Accept Everything We Do Is Social (And 'Like' It)
In the world of computer programming, an application (or "app") is a bit of computer code that sits on top of a larger platform and helps you perform a specific task. Well ... actually that's not entirely accurate. It used to be the case that each app had its own native platform. Internet Explorer was on Windows. Farmville was on Facebook. Then the great migration happened. As an industry we are witnessing a historic trend: apps that were once dependent on one platform, like Facebook or the iPhone, are now moving to multiple platforms. In some cases they're even moving directly to the Web itself.
In May 2007, Facebook opened up its platform to software developers, allowing them to create apps that interact with core Facebook features. At the time, few of us knew exactly what to expect. By November of that year, 7,000 Facebook apps had been developed, and more than 100 new apps were being created every day. At the time, kids were dropping out of college by the dozens to create their own apps.
Today there are more than 550,000 active apps on Facebook. Each one started with an idea or a vision, though most developers didn't actually know whether their ideas were viable at the time. Still, the process reinforced something we've known for a long time: Good things are created by those who create with a passion. That is to say, monetization comes later, but not while the creative juices are flowing.
Of course, since then many apps have come and gone. But those that have thrived are now extending beyond their native platforms and some are moving to the Web. Yes, that's right. The very platforms that packed their lunch, brought them to school and gave them an education, are now watching as their beloved apps enter the Web on their own. And it's all thanks to the openness, tools and open graph that platforms like Facebook and Apple provided them in the first place.Now you can find app communities like Circle of Moms, Farmville, Dogbook and Family Tree on traditional sites and on mobile, not just Facebook.
But what does this mean? And is it a good thing? For one, it's great for Facebook because it extends its marketing capabilities beyond Facebook.com and into other .com properties where people use these apps. There are more people on the Web than there are using social networking sites (it's hard to believe that not every person in the world is on Facebook, but it's true). On top of that, app developers are now able own and control their inventory beyond Facebook, while still maintaining an audience on multiple platforms. Finally, this change is also great for brands, who want to reach people, wherever they are.
When it comes to brands, Michael Burke, my co-founder at appssavvy, and I have been saying for years that people are the new destination. As a brand, running a strong advertising campaign isn't about you or your site, it's about where people choose to engage with others and it's about which content they choose on their own time. In the years that come, we will see more online social activity and we will see it extend beyond Facebook to .com sites that have social components.
In 2008, when we visited .com sites, we couldn't share and compare our experiences with each other in the way that we can now. Given that people are the new destination, brands have to consider what people want first before trying to reach them. What we've seen online in the last 10 years, boring and desperate requests by brands asking people to stop what they are doing and click a button to "follow" the brand, all that will soon be over. Today, it's widely understood that asking for clicks doesn't work in social environments.
Traditional advertising is about as social as screaming into a crowd to get attention. Brands need to appreciate and understand that there is a conversation happening. And just as with a traditional conversation, they need to introduce themselves, pull up a chair and bring something to the table if they want anyone to listen. Fortunately, over the last 12 months or so we have seen more brands accept and embrace these changes like never before.
Marketers are paying closer attention to people and their activity instead of just focusing on what message to deliver. As a result, we are seeing better campaigns being executed. Marketers are finally asking the important questions: What are people doing? How can we join? How can we provide value? How can we make a good impression? The key is to understand social activity.
The Web is becoming more social. We already see great sites like Pandora and Yelp that leverage social activity and we will continue to see more sites endorse the social graph in one way or another. People will "like" and people will get what they want, when they want it. Every Web site we visit will be social. Everything we do there will be social. I predict that over the next 12 months we will stop overusing the term "social media" at every breakfast, lunch and client dinner. We will just be social together and "like" it, so to speak.
Remember the first generation of "social networking" sites? MySpace and Friendster in 2005, and even companies like Bolt.com back in 1996 (where I worked at the time). We made a big fuss about social networking. Brands wanted it. Reporters wrote about it. And then one day we all woke up and said, "I'm on a social network." Then we moved on. We actually stopped overusing the term. The same will happen with social media. Only then will we truly be social.