Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook adds to empire – final gets their communication platform in Whatsapp

Earlier today Facebook announced a massive acquisition of mobile instant messaging platform Whatsapp. The deal will be for $16billion, of which $4billion will be in cash and the remainder in equity. Regardless of how you structure it, that is a lot of money, wonder how many bitcoins that could have purchased.

From what I have been able to read, most agree, as do I, that Facebook needed to get a stronger footprint in the world of mobile communications. Yes Facebook remains one of the most used mobile apps and the growth continues on the upwards trend. Within that segment, the non – “US & Canada” are showing continued growth, while US & Canada remain steady.

Growth curve outside North America picking up steam

Growth curve outside North America picking up steam

Facebook has tried to get a foothold on the world of IM/SMS type communications on mobile devices. Anyone who is a regular Facebook user knows how they have been constantly pushing their mobile messenger app on users. I will admit I actually finally broke down and downloaded the app, only to delete it after a few days and went back to going through the regular Facebook to leverage the messaging function. Of course for Facebook they realize that not everyone has a Facebook account…gasp….and therefore might be accessible through Facebook messenger. Just like Apple knows that not everyone is on iOS…gasp…and cannot all use iMessenger the same way. For this reason 3rd party messaging platforms like Whatsapp, Viber, Snapchat or old school ones such as AIM and Yahoo! try to be device agnostic and focus just on being communications platforms. Not some uber social media community. Of course the growth shown by Whatsapp doesn’t hurt their attractiveness either!

WhatsApp-growth

So it makes perfect sense for Facebook to find in Whatsapp their potential asset in the mobile messenger world. Much like Instagram provided them with their photo-sharing platform. While Facebook has these functions in their existing platform, they just aren’t very good at differentiating them, as they are just drowned out in the overall Facebook environment. Buying Whatsapp gives Facebook a strong asset in the mobile messaging space. It gives them an asset that has done well outside the United States, an area where Facebook mobile enjoys continued upward movement – could be very complimentary in that aspect. Does it admit failure in decoupling Facebook Messenger as a stand alone? Sure. But Facebook doesn’t seem to be afraid to go out and throw around their vast cash resources to shore up a need when their own efforts fall short. Hey, if you have the cash and financial heft, use it!

Of course one has to hope that Facebook treats Whatsapp like it did Instagram, allows it to function independently. If they do so, I think that Whatsapp will continue to grow its user base and messaging position.

Wonder if Snapchat is kicking themselves today…I guess Facebook wasn’t really after the ability to send “mission impossible” type messages but just wanted a messaging platform.

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Big Data – bringing “Minority Report” closer to reality

I read an interesting article about the usage of big data and fighting crime – click here for piece. The basic premise is that law enforcement agencies are taping into the mountains of data that is out there to start determining where crimes might occur. Using predictive analytics coupled with the mountains of available data allows for an improved ability to understand where and even when crimes might occur. The article points out some measurable improvements of using some versions of the predictive solutions:

“the intermediate results look quite impressive. In Los Angeles, five LAPD divisions that use it in patrolling territory populated by roughly 1.3m people have seen crime decline by 13%. The city of Santa Cruz, which now also uses PredPol, has seen its burglaries decline by nearly 30%. Similar uplifting statistics can be found in many other police departments across America.”

Impressive to say the least, even if it remains early. There is even more discussion of how law enforcement could leverage sites such as Facebook to track and anticipate users who might have a higher probability of committing a crime.

Showing up based on your Facebook posts

Showing up based on your Facebook posts

“The police are also finding powerful allies in Silicon Valley. Companies such as Facebook have begun using algorithms and historical data to predict which of their users might commit crimes using their services. Here is how it works: Facebook’s own predictive systems can flag certain users as suspicious by studying certain behavioural cues: the user only writes messages to others under 18; most of the user’s contacts are female; the user is typing keywords like “sex” or “date.” Staffers can then examine each case and report users to the police as necessary. Facebook’s concern with its own brand here is straightforward: no one should think that the platform is harbouring criminals.”

So think twice when you drunk post on Facebook!

So what does this mean for us and our privacy? While there are some positives, what about the potential down side? Remember the movie – Minority Report? Tom Cruise and his police team would be able to anticipate crimes before they happened and arrest the future criminal…before they actually committed the crime. How would one feel to have big data “predict” that you are about to do something against the law…before you even do it. Is it worth to have a percentage of citizens be mislabeled to have a larger percentage of future crimes nipped in the bud? And what happens if big data predicts a crime and law enforcement does not act upon it…and it does happen?

It creates some very interesting issues. I think that this is an another example of Big Data and the potential it might hold, but also the dangers associated with advances in technology.

Another reason to be careful about what you post on Facebook!

