aggregate social content which will impact search strategy for businesses trying to reach consumers, read my first take analysis.

This scorecard has a limited shelf life, so I’ll likely create a new scorecard after key announcements from players.

Matrix: Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter (Feb 2010)

  Google Buzz Facebook MySpace Twitter
One-Liner A Darkhorse that has big backing and existing platforms. A mainstay platform that needs to grow out its shell. MTV of this generation is at risk during transformation. Showing opportunity to become infrastructure, not a destination.
Vitals (see more stats) Estimated to sit on a user based of over 100mm active gmail users, they have access to the most popular webpage in the world, google.com. Boasting over 400mm users in just a few short years, they’ve saturated Gen Y in US, and show global expansion at record rates. Recently reported at 57mm US unique users that are highly engaged. Tracking is difficult, but estimates indicate 75mm active users, but doubts are rising about growth.
Strengths A large talent pool of engineers to pull from, Buzz stands on top of existing Gmail platforms, mobile devices and dominant Search.  As buzz grows, they can integrate with all Google apps –and aggregate the whole internet. Rapid US and international growth. Quickly evolved feature set and platform, with success with FB Connect.  Talent from Google bleeding to Facebook. Big backing by media giant, a super engaged audience, and rich history and reaching media hungry segment. Has clinched adoption over media elite, celebrities, and tech influencers. Incredible media buzz, and dead simple features.
Weaknesses Late to the party, Google has had a series of social networking misfires from Wave, Dodgeball, Orkut their culture shows signs of becoming corporate –like Microsoft. Struggles with the conundrum of having promised users a ‘closed’ experience where to be successful requires them to be ‘open’.  Historical poor track record in meeting privacy needs of customers In the eyes of the tech world, becoming irrelevant or even worse, niched as a media play –not even lifestyle. Although features are dead simple, they are now commodity features –status update features are commonplace. Mainstream users confused.  Overhyped, the over promised infrastructure has shown strain.  Brands generally confused on how to interact.ally.
Opportunity The more information users share, tag, create the more data is created on Google’s platform to organize, giving them opportunity to monetize. Integrate Facebook Connect everywhere. By becoming the identity profile for many internet users, they become the default address book for consumer behavior. A few hours ago, the CEO Van Natta was let go, a new chief can step up, and lead the recently formed executive team, creating innovation. Develop more features increasing the utility of the dead-simple status message.
Threats Mainstay email companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL have already shown social features ‘bolted’ onto their email systems, but success hasn’t been verified. Secondly, Facebook has made notions to develop an email web client “Project Titan” that will threaten tech savvy users competing for Gmail’s attention. Social networks come and go, before MySpace was Friendster, they run the risk of becoming complacent, losing talent to Twitter and failing to innovate over the next few year. Yet the biggest challenge is, the more data they make open the more Google can ’suck’ in and monetize as an intermediary. Self-implosion from internal instability. In the meantime, media brands develop their own social networking on their own sites, rendering MySpace a duplicate. Worse yet? Coolkids jump ship, and establish a colony elsewhere. Overhype from media leaves Twitter at risk from a burn-out syndrome like a Hollywood child star.  Yet, as it becomes more successful the more strain it puts on questionable infrastructure.
Marketing Platform Although not fully developed, expect advertising options to appear for brands who want to promote relevant ads wherever Buzz is located, especially on SERP pages Confusing. There are too many marketing options confusing brands.  It’s not clear if brands should advertise, interact in pages, create widgets or do a combination of both. Strong and straight forward. Established team has cut deals with many media companies. Nascent. Although promises have been made for branded experiences, analytics, and other premium features, for most marketers it’s being treated like a chat room –not a platform.
Future State Buzz will aggregate the voices of their users –and those of other social networks, aggregate and serve up monetization options. A communications platform for consumers and brands.  Expect Facebook experience to be in many public experiences and mobile devices. There are two paths: Integrate MySpace into TV and mobile devices or fade into pit of irrelevance like Friendster. Like gas, water, or power, Twitter is likely to fade into the background and become a utility that’s integrated into everything.
What They Don’t Want You To Know The collective already own you –you just don’t know it yet. They’re trying so hard to shift from closed to open, it’s tearing them apart. Things are internally falling apart, but they don’t want the public to see. Not sure what they want to be when they grow up.
What They Should Do Demonstrate success with Buzz, then quickly integrate into other tools like  and Search and Chrome. Kill off confusing Wave, and consolidate efforts.  Aggregate content from Twitter and Facebook, intermediate them and monetize their own content. Get open now. Build a browser to quickly go transcend the web. Reward users to share more information in public like restaurant or media reviews in exchange for other values. Double down efforts on Project Titan email effort. Quickly establish a chain of command and execute based upon a single vision. Have regular talent turnover to avoid complacent. Develop a white label product that can compete with Cisco EOS, Pluck, or Kickapps (client). Develop a vision to become the dominant protocol over SMS, where teens and international are already texting heavily. Continue to build out platform for developers to build on top of, becoming a data play, like a utility.

As read on: WebStrategist.com

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