8 Reasons GenZ is Kicking GenY’s Bieber at Social Mediaing

As a marketing manager overseeing over 300 Facebook pages with an audience of 17-23 year olds, there is one thing that keeps me up at night: What if Facebook disappeared?
I’m sleeping easier after Social Media Week, where a poll done of AU and GWU students by the American University Social Media Club, and Peter Corbett of iStrategy Labs, both independently confirmed to this bleary-eyed community manager that Facebook isn’t going anywhere. In fact, most believe Zuckerberg and my generation are going to live a nice happy life growing old together.


So why should I still be worried? While my organization’s current student members and alumni, 17 to 30-something will stay by my side as we marry, produce little super Millennials and commit to real estate, the up-and-comers, current high school students to little iPad owners won’t be joining us. And I’m jealous of why.

Researchers in digital think it’s parents who are “scaring” kids away from Facebook. In fact, it’s just that kids today are so much better at social networking than GenY. Teenagers today don’t need a social “network”, but merely social media to interact with their personal networks and consume information.

1. Teens don’t need computers to IM
They can text, use messaging apps, Gchat, call, or tweet at their friends. They love video conversations, which is a more real way of interacting because you get facial and vocal expressions.

2. Mobile apps replace giant social networks
Apps like WhatsUpApp let kids create mini-social networks that are just their group of friends. GoogleGroups is better than Facebook Groups for organizing clubs because you get email on your phone instead of having to log-in.

3. GenZ is obsessed with music
They follow celebrities on Twitter, Youtube and gossip blogs, and even returned to MySpace for music. Youtube and Pandora are great for free music, but they will join Facebook just to be on Spotify. Best of all, Youtube lets them make and share their own music, and iTunes will let aspiring Demi Lovato’s sell their own mp3s.

4. All teens aspire to reality tv
Inundated with reality tv and able to access a web that supershoots nobodies to stardom, their role models range from the Biebs who broke out via Youtube videos to Kim Kardashian, known for doing nothing. Every iPhone’s video camera is a viral video or a musical moment waiting to happen. The paparazzi culture has made celebfans like “#lovatos” and wannabiebs, and Twitter lets them hear the real thoughts of these stars instantly, like they were friends in real life.

5. If there’s no pic, it didn’t happen
They love taking pictures of themselves and everything they see, whether with their mobile computers, on Instagram or with oldschool professional cameras. The web has become a scrapbook for all those #memories and a place to showcase their obvious talents.

6. “You have a voice” => I’m an expert
With all the web in photography and video, not only capturing their artistic sense, YOLO life moments and fashion savvy in Instagrams isn’t enough. They want to share it and show how awesome they are on Pinterest, Youtube, blogs, Tumblr and Twitter.

7. They all have phone and web cams
Finding a camera to shoot a school project used to be tough. With phone and web cams, teens can all make Youtube channels with “expert” advice, SNL digital skits and movies on everything from make-up to doing stupid stunts a la Ashton Kutcher style.

8. Info overload makes everyone ADD
There is so much to choose from, so much being created with everyone having web access and it’s so impossible to consume it all, that the sharper, the shorter, the more in-your-face wow your content is, the better. Buzzfeed and HuffPo have taken hold of this generation’s and our content consumption by being provocative, following celebrities, highlighting social posts like tweets from real people and sharing photos that shock us.


The Other War Google Circles Won

Once upon a time, in some ivy-leagued dungeon, some mathematicians realized the equations and functions which required translating into language to be processed and manipulated, could be done by machines, without translation. As the computing machines were math based, it followed machine processes could follow logic statements in the same way a mathematician manipulates a number set into English and back again. These very useful “computing” machines were very expensive and rare…but mathematicians at MIT believed they would in fact become ubiquitous.

They imagined a network of computers connected as telephones had connected the country, and in 1965 Lawrence Roberts of MIT first connected with a computer in California and sent a message. This was beginning of the social web. Email, today’s “hidden” social network, was different then. Email lived on the original Cloud, a file directory where messages were stored. When you logged in, you would see a notification that you had a message…sound familiar?

