The Coming Wall of Data

While providing significant utility to users, highly social properties like Quora are also introducing an impending issue that we term “The  Wall of Data”.  There is a scene in the movie Poseidon Adventure, when a crew aboard the S.S. Poseidon looks out a pair of binoculars to see this massive wall of water approaching:

 

 

When we gaze through our binoculars at the tremendous amount of data being produced by The Second Internet, we see the same massive wall approaching.  It is overwhelming, unprecedented, and the impact is widely under-appreciated.  And the pace of data creation will only increase as we move towards ambient socialization — where instead of having to manually update statuses and whereabouts, these behaviors will be broadcast automatically.

 

We have met with multiple companies that speak about the massive amount of data that they aggregate from their one billion+ monthly users.  Given the scale of their data, the thought of using Amazon’s cloud to manage their data is out of the question.  Five years ago, that data would have been epic.  Today, that amount is being aggregated in lots of pockets of The Second Internet.

 

When we think about how all of that social data is going to be indexed and made searchable, we come back to Google.  That’s one of the reasons why we believe that Google gets social.  While facebook and social broadly is great for discovery, if you’re searching for data in the social graph, Google has unique capabilities to help you find it.

 

Kabam: De-risking video game development

Guest post by Chris Carvalho, Kabam COO

Kabam is poised to disrupt the overall games market by leveraging the social Internet to create a game experience that keeps users engaged and by utilizing a free-to-play virtual goods model where consumers only pay for what they want once they have derived value from playing the game.

 

 

 

At the top of the funnel, Kabam’s games are discoverable by social tools that leverage relationships.  Kabam leverages the cloud-based nature of the social Internet to facilitate frictionless sign up and game initiation.  There’s no hardware required (just internet access), no software to load or download, no payment upfront (since we are a free-to-play model).  Simply point, click and you’re on your way to playing one of our games.

Once signed in to a game, a player can invite existing friends from their social graph to play online with them, adding to their social interaction with current relationships.  Interestingly enough, it’s also common for players to make new friends within their game play experience and then incorporate these new relationships into their social graph.

 

 

 

Social tools have also enhanced Kabam’s ability to utilize alliances in games.  Users can join with over 100 other players to form alliances to play with and against other real people/alliances in real time.  Alliances can meet online in real time in one of our persistent worlds, establish strategies, assign responsibilities and then go execute their plan. We recently conducted a survey among Kingdoms of Camelot heavy users: 76% indicated “I have made new friends in my Alliance and enjoy playing with them” as the number one reason they play the game.

 

From a business standpoint, fostering this tight-knit community helps contribute to greater game engagement and player retention, which are the key variables in determining the business potential of a social game — the more involved a player is, and the longer they stay involved, the greater their potential lifetime value.

 

For a cost perspective, Kabam’s model takes significant risk out of the game development.  Retail games have a high cost of production and distribution ($20-$40MM is not unusual and costs for major titles are increasingly exceeding $100MM) and can take years before they are released. Once the game ships, the bulk of the work is done; the developer can only cross their fingers and hope they’ve produced a hit.

 

Conversely, Kabam games have a significantly lower cost of initial production ($1MM range) and take only months to launch.  Once released, the fun really begins.   Kabam continuously adds new features, optimizes game play, and makes fixes that are all informed by the players’ activity which can be monitored in real time.

 

ShoeDazzle: Acquiring customers rapidly and cost-effectively

Guest post by Brian Lee, ShoeDazzle CEO

ShoeDazzle recreates the high-end boutique experience online by building intimate experiences customized for all of its members.   The results have been astounding, as ShoeDazzle is now the #1 online fashion brand on facebook with over 700,000 fans.  With users embracing the ShoeDazzle experience, the company has seen revenues increase by 300% in 2010 and the company is on pace to grow top line by 350% in 2011.

While the company was growing steadily early on, ShoeDazzle really took off in September 2010, after unveiling a facebook Connect marketing strategy that leveraged the highly social aspects of ShoeDazzle boutiques.  ShoeDazzle users could invite facebook friends to become ShoeDazzle members.  The invites sent exploded because they benefit not only the recipient who discovers ShoeDazzle, but someone new who discovers ShoeDazzle also increases the utility of ShoeDazzle for the person that invited them.  Each ShoeDazzle member has a “Boutique”, and “Boutiques” are linked, and with more friends, you can see more items, get more feedback on your choices that month, and make trades to ensure that you are picking the shoes that are the best match for you.

As ShoeDazzle’s user base has grown virally, costs per customer acquired have continued to decrease.  Marketing efforts are now split 50%-50% between paid marketing and viral/social.

