The Race to be the Social Backbone

The Race to be the Social Backbone: Google and Facebook are battling not just to be biggest social network, but the social backbone/operating system/infrastructure that unites people together. It’s basically to be the social computing era’s version of Windows, which turned out to be nice business for Microsoft. Sometimes that gets lost in all the talk of Circles, friend lists, etc. Over at O’Reilly, Edd Dumbill discusses the ramifications, which are pretty much control over digital media to a large degree. There’s also the question, unspoken by Dumbill, of government intervention. What happens if Facebook or Google really do become the keepers of digital identity and relationships on top of which industry is built? It sounds a lot like a utility, which governments typically regulate quite closely.

Social Disappears: There’s no bigger booster of the power of social media than John Borthwick, the CEO of Betaworks, which is invested in Twitter and incubates several Twitter-based businesses. But Borthwick is on board with the idea that social as a distinct phenomenon has run its course. In his words, social media is “disappearing into the fabric of the Internet.” That should be where things get quite interesting. Rather a separate discpline, social will become a part of everything that’s done digitally. Mark Zuckerberg has made this point about Web experiences personalized via the social graph. It will become crazy at some point to consider it was ever another way.

Missing the Boat on Data: All the talk in advertising around data tends to be on how to collect it for use “targeting” consumers, whether it’s existing ones (CRM) or prospects (ads). There’s not as much attention paid to how the data brands possess can benefit their customers. Think of Mint. It made a great service by collating and surfacing customer data. Nike+ is a brand service built off customer data. Ed Cotton from Butler Shine Stern & Partners thinks this is a pity, since brands could create new experiences for customers — and allow them to create their own — if they just realized it.

The Case vs Spotify: Not everybody is in love with Spotify. The case against it is less from a user experience or economic value, but it comes down to whether you really trust a third-party service to control access to your content. If you buy a CD, you have the music. Download the music, you have it on your computer. With Spotfy there’s a certain trust. What if it goes out of business, or what if it decided to jack up its rates suddenly? HBR’s James Allworth makes the case against renting music.

Speedo Goes Nike+: Nike set the marketing world afire with its running service Nike+. There have been a few imitators, including Fiat:Ecodrive. Now Speedo is out with its own version of the service geared to swimming, Pace Club, which includes a mobile app and network. The secret sauce here will undoubtedly be the tutorial videos, since swimming doesn’t exactly lend itself to wearable digital technology.