The “www” internet became realized through Arpanet, network hosted by Harvard, MIT and BBN. Why was a network so important to colleges? Access of information. The initial purpose of the internet was to share information across distances and make universally accessible. Files were hosted on “servers”, essentially big computing machines, separate from the little PC you used to access those files.

For many years the internet was limited by the natural constraints of the materials computers and communications cables ran on. But the internet fed on itself, spreading knowledge, increasing awareness and innovation. New materials were created and appropriated to build fiber optic cabels and silicon chips. Arpanet became ICP. Like a Willie Wonka fantasy, physicists’ lives’ work was made the magic of transmitting data via waves possible.

Thus was the Information Age.

Google It

I remember sitting in eighth grade computer class with Emily K— next to me. As I frustratingly searched for a term from whatever random assignment we’d been given, she suggested I try a new search engine she’d been using: Google.

We were the first wave of Millennials, IMing eachother to stay connected while stuck babysitting, peppering our messages with emoticons, reading blogs and gathering our emerging teenage angst on LiveJournal’s blogging page, wondering who in the world we hadn’t yet seen might be reading it, and feeling the same somewhere…

Our parents lived in fear of faceless internet demons appearing in the pages of the national papers. The warned us to stay away from the chatrooms and forums, questioned us about every screenname on our “Buddy lists”, and cried for blocks to websites we were too young to see.

But they couldn’t block the web, and Google had become the

Reiteration of the Internet

Last year the socialvanglists were still heralding Facebook as a “reiteration of the internet”. No longer was the web where we accessed Project Gutenberg’s treasure trove, company portals and our friends’ “homepages”. The internet was being interlaced with social networks like the red ivy from War of the Worlds.

Facebook’s OpenGraph was following you everywhere on the web, prepopulating your data into sites, giving you suggestions based on your friends, prompting you to “like” things you happened to have keyword stumbled onto…Following you onto pages which weren’t hosted by Facebook.

The web is a big place, filled with people who do not check Facebook “7 times a day”. It’s filled with information and communities, like the one I run, completely separate from the all-seeing eye. These pages have been built up over the history of the internet. According to DomainTools there are approximately 10,000,000 active domains on the internet.

The Solution to Search in a Social World

When I started this blog I was fascinated by search competition tools like Rockmelt and Flock. These were social browsers, capable of competing with Google and Bing by their ability to integrate search and deliver daily news from Twitter and Blogs in your browser, but in a way similar to Google Reader. My new-happy addiction even went on to call Rockmelt a “Social Meta Network”, a phrase coined to explain OpenID, but basically a social graph.

This is the world imagined by an integration of social and search by Rockmelt:

Seems beautifully simple right? It’s a lot bigger than that when you put your data thinking cap on, or look at it from an OS developers’ POV. The social browser runs on Chrome, which is supposed to be your desktop, so you no longer need to wait for a billion programs to boot up. Facebook, Twitter, Ping, they all need to be a part of a search engine. Without it, there is no “browsing” in your browser.

Googling Our Futures

Google is in a prime position to dominate not just the web, but the mobile market. Which is basically the web, or Cloud or Matrix, because that’s more fun to call it. Let’s try some of that logic:

Android competes with iPhones
Google Chrome on a PC could compete with OS
Google Chrome social browser could be the answer to Lion OS which integrates with Twitter

If Google had teamed with Facebook for some sort of desktop it would have been Lion’s biggest rival. But Google can’t build a whole computer, and apparently would rather go up against Facebook over the social networking aspect than partner up to take on Apple. That’s fine…competition is good for us.

So Google is your map to the web. Apple is the car, Facebook your friends with suggestions for the trip. Without Google, we might as well go back to Arapnet, because you’re not going anywhere your friends haven’t been.

Is “The Biggest Threat to Facebook” Here?

Mark Zuckerberg After Google Circles?

Back in March of this year a site called Quora was the hottest thing, and I responded to a question by “The Future of Facebook Project“. The question was “What is the Biggest Threat to Facebook?“, and you can see my answer still posted on the site as well as here on my blog. I was thorough.

