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Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

My last post about Facebook Lite was more about how close it takes Facebook to Twitter.This post talks about the another most striking feature of Facebook Lite – the absence of applications and quizzes. While it certainly makes the page look less cluttered and clean, and significantly reduces the page-weight (hence making it ‘Lite’), this is a significant change in user-experience over Facebook.

Applications, quizzes and games have been a key differentiator for Facebook over other social networks (read Orkut) and were among the key reasons for its stupendous rise in popularity across the world. Official Facebook worldwide statistics put the number of active applications on Facebook at 350,000; and every month more than 70% of Facebook users engage with platform applications. This application platform has attracted more than one million developers and entrepreneurs over 180 countries. It would be interesting to see how these 1 million developers of Facebook applications react to Facebook Lite.

When it comes to Facebook usage in India, a quick look at the Indian traffic data for Facebook applications on Vizisense shows that different applications residing on Facebook apps server are accessed by 2.9 million Indian unique users per month, which is a sizable chunk (36.61%) of the 7.91 million unique users per month base of Facebook in India. Also it is a known fact that Facebook has seen more traction and early adoption among the more evolved internet users in India. It has significantly higher following among the high-income and more-educated users who are expected to have access to high speed internet connections; and also are more evolved and regular internet users to understand and appreciate these Facebook applications. Facebook usage among income-group of more than Rs. 15 lakhs is 1.62 times national average, and that among PhD/Doctorate is 1.38 times the national average. Facebook has been a welcome substitute for people who had got bored with Orkut and also irritated by the spamming, privacy concerns and fake profiles over it. Check the screen-shot of Vizisense data below.

Facebook Demographics - Income and Education

Facebook Demographics - Income and Education

This user-experience over Facebook Lite (with no applications) will not be a new thing. Those who access Facebook over its mobile site (m.facebook.com) get to see status updates, photos, external links, events from friends, but no applications. Facebook Lite will be extending this user-experience over web, of course with a much cleaner and easier page-design. Official Facebook statistics say that Facebook Mobile has over 65 million active users worldwide and that these mobile users are 50% more active than those over web. Assuming that more activity means more page-views, in India however numbers seems to be telling a different story.

Unique Users/month Page Views/month Page-views per user per month
Facebook India (overall) 7.91 million 774 million 97.85
Facebook Mobile India 0.028 million 0.783 million 26.25
Source: For Facebook India (overall) – http://vizisense.com/sites/facebook.com;
For Facebook Mobile India – http://vizisense.com/sites/m.facebook.com;
Vizisense data for month of August ’09.

Above table clearly shows that Facebook usage over mobile is yet to pick up in India and engagement levels are dismally small as compared to overall Facebook; and my guess is that absence of applications is one of the key reasons for this.

In light of this data, absence of applications over Facebook Lite page does not seem to be the best step forward for Facebook in India, one of the only 2 countries (other being US) where Facebook is testing its Facebook Lite page. There seems to be more to this move than what is meeting the eyes, and better and faster service to users with slower internet connections certainly does not look like the end-objective of Facebook Lite.

Having said that, only time will tell if this new lighter Facebook Lite page which downloads quickly on slower internet connections – but with no applications – will change the above data and demographics for Facebook in India. If it’s succeeds, it would be interesting to see whom does it dethrone – Orkut or Twitter :).

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Facebook does not seem to get over of its Twitter-mania (or phobia).

First they made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire Twitter for $500 million, then they re-designed the site to make the content more sharable and put more stress on “What’s on your mind?” status messages, made sharing external links easier; and now we have the new feature on Facebook which allows user to tag their friends (or groups or fan-pages) with a Twitter-like @ symbol in their status updates. The @<username> identity of Twitter users is fast becoming a part of standard online coordinate of netizens. This @<username> has been the popular way of replying to tweets and linking to profile pages over Twitter, and it works exactly the same on Facebook as well.

@User Tagging on Facebook

@User Tagging on Facebook

Also, last week Facebook started testing in US and India it’s much talked lighter version named as “Facebook Lite” – a sleek, clean and lighter version of Facebook. Although Facebook officially says Facebook Lite is for users with slower internet connections, and NOT a competition for Twitter, one look at Facebook Lite page tells you the entire story. Here are the screen-shots:

Facebook Lite Screen Shot

Facebook Lite Screen Shot

Facebook Lite Screen Shot

Facebook Lite Screen Shot

The “What’s on your mind?” status update box makes way for a still bigger and simpler “Write” status update box. Prominently missing are all the applications and quizzes. The page reminds users of the earlier days of Facebook when all the quizzes and other application updates would not clutter your Facebook home-page. Stress is clearly more on status updates and wall-posts; and though not explicitly but Facebook seems to be trying to drive Twitter-like status updates and conversations through this Lite page. It would be interesting to see how these users will react to Facebook Lite with no applications and quizzes; and how heavy this Lite page becomes if ever Facebook decides to put applications on it.

Is Facebook really trying to woo users with slower internet connections, or is this another of Facebook’s attempts to get deeper in Twitter’s domain – What do you think?

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Social Media is the latest buzz word in the internet world. Everything around us over internet is turning social, and we now have social media stalwarts like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as new-age internet heroes. While everywhere social media is being touted as next stage of evolution over internet, there are still many Doubting Thomases who are yet to open their eyes to this phenomenon of Social Media. This presentation from Espresso should help them understand why whole world is going gaga over social media:

 

There are some remarkable comments in presentation on social media, and my favourite has been “If your product sucks, social media won’t fix it… If your customer service sucks, social media can help”. Drives home the whole concept of social media in one shot.

