Tech companies are staying private longer and building up evidence of actually being able to generate revenue. Now that social media outlets have been established and are continuing interactions with large databases of users, they are starting to enter the public ownership realm. What makes companies such as Groupon, Zynga and Facebook valuable is the list aggregated information they have on individual populations of people and sectors.
“For the most part, today’s social media companies are generating (or at least forecasting) real accounting earnings. And nearly all of the popular offerings are based on businesses that actually have customers (instead of just a concept). But it is quite amazing to see the flood of capital competing for ownership of social media companies, and the implied company valuations.”
The response to LinkedIn has set the stage for other social-media IPOs, including Facebook, which is being rumored to go public in 2012.
Thank you to Roby Brock at Talk Business for the discussion about 2011 tech trends. Check out the video here:
And, here is the link to the article on Talk Business.
Here are my full thoughts on the subject:
With the news that Apple sold over 1.7 million of the new iPhone 4 in just three days (making it the most successful launch in Apple’s history), it is past time to notice that more people have the ability to access websites through their mobile devices than ever before. In fact, “nearly 73 million mobile users accessed their browser in April, an increase of 31 percent from the previous year.” With people on the move and the right technology in their hands, it is safe to assume that the first experience a consumer has with a website may very well be on a mobile device rather than a desktop computer. Many websites that look great on a computer screen fall apart on the screen of a mobile device. Since a website is often a customer’s first introduction to a brand, it should make a great impression no matter how it’s viewed.
When thinking about a website on a mobile device, many businesses are trying to decide whether to invest in a custom mobile application or simply create a mobile version of the website. Research tell us that “although growth in application usage on smartphones continues to grab the spotlight in the mobile market, the audience using their mobile browser remains larger and is growing just as quickly.” And, while “smartphone penetration in the U.S. has grown from 11 percent of mobile subscribers in April 2009 to more than 20 percent in April 2010 — nearly double in just one year,” it is predicted that by 2011, over 85 percent of all new handsets will be able to access the mobile web. Mobile web activity is not just limited to smartphones anymore. But due to the popularity of smartphones and buzz about applications, there is an inclination to create a mobile application for businesses that duplicate website functions, though this is not always necessary.Creating a mobile version of a website can address the needs of mobile consumers across many different devices without as much expense and as many device limitations as custom application development.
The most important things to think about when optimizing a website for mobile consumption are:
Not all devices are created equal and the way a website renders on one phone may not be how it looks elsewhere. While looks aren’t everything, when it comes to first impressions, appearances can make an immediate difference. Given the small size of the screen, consider incorporating more white space and think about load time over the cellular networks and reduce the images necessary for download. Some of the most important systems to test against include BlackBerry devices, Android devices, Palm Pre, iPhones and iPads.
Because visitors will be viewing the content on a smaller screen, content organization and prioritization become even more important. Think about the content that is most crucial to visitors, especially those that would need to access the site when mobile and on-the-go, then place that content in easy to locate and navigate areas of the screen. Even if this is not the content that would be considered most important for general users of the site it, placing it in a more accessible organization can make the mobile user’s experience more efficient and effective, leaving a good impression of the brand.
Flash – the predominant browser plug-in for creating dynamic web content – does not yet work on most mobile devices, and it may never function on some platforms. Websites that are all-Flash or which include a Flash-based navigation or intro-animation that blocks access to the home page can be completely lost on the majority of mobile users. Most animation and video on the web is currently handled through the Flash Player. That doesn’t mean video is off-limits for mobile – quite the contrary – but it does mean that certain steps must be taken to enable video play on both desktop browsers and on mobile devices.
Mobile users are frequently consumers who are outside their home or office and making an immediate decision about whether to purchase a product, go to a restaurant, use a service, etc. An important step for mobile-enabling your website is ensuring that this most critical information is available to your users in ways they need to use it from a mobile device. This includes active links to contact information, maps to the business location and the ability to buy straight from the mobile device. Consider optimizing this (and all) content for touch-screen navigation.
The bottom line: websites are being viewed on mobile devices now and this mobile consumption will continue to increase as technology becomes more available. The web experience is vastly different on a mobile device as compared to on a computer, it only makes sense to tailor websites for the best experience by device.Developing mobile ready versions of your websites is an efficient and effective way of delivering the right content to consumers on the go, without investing the time and expense of custom application development.
Thank you to Roby Brock for inviting me on to his Talk Business program to talk about the increase in women in the workplace. See the interview here:
Here are my full thoughts on the topic:
In the online space, we can find almost everything about almost anyone or anything. We are truly living in an information age. We are sharing information about ourselves, we are seeking information about others and from others. Everyone is doing it: consumers, businesses, and organizations. And they are doing it using social tools that allow for instant updates, instant sharing and easy searching. With all this information available, how do consumers know whom to trust? Do they trust the consumer reviews, or the expert analysis? Do they trust their individual friends or large organizations for information?