Enough that I managed to outquote David Armano in the follow-up article by Emergent design, titled of course: “What is the Future of Facebook?” (Which I obviously haven’t stopped talking about since…)

Moving on…what is this Circles thing? Is it even a social network, or has Google truly “Figured Out How Humans Think“?

My answer revisited on Circles:

The biggest threat to Facebook is innovation.

We forget before there was Facebook, there was Friendster, there was MySpace, there were chatrooms, email and AIM. There will always be the threat of a smart person creating something infinitely better.

Create the ultimate ID and you own the web.

Google Circles has not yet done this. Neither has Facebook. Every site on the web still offers separate log-ins, although many, like Spotify the social music service, and Quora itself offer an integration with a social network API to log you in. Great for us password losers.

Control the way people access the web, and you control the web.

The idea of ranking content by what your friends/network likes is called Social Search and as with SEO, there is an art for websites to ensure they rank high. This is called Social Media Optimization. Google+ is the alternative to a Facebook Like or a Tweet, and combined with Circles so you can see what your friends “+1”, creates Social Search. You can read more about SMO and the Google/Bing wars here: “Rising Heat: Social Media Optimization” and “Social Media Optimization: It’s On!

Connect people through shared interests.

Google Plus does not seem to have channels to meet new people on its site, but neither does Facebook. So tie. Both are closed for people you already know. Twitter, MeetUps and LinkedIn on the other hand encourage strangers sharing interests to interact. On Twitter this happens through search and keywords, on LinkedIn through Groups and introductions, and through Meetup Groups, people who share interests meet in real life.

Are party pictures “news”? Rank content by relevance.

Circles allows you to filter all that content in channels similar to Twitter. Twitter attracted a lot of attention because it always fresh, has tons of content and moves super fast. You can never be bored, but you can be overwhelmed. Making lists and channels by hashtag allows you to filter the noise. You can even “mute” people through apps like Echofon.
However the circles aren’t so perfect.

The Google Circles You Really Need

Disclaimer, so not me who made this.

Fear of Facebook and our baby pics.

Google is going, excuse the expression, balls out on the privacy issue. Check out their extensive and very clear Privacy Policies. They even have a Google Public Policy blog to let you know their views. The most interesting is about their “Data Liberation Policy.

The Information Age 2.0

Can Circles Profiles become like a Klout for all websites? Can we have what Quora lacks, the ability to verify the posters are “experts” through Google? Not yet.

Google has allowed us to access and comb through the vast tracts of human knowledge through centuries and around the world. It is our portal to the web. Google Profiles are quickly becoming identifiers so when search rankings turn up we can verify the profiles of bloggers, question-answers, and Tweets.

What about Press Releases? Entire websites and companies, identifiable by their employees and vice versa? Every product and service linked to the people who manufacture and provide them?

It is possible for Google to become the ultimate social network. And if it does, Mark Zuckerberg’s mission will be realized: The “world will be a more open place”, void of anonymity.

“Social Graph”, Is That Contagious?

Every new app creating…buzz, these days seems to imagine or attempt to tap into your “social graph”. What’s a social graph? Integral to mobile-based entrepreneurial visions for the future web is a universal social network, “overlaying” every site on the web.

The idea is, whatever you are doing, whatever information you need, whomever you are communicating with, all that data is linked and connected for easy reference. Like with Bing’s Facebook integrated search and Google’s “You Shared” results, the content presented to you on the vast web is becoming filtered via the preferences of the people you are connected with.

The SXSWesters took this idea step further this year, claiming the “social graph” would integrate the real world and the digital world so seamlessly we would no longer differentiate between “online” and “offline”. Their examples of this were QR barcodes, used often on fliers, products and polls around Austin, and the new breed of check-in apps which focus on who you’re with. (Foursquare, it should be noted, is still more focused on tips and recommendations, with the “low-hanging fruit” being activity check-ins as the app GetGlue does.)

What About Social Layers? Same Diff?

