Sep 10 2011

Google+: Real Name Policy Makes a Boring Social Network

Published by under identity,reflections,social media

This is a cross-post from Mashable.

Google has raised a lot of digital hackles with its new policy requiring real names for Google+. Cory Doctorow says that real identities are bad because they make it easy to sell us to advertisers. danah boyd goes further, saying that the policy is an abuse of power, because it may compromise users’ safety.

But they vastly understate the case, and ask for the wrong solution.

The hugeness of Google’s error is in misunderstanding the basic human need for a flexible framework for identity creation. People change and evolve, and throughout the entirety of human history, we have been able to shed old versions of ourselves, and construct new identities. This is so universally true as to be a cliche. How many films have this arc as the first act: A stranger comes to town. What is the mysterious secret he hides? What did he run away from?

Our identities are complicated. In fact, the need for multiple identities only accelerates in today’s internet culture. Digital natives understand the notion of curation so much so that they curate their own existence on social networks. Julia Allison and iJustine are extreme examples of this phenomena, but it happens all over every Friday night when young people spend more time shooting photos of themselves to upload to Facebook to show how great a time they’re having, instead of, you know, actually having a great time.

The act of identity creation happens on the social network, through the curation process. Not by the things that are really happening to the person.

In this context, we are becoming more like celebrities. We manage our personas by curating which pictures get tagged on Facebook with our identity (hint: only the ones where we look good). We portray the most interesting aspects of our lives through status updates (“I found a dollar on the street!” gets 27 Likes not because it’s important, but because it’s interesting.) We understand that parts of our personalities are most appropriate for different audiences.

The rise of celebrity culture is actually an attempt to create shared experiences for a large, fragmented society. Smaller countries have smaller celebrities in the U.S. (Incidentally, that’s why Kylie Minogue had to redeem her post-Locomotion career in the U.S. with the wonderful “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head;” and why David Beckham left a hugely successful career in the U.K. to bring soccer to a country that would rather watching boring old baseball than see a low-scoring soccer game.)

So, as our own social circles continue to grow, we become more like celebrities ourselves. So, we can learn something from celebrities about the importance of alternate identities. Increasingly, artists have created alter egos for themselves to make space for a different or new part of their personality to emerge. As they get boxed in by the expectations of their fans, they need to create an outlet that allows them to risk something by creating work that is outside of their traditional oeuvre.

Madonna took the persona of Dita when she released Erotica and her Sex book in order to explore sexuality in a deeper way than she could as the Material Girl.

Sean Combs became the rapper Puff Daddy, then P. Diddy when he needed to refresh his stale 90s image. Instead of creating a new personality, he just kept beating that dead horse, and when it stopped working, he dropped the “P” and just became Diddy. But, for his serious menswear clothing line, he uses the moniker Sean John.

Marshall Mathers became Eminem, and when there was still too much darkness and bile, he created the persona of Slim Shady.

The most extreme example is Nicki Minaj, who has taken the notion of alter egos to the insanely logical extreme. She has only released one album, but has no less than eight distinct personas:

1. Onika Tanya Maraj is her given name

2. Cookie is the first identity she created to escape her troubled home life

3. Harajuku Barbie is the playful Minaj

4. Nicki Minaj is her primary performing identity

5. Roman Zolanski is the hard charging, angry brute

6. Martha Zolanski is Roman’s mother

7. Nicki Theresa is a Mother Theresa-inspired saint

8. Rosa is her Spanish moniker

The value of multiple identities to these artists is indisputable. One of the most extreme examples is Roman’s Revenge, the 2010 Nicki Minaj and Eminem duet. Both rappers spend the entire song spewing hate-filled lyrics at their fans. This is not a song that a musician would want to present to the public as part of their late night talk show personality. Without alternate identities, this song could not exist. And while it’s a tough song to listen to, the world is a better place for having the song in it.

One single name will never be able to contain all of the aspects of any individual person, in all their complicated, contradictory glory. That’s why Google+ will ultimately fail in its attempts to create an “identity service” with their real name policy.

Quora also has a real names policy. But it never came under serious scrutiny because it was always clear about what kind of community it was: a serious-sounding, wonky intellectual place where deep-ish knowledge, packaged well, is appreciated. It’s a very specific niche, and it is more interested in keeping quality high than getting lots of users to interact.

Google+ wants us to give it everything, which means that we will end up giving it nothing of value. By requiring real names, Google+ is sending clear signals that it wants to be a specific type of community: the kind where people share cat videos and links about current events that can inform Google’s own search rankings. Paradoxically, even this banality will still create a huge amount of value for Google, because of how bad computers are at truly understanding people. Google’s ability to sell advertising will still grow tremendously, even from this crappy level of information.

Critics of the Real Name policy want Google to change its mind and see the error of its ways. That is the wrong solution.

The right solution, of course, is to do nothing. Allow Google+ exactly the kind of community they ask for: the one where you use your real identity, but in return, only share a certain, specific part of yourself: the part that you don’t mind being indexed by Google’s servers and made available to the entire world. In other words, the most boring, unimportant, and universal version of yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 responses so far

Apr 10 2011

My Next Adventure: Janrain’s Huge Social Media Vision

Published by under marketing,social media

Over the past several years, I have seen a variety of organizations wrestle with the enormous implications of social media. Nothing less than the very DNA of the company must shift in order to take advantage of the power of your own customers.

