Yesterday, TC broke the story about Google being in talks to acquire Katango. Since Facebook brought out the smart-list update, Google would want to respond and Katanga’s platform might just be an easy ticket.
However, the thought of FB & Katanga’s automatic listing/grouping together of people reminded me of something interesting that LinkedIn had unveiled earlier this year but got lost after an initial spurt of coverage: InMaps.
Isn’t that InMap, with its ‘Professional Networks’ just a smart grouping of my contacts into Circles? Exactly what Google wants to do with Katango and Facebook has already done with smartlists.
That information – professional association networks – is not very valuable to me (I know my professional circles) but possibly a gold mine for LinkedIn and anyone it may want to share it with. Wonder what’s keeping LinkedIn from tapping into this data and providing features like ‘Professional Circles’ – give people a platform to share & discuss within relevant circles – that might help develop LI as a better social network rather than the ‘just a job site’ that it is fast becoming.
Even more, however unlikely, what is preventing LinkedIn from making money from allowing sharing of these network links with either G+ or FB? (Only user initiated, of course). Or refining the algorithms to pro-actively suggest recruits to companies based not just on keyword match, but network affinity of current/past hires as well.
Basically, at a time when both Google & Facebook are using these features to enhance their networks, why is LinkedIn not pushing it? Specially, as far as I know, it was the first to launch the feature.
In this feature war between Facebook & Google+, the consensus amongst industry followers seems to be:
Consumer is clear winner and Twitter is clear loser, everything else is still up for grabs.
Well, I’ll go out on a limb and say that I feel Twitter will be a winnertoo. And my explanation for that is that good old KISS principle works everywhere – in this feature-cluttered fight for social network dominance too. And in that space – for a ‘simple’ social network – there is still no competition for Twitter.
The feature battle between FB and G+ is developing them both into powerful, yet increasingly complex, properties. This is good for users like me and the people I read – we are all technologically adept, willing to trade simplicity & a little time for more powerful features and more control over what we see / read / do.
Yet, that is not what everyone wants. Many, if not most, people just want simplicity.
People like my girlfriend. Her primary network is Twitter – she loves its simplicity in her time-starved life – and the second one is Facebook – because it has an interface she’s familiar with and because that’s where most of her friends & family are, i.e. the network effect.
People like Om Malik, who wrote a short but insightful post earlier today about increasingly feeling social network fatigue and how increasing complexity was adding to it. Twitter should pick up this punch line from his post and use in all their advertisements:
I use Twitter all the time because it is simpler, easier, real-time and always on!
People who Mike Elgan quite nicely categorised here (read that full post, it’s good):
Most Facebook users just want to interact with family and friends. They don’t want to learn anything. They don’t want a more powerful platform. They don’t want Facebook to be more like Google+.
For these people, the increasing complexity of features and controls on Facebook is causing a dissonance.
Why Twitter wins?
Simply because for the first set of people above – like Om and my girlfriend, who are always pressed for time and attention – Twitter provides a clean, single timeline that they can read and update. No likes or +1s, no separate profiles to update, no privacy controls, no circles, groups or smart-lists for sharing, no albums, apps & games. Just one timeline – simple.
The fact that of all three social networks, it is the best integrated and easiest to use on mobile helps it even more.
My hunch is, that for these people who crave simplicity – Twitter will start taking over as their primary social network. Yes, people will still stay on Facebook, many will even join G+ – but Twitter will become their primary network, with cross-posting apps their tool to update the other networks.
And that, will be a big win for Twitter.
Twitter will never be as big and ubiquitous as Facebook already is, or G+ wants to be. Yet, it has a community that is highly involved and committed. These, time-starved individuals, looking for an online community where they can feel comfortable – will not just join it, they’ll love it and commit to it in a manner they never did to Facebook.
Also, though their numbers might be small, these are the people who advertisers value a lot – people with short attention spans but good money to spend. They also happen to be the same people who are hardest to reach through old media TV & print advertisements.
Result: an increase in the ‘quality’ of users on twitter – both from their contribution to the interactions on the network as well as their value to the advertisers. Or in other words – a win for Twitter.