Mashable’s Follow, which quickly aggregated the Twitter community, as well as attracted spammers, is called a “social layer”. Mashable’s content propagates through Twitter and the rest of the social web via sharing buttons. Follow’s admirable, and unique, curation model creates customized user newsfeeds based on the topics and people you follow. You can “find” people by linking, indiscriminately, to other major social networks. (I say indiscriminately because we know too well there’s no love lost between Facebook and Google.)

Does this constitute a social graph or even the initial skeleton to create one? Or, are we looking at social layers as seen on the Huffington Post, Digg, (ew), shopping sites, entertainment sites, and even my own science community, as merely web skins simulating a community experience? Are “social layers”, superficial layers which wall-off content or usability, but merely offer an enhanced user experience and the ability to be “social”, just for the ability to identify you with your data? Meaning: What’s in it for us Joes?

The Irresistable New

It seems social graphs are actually contagious. Color, the photo snapping app with its futuristic “sees all, knows all” technology, promises to create its own social graph by “recognizing” where you are when you take a picture. This completely eliminates the need for check-ins and overcomes geolocation’s limitations.

Facebook, which ironically did not put much emphasis on photos from the outset, is now challenging apps like Path and Color with its own app. The ubiquitous “like us” buttons popping up on sites like little flags claiming territory on the web, are being threatened seriously by Apple’s recent pass over in its Lion OS upgrade. Apple “crowned” Twitter the dominant social network when it integrated with the smaller company and not Facebook.

There are even some who are daring to say Facebook will go the way of MySpace, in a world where its often our worst selves projected online. Strong competition also comes in from winners like LinkedIn and Gmail. Despite the failure of Buzz, Gmail’s smooth syncing with Droid platforms and web apps like Google Talk and Docs work with search to create Google social graph. Adding in +1, Google’s ability to create customized web experiences is threatened only by similar competitor, Bing.

The Matrix: Customized for You

So what will this user experience look like? Rockmelt gave a pretty amazing demonstration for its social browser video featuring a young man looking for a job, apartment, friends, and places to eat in a new city. His search was smooth and successful thanks to the integrated browsing experience which allowed him to find a career fitting his background, an apartment with an old acquaintance, new people in his area to hang out with and…turtle racing at a nearby bar.

Moving the real into the augmented, we see how alerts such as Living Social’s deals based on your location can come in handy in metropolitan areas, or even suburbia once GLS becomes more accurate. The number one complaint I hear on Twitter is “email box overload”. Notifications based on your preferences, location and preidentified needs should cut down on needless emails.

Another more out there example: When you are searching for a new home, you can see who you know lives in your area. You can use Yelp to review schools and a government site to see average grades. Do you know anyone who’s kids are going there? You can see what stores are near, which have good deals and how often your friends frequent them. You can see bars and restaurants which suit your taste as compare to historical preferences from Foursquare checkins, and…why not…what homes are in your price range based on salary and credit score. (Yeah, someone knows that other than you.)

NASA Scientists Building Color App Competitor

Ok, not really, but they could be. I dare you to take a rocket to super geekdom with me, and discover how astrologists are crowdsourcing from citizen scientists via interactive database software. [I recommend putting in some earbuds, and listening to this while you work. Also fastforward two minutes through the intro.]

How the Color App -slash- social graph is supposed to work, and interview with Nguyen the founder:

#SXSW: Go Join Hashable!

Hashable is the Foursquare of this year’s South by Southwest. Remember how Foursquare blew up because everyone wanted to “check-in” at cool places? Well we’re all happy you’re the mayor of Starbucks, or your “Love Nest”, or in my case, the now bankrupt Border’s, but that’s soooo 2010.

This year it’s not about where you are, but who you’re with. So get with it! Go join Hashable and check-in with lots of cool people, doing lots of cool things, reporting on lots of cool new startups, and think of me, crying over Tweetdeck in DC, vicariously experiencing the awesomeness that is your life!

Because what’s cooler than digital street cred?

Quora: I’ll Show You the Money

A friend of mine asked me on Twitter what I thought “the future of Quora was”. It’s a daunting question I needed time to ruminate on. ‘What is the future of content?’ seems to be the umbrella question. Or ‘what’s the future for business models based on advertising revenue?’. Or maybe, “What’s the future of advertising?” I’m going to tackle instead in pieces.