The most advanced organizations are working through Jeremiah Owyang’s 8 steps of integrating social media into a corporate website. Step 7 of 8 is using social sign on, which allows users to log in with existing identity providers, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo and others.

Social sign on is, in fact, the core functionality that opens the corporate website to true social media experiences.

That’s why I’m excited to join the team at Janrain, as their digital marketing and social media strategist. Janrain has been the pioneer in social identity management for years. They understand better than anyone how crucial social identity management is because they have been focused on creating huge value for their clients by bridging the fluid, quicksand of social media fashions (since before My_____ was called MySpace) and real marketing challenges.

So far, most brands have just toyed with the idea of bringing social functionality into their websites, and those early experiments have not gone very far. But Janrain’s partners are different – they have a deep, institutional understanding of how social media is reshaping customer relationships, and therefore, marketing strategy. Janrain stands at the front door of creating social experiences, with critical technology for nearly every website.

Janrain Engage, their social sign on solution, makes it easy for digital marketing teams to integrate existing identity providers into their website. That means more sign ups, more sign ins, and more conversions. It means more opportunities to personalize messaging. It means a more relevant and useful site experience for every visitor.

And that’s just the start.

Janrain’s other products aggregate social profile data to feed into existing CRM systems, and create single sign on for website networks.

This is infrastructure that must just work – marketing teams need to focus on creating experiences, not on the plumbing. And Janrain has built the tools to take the pain out of creating social experiences.

I am incredibly proud of the Emerging Media practice I built at White Horse. The social media methodologies and the mobile marketing resources I created there will continue to move forward with a strong group of marketers, creatives, and problem solvers. And White Horse’s clients will build even more successful marketing programs than ever.

Thank you to everyone I worked with at White Horse. Your passion, commitment, vision, and downright grit got me to dig deeper than I ever have before.

And, I expect to dig even deeper still at Janrain. The solutions are real, and substantial. The biggest challenge now is seizing the fullness of the opportunity. Janrain is ready to deliver outstanding solutions to all of the marketers who can benefit from our technology – which is every website in existence. A tall order, to be sure. But that’s just how I like it.

Onward!

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Mar 15 2011

Build Geolocation Strategy from Social Initiatives

Published by under mobile,social media

This is  cross-posted from the White Horse blog.

If you’re trying to develop your geolocation marketing strategy, but don’t know where to begin, look no further than your social media strategy. These two components go hand in hand, and spending energy on geolocation without tight social integration will lead to a marketing program that’s dead on arrival.

White Horse recently conducted a survey of smartphone users to determine how geolocation apps like Foursquare and Gowalla were being used by consumers, and how marketers should integrate check-in functionality and location information to their marketing plan.

The results were clear: Facebook Places was, far and away, the most utilized geolocation check-in service. And that has big implications for every brand with a digital presence.

Facebook Places is deployed on far, far more phones than any other geolocation service. Foursquare has about 7.5 million mobile usersFacebook Places has well over 150 million mobile users (this number is from July, so it’s a bit outdated). You are 20 times more likely to find your prospects on Facebook Places than on Foursquare.

For marketers, then, the choice is clear. When looking to build out a location-based marketing strategy with a strong digital component, Facebook Places will yield the greatest success right now.

By leveraging your existing investment in social media, to promote your location-based touchpoints, you will also ensure that there is strong brand affinity and purchase intent with your geolocation initiatives.

When a marketing geolocation strategy starts with your existing Facebook Fans, it’s easy to build successful engagements with an incremental, test-and-learn approach. It also provides valuable insight into your social media community and drives additional value for your most connected and most important customers.

This is just one of the insights from our new webinar on mobile marketing strategies. We’ll review original, proprietary research on how consumers are using location-based applications, and how to show quick results in mobile marketing initiatives. Sign up for the March 30 5 Breakaway Mobile Marketing Insights webinar now.

 

2 responses so far

Feb 15 2011

How Social Media Marketers Lie

Published by under marketing,social media

There are a lot of things that get my goat – but people that claim that social media is solely responsible for getting social media results is probably the worst.

In fact, there’s an entire marketing campaign ecosystem that goes in to pushing consumers into social channels, and then, if it’s good, they will share it with their friends.

That’s the subject of my new webinar with Lisa Osborne, White Horse’s Director of Media Services. Lisa and I approach marketing campaigns with an integrated mindset from the start – and we don’t get bogged down in territoriality between what is paid and what is social.

We talk through the benefits of this approach, and how to structure your own marketing efforts this way in our new webinar – which you can join for free tomorrow!

Register for the big event, and I look forward to the conversation!

No responses yet

Nov 07 2010

Trust in MSM Falling, in Blogs Climbing. Is Anyone Surprised?

Published by under reflections,social media

By now, the idea that blogs and mainstream media create a more complete media ecosystem is well established amongst bloggers.