Earlier today I posted a note about the TED talk by Alexis Ohanian and how one big lesson from that talk was that brands & organisations need to ‘Lighten Up!’ to succeed in the social sphere.
Well, here’s another TED talk, this time by Amy Lockwood (is she on G+?). This one touches on the same topic but from a slightly different angle.
My key observation from this: how organisations fighting huge global problems sometimes take themselves so seriously that they lose sight of what users really want – they mistake their own goals with users needs.
Once again, it seems that the organisations need to lighten up, take a step back and listen to ‘them’. Them can be anyone – condom users in Congo, poor parents of school kids in India, parents of vaccine recipients in American south and even countries in the UN voting on Palestinian statehood.
It does not matter what you think you’re doing – It matters what the end users perceive you are doing. Listen to them and then tailor your efforts around their wants.
I have this thing about watching a TED talk every day. I even gave it one of those catchy phrases:
‘TED talk a day keeps senses awake’
Anyway, one of the two talks I saw today (a repeat) was about Mr. Splashy Pants by +Alexis Ohanian:
On this second viewing of the video, I finally got the real lesson of his talk: The biggest hurdle to organisations using social media successfully for serious causes is not that they are not media savvy. The biggest hurdle is that they take themselves and their cause too seriously.
A grim face, shocking footage and a serious message can help them gather sympathy and possibly some donations. Yet, such a message rarely helps develop a tsunami of support that a campaign like Splashy Pants can generate through social media.
People like sharing quirky, fun things. They share it even more if these quirky fun things are connected to a good cause.
No one, other than people already committed to a cause, want to consistently swamp their friends & followers with grim videos and messages for donation.
What is it? An online currency exchange. Simply a place where you can go to convert your Euros into Pounds and vice versa.
Why should customers love it? Pricing and Transparency. TransferWise promises to charge the mid market exchange rate (usually 2-3% better than your bank’s exchange rate) and charges a low, flat, per transaction fee (£1 per transaction) instead of a % commission that your bank charges. Most importantly, it puts this information – exchange rate and fees – right up front.
What’s special about the business? The huge opportunity size & stiff-stagnant competitors. I can see two sets of users directly and immediately benefitting – individuals requiring money transfer / remittances, and small businesses requiring cross border payments. Currently, individuals use costly services from their banks or slow money transfer agents like Western Union. The bigger businesses work on long lines of credits, but for SMEs who can rarely negotiate good exchange rate contracts with banks, forex charges can be a big drain on the bottom line.
There is further opportunity to tap if they can provide online retailer integration. This opens up the option to make online purchases in foreign currency without suffering bad exchange rates that banks / credit card companies would apply.
No Hurdles? There are plenty – the biggest being web of regulations governing foreign exchange transfers in different countries. If they start to see any sort of success, the other big hurdles might soon emerge – be lobbying by banks, money transfer companies and currency exchangers and me-too offerings by bigger web players, specially Amazon & PayPal.
Another issue that can turn up is a blind spot for me – the scaling ability of their current ‘skype-like’, p2p matching model. How well will this matching model cope with multiple currencies and a much greater number of transactions is something that needs more thought (by me, I’m sure they’ve already figured this piece out).
Way forward? Initially, just expand the currencies available – at the very least to USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, CNY and INR. It may be hard work, specially working with the central banks to gain trading permission. But in this game, just two currencies is too few.
Also, if they wish to tap in more widely into the small consumer market, develop relations with and integrate payment to online retailers.
Opportunity size? Hard to say at this early stage while I’m unsure which markets they’re going after, but here are a two relevant numbers:
Acc. to world bank, in 2010 India and China alone were expected to receive $106 billion in remittances. Not all of it was individuals sending money back home, but at even 10% of that opportunity size, it’s a sizable sum.
Acc. to EU, in 2007 businesses with less than 50 employees had €300+ billion of intra-EU cross-country sales. Expand that number to all small enterprises in just the top 6 currency zones and it’s already a market to lust after.