What’s the Future for Quora’s Visitors?

It’s been two months since that question was asked. Well I had some extra “energy” tonight. Let’s start with statistics, because I’ve noticed my readership likes them as much as I do. First a look at how Quora is faring since my Statistical Follow Ups on Quora and Digg:

Quora Traffic January to March 2011 via Alexa

I like Alexa for a first look because its simple. Lesson, in digital, simple is beautiful. This graph is total visits, where the graphs in the Statistical Post were unique visitors and traffic as a percent of total internet traffic. The spike the second week of January corresponding with Quora hitting Twitter, (See: Snowball effect). If visitors are going down as seen in the Statistical post, but traffic is showing a steady, healthy 30% increase, it’s probably because the people who have found value there are becoming more active users.

What Does Quora Mean to Brands?

With social media we’ve crossed into a gray zone in advertising, a veritable no-man’s land brands are attempting to navigate. It’s filled with “friendly-fire” from search engines, consumers, content providers and any wayward netizen who might potentially classify your message as SPAM. This means creating revenue on websites from brands has to be done extremely tastefully or openly as in traditional banner advertising.

Twitter attempted to have “promoted tweets” to finally find a revenue model. Foursquare uses branded “prizes” in the form of sponsored badges. Zynga has branded farms or “virtual products”. SCVNGR’s mobile gaming has branded challenges. The startups Colorwarfare and GetGlue are looking to follow this model with sponsored prizes and stickers, respectively. Youtube makes you watch commercials. Facebook uses trusty old banner ads, Google sells ranking (ew), Digg-Ads, Bing-Ads, Mashable-Ads, …see a pattern?

If Quora’s not going with a brand/sponsorship/ad revenue model, things get tricky. The community I’m working on uses the data for market research studies. Just about every other web app from Hootsuite, Hubspot, Spotify, Hulu, TurboTax, offer regular memberships and “Pro”. Many web startups are attempting this. How will Quora go this route?

As LinkedIn did, Quora will probably transition to sponsored pages, like buying a “farm”. Proof is Quora has made it clearly impossible to create a “page” = profile, under your company’s name, something LinkedIn was doing.

What’s in It For Me?

This is my mother’s favorite question. One Quora question deals with this: What’s my incentive to post answers on Quora? The summary answer:

1. Reputation
2. Intrinsic motivation: challenging, rewarding, bonding (with the community)

Reputation can mean personal branding, or the value of having yourself recognized as a key opinion leader (KOL). This is great if you’re in digital and trying to score some clients. It’s the same reason people blog. “Intrinsic motivation” is a gray answer, meaning the feeling you get from being thought important. To pull from How to Win Friends and Influence People, intrinsic motivation:

It is what Freud calls ‘the desire to be great.’ It is what Dewey calls the ‘desire to be important.’ William James said: ‘The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.’
“If some people are so hungry for a feeling of importance that they actually go insane to get it, imagine what miracle you and I can achieve by giving people honest appreciation this side of insanity.

Like Twitter, Quora and Wikipedia feed on our (ok, my) narcissism. Groundswell was all about recognizing this potential in people and harnessing like a dam to power business development.

What Are Quora’s Assets?

There is now question that Quora is in it to win it, although what “it” is will have to be determined. In March 2010 Quora tool $14 million from Benchmark Capital Partners at a valuation of around $87.5 million, which is before the tech bubble II nonsense blew up, so we can assume they had a business plan laid out. LinkedIn’s mission was originally to “provide expert insight and resources”, but has evolved into “helping professional accelerate their growth” or burn a profit either by selling themselves or their company. (Yes, I paraphrased.)

Quora’s “assets” right now:
1. Exposure – They have amazing SEO, an apt audience, and great content.
2. Knowledge – All those answers were pouring into their pages.

Technically, through the evolving internet intellectual property laws, the content you submit on sites is yours “naturally”. For Quora specifically, this answer was addressed nicely by the founder: Who Owns the Copyright on Content Contributed on Quora?

