• Show Me the Whimsy!
    As a platform for user-generated content (where'd that catchphrase ever go?) one of the main attractions of social media, in my opinion, is that it serves as a forum for whimsy -- the errata and marginal enthusiasms that are uncovered when people become their own media sources, or create ad hoc organizations devoted to the absurd. But the human capacity for whimsy, being unlimited, also threatens to dilute social media's basic value to users by cluttering it with a bunch of weird crap. So where should the line be drawn? All this occurred to me when reading about Facebook's decision …
  • For Foursquare, Social Media Challenges are Fourfold
    I hate the word "buzz," especially when it's being stoked by a calculated PR push, so I'm going to start using a new word, "puzz" (publicity + buzz) to describe that phenomenon. The last couple weeks have seen a lot of puzz about Foursquare, a very interesting, cutting-edge social media application that combines digital, mobile distribution of data with the real-world physical locations of its users. Basically, it's a social network site that tells your friends where you are. This is a very cool idea, bringing online social media -- previously restricted to the infinite, abstract Internet -- into the …
  • After the Buzz Blowback: My Own Complaint about Google Chat
    Watching social networks roll out new features in a wrongheaded fashion and seeing those features blow up in their faces is now a popular spectator sport. Until recently, Facebook led the way with misconceived or poorly-explained new features. But a few weeks ago Google joined the parade with its ham-fisted foisting of Buzz, a new social network based on Gmail users. But dang it, I still have a grievance about Google's auto-sign-up approach to new features that pre-dates Buzz by a good couple years.
  • Keeping Mayflies On Life Support (And Other Challenges Facing Twitter Ads)
    Once Twitter does finally incorporate sponsored tweets, or what some like to call "ads," Biz and Ev will have to deal with the inevitable backlash of people getting posts they haven't signed up for (which is what the initial plan sounds like -- an unsolicited tweet worked into your feed with a hashtag to identify it as an ad.) Yes it's one thing to know that Kim Kardashian sends out nothing but marketing messages, but you followed her, so you've brought that on yourself. The one problem is figuring out how to tack the ads on -- maybe it's for …
  • Trust, The Wasted Facebook Factor, And Spamming With Spam
    When Millward Brown's latest research (conducted in partnership with The Futures Company) reported Amazon is "the most trusted brand in U.S." (either online or off) it said as much about the way customers now relate to brands as it did about customer service or the usual metrics used to measure brand success. The new "TrustR" metric employed by Millward, which indexes for both trust and the likelihood that a person will recommend a brand might very well have been termed the Facebook Factor.
  • Romance Gets Weird(er): Twitter Dating
    From the tawdry to the sublime, all kinds of romantic interaction are just a few short well-crafted paragraphs and more-or-less honest photos away (or just photos, on some sites). And dating sites are just part of it: if you're not actively on the hunt but receptive to flirtation, social networks can become de facto online dating channels just by toggling the relevant setting on your profile. In fact, just about any kind of social forum can be quickly repurposed for romance -- witness couples meeting over World of Warcraft (and breaking up after a mission goes awry). Clearly things are …
  • The Trend That Isn't: Social Media Backlash
    Most journalists love a good trend story, especially if it seems to conform to their own preferences and prejudices. The semi-ironic journalistic rule of thumb that "three things makes a trend" reflects journalists' awareness of this problem, but also their willingness to adopt a simplistic stance when it seems to confirm their beliefs. On the level of meta-trends, I won't go so far as to say that there's a trend of journalists writing trend pieces about a "backlash" against social media -- but there does seem to be some buzz building around the notion that many people who were initially …
  • iJunkies
    Prepare to be astonished: On average Americans spend 2.7 hours per day using mobile Internet, with 91% using it for social purposes, according to a survey by Ruder Finn, a global PR agency. First of all, I find the figure of 2.7 hours to be remarkably -- perhaps even implausibly -- high. Sure mobile Internet use is popular, and getting more popular -- anyone who goes to a media conference can't fail to notice that. But 2.7 hours per day? My god, where is everyone doing this?
  • In Defense Of Offense
    Lots of people have predicted that digital media will lead to the demise of traditional media, but I never imagined it might happen like this: on Friday the Commission on Student Affairs at Virginia Tech recommended that the university cut off funding for all student media following controversy over racist comments on the school newspaper's Web site. Thankfully the university is not going to implement this Stalinist solution, but the mere fact that it was suggested -- by students, no less! -- and apparently considered is pretty disturbing.
  • Old People are Fickle, Flighty Social Network Users
    ComScore's year-end report on the state of the Internet sparked a lot of discussion recently about the rise and fall of social networks, specifically with regard to the changing balance of different age cohorts. The most remarked-on finding was that the proportion of active Facebook users under the age of 24 dipped to an all-time low in the fourth quarter of 2009 (27%), while the proportion on MySpace increased substantially (to 44.3%). Something about the latter number jogged my memory, and I soon discovered the origin of this déjà vu: it is the exact same proportion of MySpace users who …
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