Whom to trust, as it turns out, is a bit of a moving target. Every year, Edelman conducts a trust survey. In recent years, with the rise of social media and online reviewing systems, this trust survey has indicated that the public is more inclined to trust “people like me” over corporate entities. However, the economic recession has led consumers to become cynical (more so than they were already), leading to a swing in who and how they trust: (1) the public now wants to hear from credentialed experts and (2) corporate trust and transparency are now just as important as the quality of products and services from that company. Today’s consumers are more skeptical, savvy and sophisticated when it comes to online information.
Facing this modern consumer is daunting to businesses vying for the trust of their audiences: “Though it’s easier than ever to reach your customers, it’s less likely that they’ll listen. Today, the most valuable online currency isn’t the dollar, but trust itself.” (Trust Agents, 2009) So, how does a business work to build that trust and become a favored brand? Here are some starting steps for establishing trustworthiness:
Executing all of these steps at once may not be feasible for a business just starting to engage with their online audience. It is okay to start out with one or two of these methods, then open up into full-on transparency as trust is established. As an example, one of our clients at Stone Ward recently decided to take the plunge into social media using a promotion as its diving board, but they weren’t quite ready for a full-time presence in the space. To introduce this new face to its audience, we created a microsite with a distinct URL separate from the home/traditional site. The idea was that this site would eventually become the community hub and live on past the promotion, but the promotion (sweepstakes) would help draw the initial audience to engage with the brand. Being new to the social media space, the client didn’t have the resources to manage a completely open site and respond as quickly or as completely as necessary to build trust. Given that issue, the site launched with a combination of pre-set content and consumer-contributed content, and allowed for question submissions to an expert. The pre-set content was a bank of “tips” that could be commented on by users, and encouraged user-submitted tips. New tips automatically generated a Twitter post and a Facebook post. The consumer-contributed content was a community forum where users could submit questions and get responses from other users. The “ask the expert” questions were posted with the expert responses for others to view. Additional engagement elements included a daily poll and music playlists that tied into the brand and promotion concept. Starting out with elements that didn’t require daily maintenance and monitoring allowed this brand to introduce themselves to the space, start building relationships and start establishing a basis for trust without risking alienation with an unavoidable misstep due to resource limitation. As a result, the site has lived on past the promotion end and the brand now has a manageable engagement tool that can be built upon when they are ready.
The bottom line: Provide honest and complete information to consumers and their trust will follow. Understand that making information available is necessary for social bonding and while it may feel like putting that information online makes an organization vulnerable to attack, there is a need to reveal that vulnerability to ultimately build trust and relationships. And, if you are not ready for the all the steps to building trust, start out small and build from there.
Here are my full thoughts on practical applications for location-based services:
Just when you were finally getting comfortable with Twitter, the social media geeks introduced FourSquare. I can hear you all mumbling, “FourSquare is stupid.” While location-based services, such as FourSquare, may not take off as predicted, at this point FourSquare is close to reaching one million users, with much of that growth occurring in the last few months. FourSquare even has its own day, which is April 16th of course. With its growing popularity, it is time to learn more about these location-based services and figure out how they might be beneficial to your business.
Location-based applications are services that allow the user to update his or her status (much like Twitter or Facebook), but attach a very specific location to that update, either with a dot on a map, a longitude and latitude reading, or a location defined and named by the users (a restaurant, retail location, ballroom at a convention center, etc.). There are several of these services available—FourSquare, Gowalla, Loopt, Brightkite, Google Latitude—but FourSquare is the service with the most members.
Initially, these services were created because people wanted to know where their friends were: approximately 55% of all text/SMS messages sent are some variation of “where are you?” (equating to almost 650 billion location-based service text messages in 2009). Now however, consumers are not adopting these location-based services because they want to announce to the world their every move, but because people are inherently social—they want to communicate, share and interact—and using the services, they can: find other people at the same locations at the same time, find out if friends have been there before, find tips for getting the most out of their experience at that particular location, and get rewarded for participating.
As a result of this activity, customers are putting businesses on the map, literally. Businesses can leverage consumer participation in location-based services to improve the customer experience. By giving customers reasons to check-in at a particular location, businesses encourage repeat visits and loyalty. Some examples of how businesses are using FourSquare are:
As an added bonus for businesses, customers are self-populating a contact and feedback database. Check out a business on FourSquare and you will see the names and faces of all customers that have checked-in there (and by clicking on the visitors you can view their profile and see where else they like to go). You will see their comments and tips they have left future visitors. You will see the total number of check-ins at that location and the person currently holding the “mayor” title. There is data to be found on sites outside of FourSquare, too. Go to Checkin Mania to see a map of all locations where check-ins have occurred in a specific area. You can filter by service to see those using FourSquare, Gowalla or Brightkite. This tool gives you a good indication of the location-based services application penetration in your specific area. Businesses can use this data to improve their service, reward loyal customers, determine if there are other businesses in the area they should cross-promote with to drive even more like customers, and reach out to key influencers to become ambassadors of the business.
The bottom line: location-based services offer additional opportunities to engage with existing customers and drive new customers. We are only just starting to see the possibilities for leveraging these new tools to the benefit of businesses.