Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shaqtastic: The Effect of Celebrities on Social Media

Celebrities have proved to be a very positive light in the social media world lately. First you had figures like Shaq join Twitter. Followed by Britney Spears, Lance Amrstrong, one of my favorite feeds is from comedian Michael Ian Black and MANY others. Then there's the recent publicity stunt around Ashton Kutcher vs. CNN for the race to 1 Million followers, where, and I quote the YouTube video posted of Larry King who said to Kutcher, "...CNN will bury you..." The celebrity presence on Twitter has massively impacted the buzz for those outside the online, tech-centric, social media savvy audience it began as.

Other services are looking to tap similar models to Twitter. Yesterday, Mashable's Jennifer Van Grove posted a piece on the potential for another Shaq-effect surrounding social media micro-vlogging service 12seconds. Shaq's first video on the service is about his new career as a male model. Could Shaq, one of the most prolific celebrities in the nation and important influencers in briding the gap between social media and pop culture, do the same thing to 12seconds as it did for Twitter?

For a frame of reference Twitter's users grew exponentially after Shaq joined in November 2008 and he has absolutely had a major effect around the generation of buzz for the service. While the whole surge cannot be solely attributed to Shaq's presence, he has definitely driven Twitter into the sports world, including players and news outlets. Twitter is becoming a staple in mainstream news and pop culture worlds, with celebrities of all sizes and types joining up to build their following.

Now the question is, will 12seconds popularity take off because of Shaq? Will it spur the same amount of celebrity attraction to the service? I mean, their service was just integrated into the new iteration of TweetDeck the most widely used third-party applications for twitterfeeds. Full House's Joey Gladstone... uhh, I mean, Dave Coulier... is already on 12seconds pitching his site and the chance to win a Joey Gladstone action figure, I know what you're thinking, and all I have to say is cut, it, out. The integration is there, it could DEFINITELY take off...

Now, on the otherhand, I'm going to play the devil's advocate for a second. While Shaq's celebrity presence will undoubtedely have an impact on users immediately, it will have no where near the steep trend he's spurred on Twitter and here's why -- TIMING.

Here are a few things surrounding this time frame which I think will influence why 12seconds will not take off in a Twitter like fashion:
  1. The iPhone's video capabilities have not been released and are not expected to be released until this summer
  2. People are still trying to get their heads around the 140 characters basis of Twitter it's hard to blow people's mind when everyone is so focused on one hot thing
  3. It needs a couple hundred thousand more users to have adopted the service and regular users using it (Note: I do not have user numbers, but am basing this off how many times people post on the main page - 24 in the last 32 minutes)
Timing is the end-all-be-all for the success of products and services - It's slightly different, but ask Web TV or the Apple Newton what they think about timing.

I hope it 12seconds does awesome - I'm really interested to see numbers surrounding the Shaq-effect because I think 12seconds is a really cool service and an interesting way to tap the Twitter model. I can't wait to watch Shaq's videos and hope he continues to raise awareness and buzz for the service. It's hard to find someone, let alone an icon, as honest and down to earth as the real Shaq.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Your post crashed my site: A look at the contributors / inhibitors of the tone and scale of social buzz

Oh, awesome, a new service that checks all social sites to see if my name is taken. Oh, wait, this link on Mashable leads me to a totally broken site... let me try to type it in... hmm same result. Oh, what's this? An analysis of the new search features on everyone's Twitter homepage! AWESOME!

Ahh, the smell of social media buzz in the morning. You know what I'm talking about... that fast paced, RSS-fed, click-frenzy-to-the-next-shiny-social-tool laden search everyone does first thing they turn on their computer screen to see what's cool enough to Tweet this morning.

I've seen it all too much... A Technoarti Top 100 blog posts a story on a brand new startup introducing a neat and unique social media tool to their community and brings the company's servers to their knees. While the priority is getting the site back up and in working order, the PR in my asks: How much will this downtime impact the overall buzz within the social media echo chamber?

Nearly two hours after Mashable posted the story on the example at hand, NameChk (a tool which examines 84 top social services and tracks whether or not they have a user name) has around 30 tweets and five original stories including a CNET piece. In my opinion, the site has recieved a fair amount of coverage for a service that has no business model, not all that spectacular of an offering and has a range of errors being reported across.

New sites crash all the time, even Twitter used to go through growing pains and look how absurdly successful they've been. With that, I'd like to stake a claim that if the product being launched is strong, presents instant value to users and maybe even has a business model, the company should, for all intensive purposes, secure a significant amount of buzz and coverage among bloggers and across the social media world.