ShoeDazzle: Acquiring customers rapidly and cost-effectively

Guest post by Brian Lee, ShoeDazzle CEO

ShoeDazzle recreates the high-end boutique experience online by building intimate experiences customized for all of its members.   The results have been astounding, as ShoeDazzle is now the #1 online fashion brand on facebook with over 700,000 fans.  With users embracing the ShoeDazzle experience, the company has seen revenues increase by 300% in 2010 and the company is on pace to grow top line by 350% in 2011.

While the company was growing steadily early on, ShoeDazzle really took off in September 2010, after unveiling a facebook Connect marketing strategy that leveraged the highly social aspects of ShoeDazzle boutiques.  ShoeDazzle users could invite facebook friends to become ShoeDazzle members.  The invites sent exploded because they benefit not only the recipient who discovers ShoeDazzle, but someone new who discovers ShoeDazzle also increases the utility of ShoeDazzle for the person that invited them.  Each ShoeDazzle member has a “Boutique”, and “Boutiques” are linked, and with more friends, you can see more items, get more feedback on your choices that month, and make trades to ensure that you are picking the shoes that are the best match for you.

As ShoeDazzle’s user base has grown virally, costs per customer acquired have continued to decrease.  Marketing efforts are now split 50%-50% between paid marketing and viral/social.

BranchOut: Leveraging facebook’s social graph to professionally network

Guest post by Mike Del Ponte, BranchOut Marketing Manager

In July 2010, San Francisco based entrepreneur Rick Marini got a call from a friend who was looking for a sales lead at a particular company. Marini thought he knew someone at that company, but he couldn’t remember exactly who it was.  He tried searching for the company on facebook; however, facebook did not provide this kind of search.  Marini had one of his engineers build the functionality he desired. When he saw the results, Marini immediately recognized the potential of using facebook for professional networking and BranchOut was born.

BranchOut leverages the social connections of facebook’s nearly 700 million users to provide unprecedented reach to job seekers, recruiters, and sales people.  In addition to general information about people and businesses, facebook offers social insights, such as a former colleague’s recommendation for a job candidate or crowdsourced evaluations of a company’s office culture.  On the back of facebook’s infrastructure, Branchout has enjoyed explosive user growth:

Three key trends have contributed to BranchOut growth and will continue to support future success:

  1. Facebook usage has increased, while privacy concerns have decreased: The average facebook user spends 7.5 hours on the site, and over 57% of users (i.e., almost 350 million people) log into facebook daily. While these numbers point to facebook’s ability to build an addictive product, they are also related to an important shift in user attitudes and behaviors. Namely, users are less concerned about privacy than they were in the past. A key reason for this is that users now have more power to control who can see their personal information on facebook.  BranchOut adds to this control by offering a professional profile. For example, if your boss wants to keep in touch, he can be your BranchOut connection on the facebook platform without having access to your personal facebook profile.
  2. A next wave of big companies on facebook will be utilities: Social gaming was the first category to take off on facebook.  Today, people no longer see facebook as all fun and games. Users want to do other business on the facebook platform. This is partly because it is convenient, but also because the facebook friend graph adds a social element to activities, ranging from shopping to dating to professional services.
  3. Gamification drives growth and incentivizes good behavior: Gamification describes the use of game mechanics for non-game activities like how credit card companies use rewards programs to change consumer behaviors. BranchOut has incorporated skill-based badges, a leader board showing how connected you are, career quizzes, and a contest that helps students land internships at Google, facebook, Nike, and other top companies. By pairing gamification with facebook’s viral channels, BranchOut has found a way to grow its network while adding value to its users.

Jive Software: Allowing social collaboration to improve work efficiency

Guest post by Ari Newman, Jive

What’s happening in the consumer world is fundamentally changing the way we create, consume, and share information.  Technology is no longer a barrier in our personal lives, and it shouldn’t be a barrier in our work lives. We are seeing and hearing this trend in-play, as more and more discourse on the “consumerization of the enterprise” occurs.

“Social Business” is the term Jive Software coined to describe how the social web will forever change the enterprise. We see Social Business as the biggest transformation in a generation with the power to fundamentally change how business is conducted.  Companies that get “it,” that recognize there is a new way to work, are significantly improving their reported performance. In a recent survey, Jive customers were realizing a 37% increase in project collaboration and productivity, a 30% increase in customer satisfaction, and a 23% increase in win rates.

Companies have to build social from the ground up. You can’t just take social features and add them to a content management or sales force automation system and have a social business solution. Success with social tools requires an agnostic approach to applications, content and processes. Imagine how less impactful facebook would be if you could only share content from a single website. User experience is paramount to adoption and thus success. Unlike many enterprise applications, you can’t force users to be social. Thus, they need to see the inherent value of the application, and it must be dead simple to learn and use.