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Be good to your customers…especially in the world of social media

There is a story about Lego responding to a client’s letter that has gone viral. The basic premise – a Lego fan builds a set, against his father’s wishes he takes the completed set out and ends up losing a mini-figure. His father suggests he writes to Lego, which he does, and Lego responds by sending him a replacement as well as extra Legos. Great story. And good marketing buzz for Lego. Not only did they make an even bigger fan of the 7 year old, but they got a tremendous buzz about their actions – outlets from Huffington Post to Yahoo! wrote about the story.

Blue Ninja!

Be the ninja of good customer care

So what is the moral of the story? Take care of you customers…d’uh. Okay that is the obvious. But what this really shows is the greater importance good customer care takes with the rise of social media. Before blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other social outlets, the above story might have been picked up by a local newspaper reporter as filler. Good story, but buried in the business section of the Sunday edition. With social there is long tail as well as a wider reach. The originally story came out earlier this year, I just read about it and I am now blogging about it. Long tail.

Of course this sword can cut both ways. Have a bad customer care story and that could hang around your neck for much longer than it took to resolve the issue. Or if your fried chicken actually seems to be a brain or a kidney- aka what happened with KFC – click here, but be forewarned it isn’t too “appetizing” to view. Same holds true for Dell that dealt with huge headaches, both in terms of recall as well as image when one of their laptop batteries caught on fire and was videoed and spread like…ahem…wildfire on the web. This was the catalyst for Dell placing more emphasis on social listening.

These examples demonstrate the importance of being much more in tune with customer service and listening to what your customers are saying, and doing. Social media has given everyone a megaphone. Regardless of how loud or quiet that megaphone is, it is out there. End of the day customers will always vote with their wallets, but now they have another way to vote – with social media. One could argue that when it was only with a wallet, you could always expect to find another “sucker” for your products. The reality was the wallet voting is buried in the aggregate. Social media makes the vote personal and pointed. Take a cue from Lego and always treat your customer well – provide outrageous service and it will come back to you in spades. And take another cue from Dell – make social media key to your customer listening and service.

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Friday funny – let’s not forget the basics!

Thanks to my BFF for sending this to me!

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So much for DotCom 2.0…Apple and Facebook dissappoint

Oh yeah and Zygna is also heading in the wrong direction – stock price wise. I digress. This week we say Facebook “beat” their estimates, well beat them because they had set such a low bar to the street. Their shares opened at a new low today as well. During this week Apple also missed some numbers, causing some mild panic in Appleland. Add to this the rumblings about the Samsung v Apple smartphone battles and it was not a good week for the consumer electronic giant. But not all is bleak in the land of DotCom 2.0…

What…me worry?

First, Facebook. Not really surprising that Facebook, stock wise, is under-performing. Facebook revenues were $1.18b, most from advertisement, nice chunk of change…but pales in comparison to the $11b Google did in the same time period. Granted the amount of users is reaching immense proportions – getting close to 1billion. But that no longer matters. Sorry Facebook. Investors and the market want to see how you are going to exploit and make money from those 1billion users. Based on the numbers, if each one just gave you $1.18 a quarter you would match your current revenues. That is not really a good business model for growth! Not to over simply the situation and I realize that hindsight is 20/20 but the reality is Facebook IPOd too late. Had Facebook IPO’d a few years ago, when they were hovering around 300m in users they would have been able to ride the user growth curve. Investors and the like would have rewarded Facebook for their growth curve – might not have scrutinized the economics as much. Now that would not have taken away the fundamental issue – how to make more revenue. However with a few quarters if not years of earnings under their belt, Wall Street might have been “kinder” to the stock. As is, the numbers of users leveraging Facebook does not get anyone excited. Whether it is 400 million or 500 million or a billion…so Facebook gets no “pop” from showing greater user growth.

The reality is that Facebook is no Google, the ability of Facebook to generate revenue from ads will be a major uphill battle. The major issue for Facebook, is that is really a walled garden. It is really a personal phone book via social media – unlike Twitter or Google, which are open to the entire public. You tend to go to Facebook to see how many marathons your friends are now running, how cute and wonderful their children are, that their pets are adorable or how fat your ex-boyfriend has gotten. You do not go there to search…looking for a product or service. Until Facebook realizes this and more importantly how to make revenue off a non-Google model their stock and valuation will continue to suffer.

Now what about Apple? Apple failed to meet what have become incredibly lofty expectations. Is this a malaise that will only affect Apple or more of an indication of the overall market? I think the latter, as do others click here. Of course the amazing fact is that iPhone revenues for Apple

No pressure…

are greater than all revenues for Microsoft…ouch ($22.7 b v $17.4b). Apple’s financials remain strong and cash on hand is slightly ridiculous – $110b, click here to see what “toys” they could acquire with that cash.  Of course it was not that long ago that someone else had that problem…Microsoft. And they did not know what to do with all that money, buy SAP? Stock repurchase? Dividend? So Apple will have to navigate some tricky waters to keep the halo it has worked so hard to create.