What does this social media phenomenon mean for Indian businesses?

The first and most easy application for Indian marketers is that of exploiting the celebrity brand power over social media. Major part of user-generated content from India, like elsewhere in the world, is around celebrity. YouTube is filled with videos from Bollywood, TV serials and celebrity mishaps ;). Many media houses now have official channels over YouTube to promote their productions, like this one from Eros. When drama-queen Rakhi Sawant was to decide whom to marry over television, we had Rakhi Sawant as trending topic worldwide over Twitter (check this). Social media is all about conversations and nothing can beat the attraction of talking to superstars through this medium. Celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, Gul Panag, Mallika Sherawat, Preity Zinta already hve built good following on Twitter. Soon we will have brand endorsement deals covering publicity over social media as well. India is celebrity-crazy country and no wonder brand endorsement fees by celebrities run into multiple crores. If tapped properly, a decent part of this can start flowing into these social mediums. Social Media provides a superb channel to use this leverage of celebrity brand-power and lure customers.

This, for certain, can be the immediate application of social media for Indian businesses, besides many others about which I will be talking soon. Keep checking.

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There is a thought among entrepreneurs from internet world that one needs to first focus on building a sizable user-base for their service/product; and think of its monetization later. Entrepreneur often end up making a very innovative service/product, but miss out on devising a sustainable revenue model. Later on as he tries to force-fit revenue model, he risks impacting the very core of the service/product, and might even prove fatal for the startup.

Selling the user-base to the marketers:

In today’s internet world, there is an increasing trend of letting the end-customer use the service/product free-of-cost; and instead charge institutions (read marketers) who are interested in reaching out to these end-customers through this medium. This activity of marketers advertising to end-customers need to be so well blended with the key proposition of the business, that the end-user does not mind it; else this can result into dilution of the very proposition on which the business has built the traffic and audience.

Let me explain this with an example. Twitter is today one of the hottest internet startups and has an exponentially growing user-base using the service for free. Also several social-media marketers have started using this channel to promote their stuff to this audience. Now tomorrow if Twitter starts charging these marketers hefty fees for using their channel, these marketers will also have to become aggressive in their promotions and advertisement in order to get a decent return for their investment. This might end up in making Twitter a commercial place with more spam content than actual micro-blogging generated content. Twitter will have to ensure a balance between this commercial content and the actual core offering of communicating “what are you doing”.

Of course this will be an extreme case, but the point is that if Twitter tries to generate revenue through this mechanism, it always risks spamming itself. Take example of Search business. We have one Google which owing to its almost monopolistic market share can afford to limit the number of ads to be shown on its search result page, allow only relevant ads and push up the price (revenue per search) through an auction-based model. The lesser successful search engines have to resort to showing as many as 4 or 5 ads above actual search results, and may also have to take all advertisements that they can get and compromise on relevancy of ads – resulitng in spamming their own service – to sustain their business. And still their price (revenue per search) lags Google. Startups should try to innovate around revenue model for search, instead of force-fitting one (by copying one which has been successful for Google and end up playing a catch-up game).

Making the service/product paid:

In a bid to force-fit a revenue model, one may stop offering the service/product for free, and ask the end-customer to pay a nominal fee to use it. The end-customer will pay the fee if the value he derives is more than the fees charged. However again, there is a chance that this may dilute the very proposition itself.

For example, say tomorrow Facebook becomes a paid service (at a very nominal cost like say Rs. 10/- per month), there would surely be a drop in the registered users. Even if I am ready to pay the fee, if my current network on Facebook shrinks, it reduces the benefit I am getting from the service. Then there are problems of collecting such nominal amounts through e-payment methods and so on. Something like LinkedIn – which offers basic service for free, and advanced features (which are an integral part of the core offering) for a charge – might work, but then this needs to be thought about at the beginning itself. What Facebook or Twitter service would you as a normal user would like to pay for?

Acquisition and Other Methods:

Entrepreneur by definition is an optimistic person, and acquisition will always remain a very attractive exit option. While every entrepreneur always starts with a confidence of building the Google-killer and hopes of getting acquired, having a sound revenue model is of utmost important to make that happen. An acquisition for the audience/traffic built will be possible only if the startup is among the top players in the segment. For others, having an operationally profitable revenue model becomes absolutely necessary.

There might be several other ways of monetizing the generated traffic and audience (like CPM based online advertising, database marketing, etc.) but one need to be ensure that the payoffs from these are enough to sustain the business on a daily basis.

Extending innovation to revenue model:

Entrepreneurship (even social entrepreneurship) is not philanthropy; instead it should be financially fulfilling for the entrepreneur, only then he will be able to continue. And for that to happen, devising a viable and sustainable (and also flexible) revenue model at the outset should be integral to the idea of entrepreneurship. This model might undergo changes as the business evolves, but it should always be of prime consideration for the entrepreneur. Postponing revenue-model for a later stage and then trying to force-fit one can be a very dangerous choice to make. Entrepreneur should not limit his innovation to the service/product alone, but should extend it to revenue model also, and have a rewarding entrepreneurial experience.

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