Below are few key ingredients which I feel impact the overall tone and scale of buzz:

Negative - - - / - - / - / + / ++/+++ Positive

Your product/service:
Went down after first article (-) Add another (-) per hour of downtime
Has a flaw (-) Add another (-) per number of flaws
Has a major flaw (- - -)
Is a downloadable product (excluding AdobeAir apps) (- -)
Has no feasible way of making money in today's economy (- -)
Presents real value for businesses or social media experts (++)
Presents actual value to all types of consumers (+++)
Has statistics around usage (++)
Has a business model (+)
Has a realistic business model (++)
Has a realistic business model and referencable customers (+++)
Is directly related to Twitter (+++)
Is directly related to Facebook (++)

Less - - - / - - / - / + / ++/+++ More

Your coverage product/service is launched during:
Popular service redesign (i.e. Facebook) (- - -)
Social Media IPO (i.e. FACEBOOK!?!?) (- - - - - -)
Any new cycles coming out of Twitter (- - -)
Acquisitions (- -)
Funding (- or +)
CES (- -)
SXSW (++)
Advertising Week (+)
A panel at a social media conference (-)
A keynote at a social media conference (++)

What else do you think can impact launch buzz?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Go Social with your March Madness Trash Talking this Year

It's that time of year... the NCAA College Basketball Tournament is in the air and early disputes and trash talking on the would-be "winning" brackets and "championship" teams are in full effect.

With Twitter growing at a staggering 1,382 percent year-over-year in February according to Neilsen, the sports world in specific and our beloved sports figures, columnists and hosts flocking to the service and could be a factor in some of the rapid growth as its publicity is amped up and sports fans feel the urge to sign up and talk to (more at than to) Shaq or ping the PTI crew.

The real question at hand though, is how social can we take trash talking this March?

While it is certainly easier to turn to your friend sitting next to you, who happens to be an ACC fan, and politely discuss the Big East's absolute dominance in the tournament this year, social media will, no doubt, heighten the depth and breadth of your trash talking potential.

This is also the first year the second generation iPhone with the good ol' 3G will capabilities will allow people to check stats, manage their brackets, Tweet their disapproval and manage their Facebook fandom. (C'mon, how many of you diehard fans have already changed your profile pic to your favorite schools logo?)

Mashable highlights some of the March Madness iPhone apps which will get some heavy use this month.

A downside is that the CBS Sports Application will only work with Wifi connectivity on your iPhone, but it will serve as an extra medium to quell the madness beyond the two TV's you've set up in your living room, the laptop precariously propped up on your desktop PC's tower whose monitor rests at the edge of the table next to the never ending bowls of chips and salsa.

Whether you love our hate Tyler Hansbrough with a fiery passion, there is no doubt that you will find the comments and team trash talk and heated debates on Twitter as we get closer to the championship showdown. Of course, today's topic of discussion surrounding NCAA college basketball on Twitter is President Obama's bracket... UNC to win it all? Not a chance they'll get by Pitt in the Final Four!

Someone knocking your team? Support your school and reply so that all can hear! But remember the rules of any argument and bring some evidence to back up your point... you don't want to be THAT guy do you?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sports go social: ESPN's PTI debates Facebook firing, begins to use Twitter

Yesterday while getting my daily sports highlight intake from ESPN's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on the Pardon the Interruption program I heard two topics which caught me mildly off-guard. Among the highlights were, NCAA men's basketball, Ladanian Tomlinson contract talks and Facebook. A recent incident of a Philadelphia Eagles fan turned weekend gate worker who was fired after posting on his Facebook profile status message direct to the loss of Brian Dawkins that said: "Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver ... Dam Eagles R Retarted!!"

Wilbon went onto disagree with his termination, saying that he would rather throw the guy who fired this gate guard out of the organization. In my opinion, I don't think he should have been fired but it sure did merit at least a slap on the hands and a change of employee social media policies. Tony raised an extremely valid point noting that Facebook is public. If they (being the Eagles or any company you work at for that matter) are giving you a paycheck, you have to draw lines. In this case, you are either a fan or an employ and should absolutely support your company's decision or just shut up. It's important for a company's message to be consistent whether you're a giant enterprise technology company or a sports team, a C-level employ or a mail room attendant. Now that the average Joe is capable of reaching hundreds of people, it might be a responsible move for these places of business to enact a series of social media defamation policies encompassing the Facebook and Twitter apps of the world.

Also on the sports social media front, after a discussion between Tony and guest host Dan Le Betard around the rise of sports players using Twitter back in February, the PTI crew came out with an interesting announcement last night. They have launched a Twitter account @PTIShow and actually asked the audience to submit any cool ways to incorporate Twitter into the TV program. I have a feeling, Twitter will at the very least replace the Mail Room segment of PTI in the next few months. If I was in charge, I'd throw in similar hi-def features which are used by the ESPN News HD channel incorporating stats and a moderately censored live Twitter feed on the currently unused side columns.

You can listen to last nights PodCast version of the TV show here (this segment is towards the end).

While writing this, the @PTIShow now has close to 4,700 followers, which is about 1,000 more that were listed last night at 7:00 pm ET. Even though these aren't Dalai Lama Twitter numbers, it no doubt highlights Twitter's increasing mass appeal, popularity and attractiveness for news sources, further extending social technology in sports culture which will continue to diversify it's audience.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Music services taps Twitter model... so what?

Back in November 2008, Thrillist ran an article in their daily New York email newsletter introducing a company called Musebin and offering up an exclusive and limited invite to the service. Given my obsession with music of all genres (except country) and my infatuation with technology/internet services, I felt I almost HAD to sign up for this service.