The main issue for Apple, what next? The market for the iPhone remains strong, but is has some serious challengers in Samsung and Google. If Facebook gets into the mobile game add them to the mix, not that I think a Facebook phone will do what the iPhone did, but still a device linked to a strong brand name. What about the iPad? Google announced a new tablet, granted it appears to be going head to head with the Kindle and Nook, but still a device that will inevitably scrape off market share. Apple is rumored to be looking at creating a “mini” iPad to get into this market. The new MacBooks are supposedly wonderful (I love my older generation MacBook!) but not sure that will excite the masses.

Apple, I have faith, will weather this “storm.” Will they continue to reach for stratospheric like levels…probably not. That pace is impossible to maintain. With the new iPhone due later this year, they have a chance to once again grab top dog stature. With the cash on hand, they can invest in and make some plays and take some risks. The real worry for me is can they weather this storm without their inspirational leader Steve Jobs? Time will tell.

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Twitter flips off Linkedin

Okay I used another headline for inspiration on my title – Twitter Gives LinkedIn The Bird (LNKD). An interesting decision by Twitter. The basics are that you cannot use Twitter to push content to LinkedIn and populate the “share an update” part of your LinkedIn account. The reverse will continue to be feasible – if you post on LinkedIn you can push that to Twitter. Clearly Twitter wants to be the platform and the vehicle for content creation, it does not want to share that content repository.

I guess someone doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate…

Rumors are that both companies could not agree on an advertising deal or that Tweeter got spooked at the password hacking that struck LinkedIn. Whatever the reason, I think this is a gamble for Twitter. The relationship between Twitter and LinkedIn gave it a position of strength vis a vis other social platforms…namely Facebook. The “Whats on your mind” feature on Facebook is a great vehicle to communicate with our network…people we want to be in our circle. The power of tying LinkedIn and Twitter is that via Twitter you could a larger public audience while still tying back to your professional circles. This make Twitter/LinkedIn a stronger social vehicle for businesses and professional communications.

To me this tie in gave Twitter a more grown up angle. Now that the tie has been broken, there is an opportunity for someone to fill that void. A twitter like app from LinkedIn? I understand that Twitter wants to validate its existence by hosting more content and being able to do all the wonderful data mining that allows (click here for a story about the partnership and why it made sense). But, cutting the cord with the adult in the social media room is a gamble.

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The consumer profiling battle…we are being watched

 

This week I became full indoctrinated with the Apple iCloud. While I have become a serious Apple follower – I am typing on my MacBook Pro, my smartphone is an iPhone, my tablet an iPad and I have my iPod plugged into my car. This is nothing short of a minor miracle since 15 years ago I vowed I would never purchase an Apple product…oops. Now I am leveraging iCloud to keep my contacts, my calendar and back up my pictures.

What I realized is we are in the midst of a fresh battle amongst the technology giants. A battle for how to get to our information, how to leverage connectivity (aka the cloud and mobility) to better profile us. And with better profiles more effective marketing and selling. Here is how I see it:

  • Apple – with the iCloud, coupled with all the devices Apple has seeded into our lives they are storing and have access to our music, movie, television and podcast preferences. Apple can also understand what electronic tools we use with our devices: are we using a lot of photo apps? Or when someone is downloading apps to understand when it is best to get pregnant. Or that someone is leveraging travel apps…the list goes on. Apple is learning about profiling us through our devices.
  • Facebook – clearly the social giant is looking to gain and map all our social activities. Who are our friends, who are our “close friends” … still not sure what that is all about. They encourage us to tell Facebook who is in our family, what their relationship is, who we are married to, separated from, divorced from or “it is complicated” with…They are now becoming a massive photo repository, encouraging us to “tag” those in the pictures with us – data that can help establish who is in our network and who we have influence with and who might influence us. Facebook is profiling us by encouraging us to profile ourselves through the desire to share with our network.
  • Google. The search giant first and foremost is able to track what we search for, but now with their other assets they can profile us via our Gmail account, or google talk, or Google + oh wait no uses that…Google wants to be able to index every piece of information that is out there. So they can better understand how we use that information and make better advertisement and marketing pushes!
  • Amazon. Yes that old CD and Book seller is a real power when it comes to understanding our behaviors. They do a wonderful job understanding our buying behaviors and how to up-sell us. With the likes of Kindle, they can also understand what we read. As they encourage us to “showroom” with brick and mortar retailers and then use the Amazon app to see how much less expensive it is on their site. The information they are gathering is gold as it is real time sale and demand data – think of the “wish list” function.

These are just a few examples, but clearly there is a battle for who can best profile us. Which tech player or which industry (banks, insurance, grocery stores…) do a better job profiling us?

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