A better clarification come from my favorite Quora community wrangler, Ari. (I “question” him quite a bit.):
It’s the implicit quid-pro-quo for participating in the discourse here that you allow Quora to use your material to do good things, including, eventually, making money.

Meaning Quora can, in anyway it decides to innovate, sell the content which is dually licensed between you, the first writer, and the site. Imagine this: An e-book of answers, for retail, of which you own a page, which are your answers. Only Quora can sell the entire book.

Who Is Quora’s Competition?

Recently I’ve had a disturbing number of people contacting me about intelligence and the internet. Why disturbing? There is a long, deep, dark philosophical hole I try to avoid which goes into the realm of artificial intelligence, what it means to be human, the cosmos…and chatforums from BK (before Kari, I know sad.) Just to touch on a few:

IBM Watson – Which I worked on as an intern, and coincidently met their team on Twitter. This algorithm pulls from a database of information which the hardware is “fed” and thus functions offline.
LED Face – A database, (like Wikipedia?), of crowdsourced knowledge. It keeps a basepoint of “experts” so you can ask questions and get answers in real time if the question does not exist.
(Still trying to figure it out, assuming they’ll charge for this?)
Baby Rose -An artificial intelligence project where a program “learns” words from people asking her questions. (Not really working so far.)
Bloomfire – Create microcommunities focused on teaching and learning around a specific topic. Similar to Nings, but more standard and focused on learning. In Beta, charges for a Pro version.

Any other question and answering or information site I could find works off banner ads: Yahoo Answers anyone? Wikipedia and Wikileaks both use donations, and come from a GenX philosophy that which spouts “freedom of information” and “democritization through the web”.

Quora is a business though. It was built by business-minded people and will remain a business. Depending on how Quora ends up monetizing, their competition as a business will be other promotional outlets, from banner ads to billboards, and other information resources, from Britannica (pay-wall), to your favorite author on Amazon.

In the words of Porky the Pig:

PS: If someone can tell me what the new Gawker’s revenue model is I’d love to know.

PearlTrees: Web 4.0 Social Bookmarking?

While we continue to consider the pros and cons of various content delivery sites, and companies like Yahoo, Mashable and Gawker try to come up with personalized delivery systems for their content, there’s a startup out there who has come up with an entirely different way to curate content.

Pearl Trees is completely unique as far as I’ve seen in content curation. It reminds me of a cross between a Prezi, a visual dictionary and social content curation. The best thing about Pearl Trees is unlike other social content curators, this is instantaneous and news oriented.

Prezi: Make Dynamic Presentations with Big Pictures

The reason Quora and Twitter can coexist is Quora is more permanent and reference oriented, like Wikipedia. With Twitter, if someone shares a link at 9 am and you log on at 4 pm, unless its retweeted, you will never see it. With Pearl Trees you keep all your bookmarks organized in a visual and topic oriented tree. The topics are organized like a visual dictionary with a root topic and bookmarks building off.

Visuwords: A New Dictionary

The way Pearl Trees really differentiates is in being a social network. To be clear: It’s not trying to compete with Facebook or Twitter. It’s interested in connecting people with similar topic interests in a more permanent and community building way than I believe Twitter currently offers. Both Facebook and LInkedIn, the dominant networks, discourage and prevent community connections outside your “networks”.

Pearl Trees: Share the Wealth

Pearl Trees acts much as chat rooms and discussion boards did in the web’s beginning, facilitating content sharing and new connections based on interests. Twitter has certainly done this with “Lists”, Follow Fridays and hashtags, but Pearl Trees’s bookmark oriented design, collaboration and organization I believe is a better resource for learning about new topics.

For example, rather than list out the ninety resources I care about in Chinese digital strategy and tweet links with hashtags about it hoping the right people will find it, I can create a Pearl Tree, a beautiful visual graphic that’s easily searchable. I can also find similar trees, and connect and collaborate with them.

Great idea: I’m not 100% sold though. We’ll have to see if this Pearl is market worthy.