The idea and premise is so simple. Musebin is a user generated music album review site which allows members to give a 140 character explanation of why the liked it or why they hated it. "140 characters you say? Sounds a lot like Twitter to me..." well, you're not alone, it does to me too.

In fact, another tool but NOT an extension to Musebin (please someone correct me if I'm wrong), with a completely unprounceable name, ♬ on Twitter, aka, is trying to do just that. After playing around with the musically-glorified Twitter search, I've found it does not really do anything too unique from the search beyond pulling out album covers and other items you might consider searching related to the artist you're searching.

Keeping Twitter in the back of my mind this entire time, I have a feeling we'll begin to see these types of sites and searches which better aggregate and highlight Twitter postings topically as the 140 character micro-blogging service begins to hit the mainstream. It may even offer a way for Twitter to make some damn money and build an ad platform to serve targeted advertisements which is something that should have probably been done upon being launched.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Activision Blizzard to make moves in recession, is that a mobile WoW MMO I smell?

Activision Blizzard's CEO Mike Griffith mentioned in an interview with Bloomberg yesterday that, “The combination of Activision holding a fair amount of cash [nearly $3 billion] and presumably prices being depressed, not only for publicly traded companies, but also likely for new intellectual property licensing rights, should certainly create opportunities.”

As the recession hit's everyone and their mother, it's not a surprise that the current top grossing third-party gaming company in the world and their incrediblely successful Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft franchises that they would look to take advantage of their lead and venture into some new areas of gaming growth.

With Vivendi reporting that their 2008 earnings have reached their goals and giving what seems to be a confident outlook for 2009, perhaps we can plan to see a resurgence of their mobile division concentrating more in the N. American market with the continued adoption of the iPhone and iPod Touch as gaming devices and rising competitor of the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.

Watch out Tapulous, your Tap Tap Revenge might look very appealing to the suits at Activision Blizzard, especially with some of the cool new features added in today's launch of the second game of the series.

If mobile is the avenue they take, it would be interesting to see the moves they made with Blizzard-specific products. For the record, I've been a long time fan of what Blizzard produces, from playing the original Warcraft in DOS on the first computer I built, to my, now dormant character on WoW and looking forward to the launch of Diablo III and Starcraft II.

Tell me it wouldn't be cool or a huge surprise if they acquired a mobile company to pull together technologies for a mobile MMO World of Warcraft like the The Watchmen game on the iPhone launching Friday?

Monday, March 2, 2009

DLC's future is bright as Xbox Live continues to dominate over PSN

Two weeks ago, the launch of Rockstar's GTA IV: The Lost and Damned downloadable content pack "eclipsed first-day revenue" for all content released via Microsoft's Xbox Live service. While no numbers were released by Microsoft, there is no doubt, that this number is very large and will change how game developers and publishers produce and release downloadable content and expansions through Xbox Live and Playstation Network services... not to mention how these types of games are recieved/reviewed by the media and the public.

The launch of Bethesda's $10 downlodable expansion Operation Anchorage for Fallout 3 and the upcoming release of Fallout 3: The Pitt which will extend the level-cap and offer up a few more features for players will only be available for download on Xbox 360 and PC. Ubisoft recently announced a week delay in their downloadable expansion Prince of Persia: Epilogue which it will be made available through the PSN and Xbox Live. As the downloadable content department future looks brighter and brighter, content will continue to become more robust and more economical and attractive venture for both publishers and users alike (cough... nearly 20 hours of extra gameplay for $20 is pretty amazing... cough).

As DLC continues to grow and in the midst of battle between console network behemoths Xbox Live and PSN, Sony released some interesting numbers last week, stating that the number of registered users on the free-to-register PSN now exceeds that of Xbox Live at over 20 million users to Xbox's 17 million.

Quick snapshot comparison of stats courtesy of Variety:

- PSN (PS3 and PSP) around 70 million devices
- Xbox Live (Xbox 360) about 28 million

Existence of services:
- PSN has been around for 27 months.
- Xbox Live 67 months

- PSN $180 million in gross revenue
- Xbox Live over $1 billion (per MSFT at E3 in 2008)

So what does all of this mean? The validity in the whole online content scheme of things is highly questionable, as registered users mean nothing sans usage numbers. Fanatics will do the inevitable on a free service and horde user names, create accounts for the US and other networks, many of which inevitably go inactive. Xbox Live is the clear winner here based on quality of downloadable content and basic amounts of revenue that have poured in through their service - to reiterate what I mentioned above, it will be interesting to see if they disclose the amount of units sold for Rockstar's latest hit or the upcoming expansions, Prince of Persia: Epilogue or Fallout 3: The Pitt.

With the diehard Playstation fans forcing Xbox 360 exclusive user product reviews down by scoring The Lost and the Damned and other highly anticipated and reviewed games like Epic's Gears of War 2 unreasonably low (think a 0-2 rating), the real question is no longer what you can do for Sony, but what is Sony going to do to step up their game in the market.

Premium paid accounts with unique product offerings or discounts on DLC? Paying the price for exclusivity on upcoming downloadable content for hit games like Xbox recently did with the Lost and Damned at $50 million? Unlockable achievements? C'mon Sony, hook us up with something!