SB Nation: Creating local forums for passionate sports conversation

Guest post by Jim Bankoff, SB Nation CEO



Tyler Bleszinski was frustrated.  As a diehard fan of the Oakland A’s, he wasn’t the only one who noticed that the national sports media did not pay attention to his team (with the possible exception of when the Yankees or Red Sox came through town).  Worse yet, even in the Bay Area, the local sports TV segments and newspaper columns prioritized the other baseball team in town or the NFL teams.  It wasn’t just the lack of coverage that irked him; it was the nature of it. Sports coverage did not reflect the passion he held for his team. It was dry, it was one way. He visited Internet message boards to share opinions with other fans, but those forums were often caustic environments, not accessible, sophomoric and unwelcoming to newcomers.

Eventually Tyler decided to do something about it.

It was 2005 and the blogging craze had just begun. With some help, he started AthleticsNation.com, which quickly became the leading media property for all fans of that team. In addition to differentiated content, from the perspective of knowledgeable and passionate fans, a robust community of liked-minded individuals emerged.  A social network with context.

Fast forward to 2011.  SB Nation, the company that Tyler started now boasts 300 fan-centric branded media properties. Each focused on a team, league, regional or national sports topic. We’re one of the top-10 biggest digital sports media companies and by far the fastest growing.  What exactly is going on here? I’d focus on three trends in media:

  1. Media is now social. Spectator sports exist because of the conversations that they engender and SB Nation’s platform fosters insights and conversation within a community of fans who share a common passion.  Bloggers, who are lifelong fans of the team, manage each community.  Their mission is very different than that of a beat writer whose job is to dispassionately report.  Not only do the bloggers create compelling original content, but most importantly they facilitate the conversations. The comments and conversations on SB Nation are often as, or more, valuable as the content that our professional, paid writers create each day. Our company is focused on making these social interactions the best, most engaging possible solution for our audience.
  2. Real-time is reality. Remember the news cycle?  It was once dictated by news weeklies and then by news dailies.  News cycles no longer exist, they have given way to an overwhelming amount of news and opinion coming from all angles.  At SB Nation, we arm our team with tools and technology to analyze this wall of data in order to filter, provide context, report and comment on what is happening and get it to our audiences instantly and in a digestible format.
  3. Specific is more relevant than general. Sure, some people are general sports fans, but most fans are interested in individual teams.  So we’ve created brands that are fully dedicated to their areas of passion.  This isn’t only the case in sports.  When was the last time you asked someone if they “caught some good TV last night?”  No, instead you ask if they watched MadMen or American Idol.  Asking someone if they are “into music” as opposed to asking them about their favorite band will get you an awkward stare. So, how do you scale in a world of fragmentation?  The answer for SB Nation is commitments to consumer-centric products, innovative technology, and common and effective sales solutions.

All this change is creating enormous opportunity for media companies who are willing to embrace it.  By engaging consumers via topical, social and real-time media, we are successfully creating a valuable platform for marketers who are looking to connect with one of the largest and most engaged group of sports fans on the web.

EpicSocial: Tips for Effective Social Marketing

Guest post by Matt Monahan, EpicSocial Director

Matt’s tip of the week: Focus on NewsFeed Optimization

facebook has an algorithm call EdgeRank that surfaces the most relevant content to the top of the NewsFeed.  The exact details of the EdgeRank algorithm are know by few, but the two major drivers of relevance between Brands and Fans on facebook are the number of Fans a brand has relative to other brands in its category and the post qualify score of the Brand’s Social Media published through their audience channel.  On facebook, post quality score is a 7-day rolling average of likes, comments, and shares of content distributed by a brand on facebook.  It’s important that brands maintain leadership in their category in terms of Fan number and post quality in order to effectively use the newsfeed as an audience channel to create EMV, cost avoidance and to drive sales.

Xylos: Using new social tools to market more effectively

Guest post by Eric Zeiler, Xylos guitarist, singer/songwriter

Circa 2002, I played in a band in Philadelphia called the Ally. At the time, we experimented with the limited online resources to spread word of the band. We had a frequently updated website, uploaded our live shows (as MP3s) on Archive.org for fans to download, and posted news of our shows on message boards. More of our focus, however, was on developing a street team of fans in cities around the Northeast to further promote the band by flyering and hanging up posters all over town.

Not that these days are completely behind us, but now in 2011, with my new band Xylos, much of our marketing is focused online. Using facebook, Twitter, and new apps such as Tout, we have been able to reach fans more effectively (both established fans and new ones) and more directly. Letting our fans know of a newly announced show is as easy as creating a facebook event invite and posting it on Twitter.

At the moment, we’re on tour (traveling from Oklahoma City to Austin for South by Southwest). After each show, our fans list grows on facebook as the fans come to access our music and videos immediately, and photos are uploaded and shared on our facebook page before we’re even finished packing up. The feedback is instantaneous and our community of fans congregate to communicate with each other and directly with us.