But, it’s still frighteningly absent in the minds of most journalists.

Now don’t get me wrong – journalists will let bloggers make their own research easier by sorting through thousands of documents, digging into stories that don’t get play in the MSM, and pulling interesting blog threads into the big leagues when the story merits it.

But that doesn’t mean that journos think of themselves as part of the same information system as bloggers. By and large, journalists have been focused on saving their own dying newsrooms, which means protection, stonewalling, and entrenchment.

The scary thing is that mainstream press exposure still pushes so much of the context and nuance of a topic. This was apparent in this past Monday’s Op-Ed page of the New York Times. David Brooks wrote (presciently, given that the election was not even concluded) about how the Republicans would move their economic agenda forward once they took the House.

In that column, Brooks does his readers a disservice – not because he is wrong on the facts – but instead because he is wrong in the context and nuance.

Brooks mischaracterized the new health care law provision requiring businesses to file a 1099 form for purchases over $600. Here’s the passage:

The new health care law has a provision that forces companies to file a 1099 form to the I.R.S. every time they pay more than $600 a year for goods or services from any individual or corporation. If you’re a freelancer and you buy a laptop from an Apple store, you have to file a 1099. If you spend more than $600 per year with FedEx, you have to file a 1099. Republicans are going to make this an early target (for repeal) — an example of the law’s expensive interference in business life.

All of these facts are true – there is a new law. But, it is unlikely that his readers know that this new provision will take effect in 2012, but before it does, another law takes effect in 2011. That law will exempt credit card purchases from this type of 1099 reporting.

Therefore, buying a laptop from the Apple Store would place no additional burden on the freelancer, provided they use a credit card for that purchase (when was the last time anyone you know used cash or a check for a purchase totaling $600?).

There are literally hundreds of articles online that discuss how these two regulations go hand-in-hand. Brooks’s piece grossly overstates the burden this will have on small businesses and freelancers, and unfairly legitimizes the point of view that this section of the recent health care needs to be repealed.

For journalists to thrive in the digital age, they need to be able to use the blogosphere for research, yet still be able to get complete, quality information. Otherwise, already-shaky trust of the media will continue to erode, even as we continue to build greater trust in bloggers.

Personally, I get more than 90% of my news from the blogosphere. How credible is your news consumption? And where is it from? Let me know below.

One response so far

Oct 15 2010

Fast Company’s Influence Project Can’t Track Influence

Published by under social media

The proliferation of social media has discombobulated all traditional forms of measuring influence. PR practitioners are among the first to realize this, because suddenly, their jobs are radically more complicated. Instead of just mainstream media journalists and producers, suddenly there are renegade bloggers, YouTube video creators, and Tweeters that all can drive people to action.

The old forms of PR don’t work in this context: a Rolodex of a few hundred people (and yes, there are still some dinosaurs that have Rolodexes) is not going to cut it against millions of influential Facebook accounts.

The world has shifted, but the tools have not kept pace. Klout is perhaps the most robust service for measuring influence yet, and that only looks at one outpost: Twitter.

So, the come on I received in my inbox recently was enticing: “How influential are you online? Click to find out!”

The possibilities are exciting. Perhaps there was some new algorithm to analyze social media presences. I wondered if a new site would use cookies to see which recommendations I left across the web were influencing purchase decisions.

So, I clicked. Continue Reading »

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Sep 29 2010

Attention Marketers: Stop Trying to Ruin Quora

Published by under social media,technology

If you haven’t spent time on Quora, then you’re missing out. That is, if you like to hang out with smart people and discuss interesting topics. If you don’t like those things, then you’re not missing anything. Continue Reading »

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Sep 02 2010

Why the Future of Music is Brighter Than Ever

Many hands have been wrung about the future of music. The music industry has seen year over year of increasingly steep declines for a decade. Think about that for a minute: in 2001, the business fell by 3%. In 2002, it fell another 11%. In 2003, it recovered slightly. But the dead cat bounce was confirmed in the subsequent years. The industry has posted double digit declines in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. In 1999, the industry was $14.3 billion. In 2009, it was less than half – $6.3 billion.

Can you hear the clanging death bells? Music will surely die! This fate has been proclaimed everywhere, but, of course, misses the point completely. If we learned nothing else from the housing bust, let us at least remember that more isn’t always better – sometimes it’s just more. Continue Reading »

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Jul 07 2010

Awareness Shifts From Campaign to Engagement Model

Published by under marketing,social media

Awareness Inc is one of the vendors that I reported on in my report on ten social media management platforms (download here).

In a sign of how fast the industry is moving, even before the final report was released, Awareness had made a major move to shift their platform and allow for a much broader range of marketing and engagement activities on their platform. This brings a lot of relevance to a strong platform for corporate marketers.

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Jul 02 2010

In-Depth Report on Ten Social Media Management Platforms

Published by under marketing,social media,technology

After working with the social media management space for a number of months, and watching a new industry being born, I thought it was about time for a comprehensive review of the products and tools that are out there. You can jump right over to download the report now. Continue Reading »

9 responses so far

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