English Composition I 2009


You will also find the readings for social media in the Word attachment.

Weeks 1 and 2:  Readings -- Social Media – Articles and Videos

From Business Week   Social Media Report -- from  May 8. 2009 [I have provided hyperlinks to the articles from Business Week, Pyschology Today, and to The Boston Globe as well as hyperlinks to the articles at the end of this document.]

Readings #1:

“CEOs Who Use Twitter”  [slideshow]  [Use the hyperlink below to this video]


Read the article and click at the bottom of the article to go to the next article →

 “Social Media Beachcombing:  Survival of the Twittest” [hyperlink to the article in this document]


Be sure to click on next page at the bottom of this article.

“A Twitter Code of Conduct”   [hyperlink to the article in this document]



Readings #2:

“Keeping Momentum in Social Media”  [hyperlink to the article in this document]


“Starting a Corporate Social Network? Don’t” [hyperlink to the article in this document]


“Openness and the Internet”  [hyperlink to the article in this document]



Readings #3:

“Jeff Jarvis on Tapping Social Media” [video] [Use the hyperlink below to Business Week for this video]


Jakob Nielson Critiques Twitter  http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/may2009/ca2009058_037210.htm?chan=careers_special+report+--+social+media+2009_special+report+--+social+media+2009

“How I use Twitter” [video]  [Use the hyperlink to Business Week for this video]



Readings # 4

From Business Week  January 21, 2009

“Social Networks are the New Web Portals” [hyperlink to the article in this document]


From The Boston Globe  June 20, 2009

“How Twitter, Facebook, and others are - surprise! - strengthening friends   [hyperlink to the article in this document]


From Psychology Today

“Friendships:  The Next Big Business Strategy” [hyperlink to the article in this document]





Social Media 2009 May 8, 2009, 11:37AM EST


Social Media Beachcombing: Survival of the Twittest?

Twitter and other social media are quickly entering the mainstream, but it will be years before we see which innovations will endure

By Andy Hobsbawm

John D. Rockefeller famously saw the Wall Street crash coming and got his money out when the shoeshine boy started giving him stock tips. So what does it mean for the Next New Thing in social media when your parents-in-law start telling you about Twitter?

For one thing, any self-respecting digital trendspotter will have started looking elsewhere at least a year ago. But the more important point for brands is how quickly these social media innovations are moving from the margins to the mainstream. As author and teacher Clay Shirky notes, it's only when technology gets boring—that's to say, routine for the majority, not just the Geekosphere—that it gets interesting.

Twitter is already becoming one of the first places people look for breaking news, often by eyewitnesses, on everything from plane crashes to earthquakes to, sadly, school shootings. It's also the place companies look when trying to monitor not just run-of-the-mill customer opinions ("wow walmart super center employees are rude!") but real-time feedback on their own breaking news stories.

For instance, Domino's Pizza (DPZ) recently used Twitter to engage directly with people spreading the news about a YouTube video that showed employees adding, shall we say, nonstandard ingredients to the food. By responding to the scale and intensity of the customer mood, Domino's averted what could have been a major PR disaster.


Twitter is also becoming an alternative starting point for real-time, social Web searches. Would you rather find a good Indian restaurant trawling Google (GOOG) results based on years' worth of reviews and links (probably polluted by commercial firms using SEO tactics to game the system), or via a recommendation from someone you know who ate there last night, or possibly even a few minutes ago?

Interestingly, Google has just added user-generated voting, like the social news site Digg, where individuals can promote or remove link results depending on how useful they are.

What's next? Imagine a combination of Digg, Twitter, Wikipedia, and consumer review sites like Trip Advisor mashed together into a user-generated decision-making tool that helps you answer any question from "Which laptop should I buy?" to "What color should I paint my nails?"

Where Twitter prompts users with the question "What are you doing?", startup Hunch, from Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, filters out the miscellaneous conversational buzz. Instead, Hunch is designed to focus on useful information to discover and share by asking: "What are you making a decision about?"

In theory, the more people who use social answer services like Hunch or Aardvark, the more valuable the recommendations will become. But crowdsourcing, or aggregating views on which film to see or tourist attraction to visit, is one thing; outsourcing decisions on religion or serious health issues to people we don't know is quite another.


It's important for companies to understand all aspects of social media to successfully innovate in this space. Social media risks becoming an end in itself when people are constantly broadcasting themselves online in search of affirmation. If users spend more time announcing what they're doing than actually doing it, social media could, paradoxically, end up making people less sociable.

The addictiveness of social networking is partly based on game mechanics, where collecting friends and followers or racking up the number of tweets and status updates is like accumulating points. But a recent study showed that whether a Facebook user had 50 or 500 friends they still end up interacting meaningfully with the same small group of about 12. Advertising your life to an audience of casual acquaintances and sharing opinions with people you vaguely know or trust, it turns out, isn't the same as real friendship.

That's what made a recent Burger King (BKC) campaign that rewarded people with a free Whopper for sacrificing 10 Facebook friends so brilliantly mischievous. Based on this insight about the devalued nature of relationships in a virtual world of "never-ending friending," the brand played with social media conventions while driving the redemption of coupons to influence sales. In this case, online friendship in a large social network was worth about the same as one-tenth of a cheeseburger, or 37¢.

The way to make digital media truly social is by combining it with objects in the physical world. For example, MIT Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces Group is testing a tiny digital projector, connected to your mobile phone, that beams Amazon.com (AMZN) reviews or recommendations from your social network onto products as you pick them up in a shop. You can access this information like a "sixth sense," as naturally as using sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch.


We're now seeing real-time data streamed from tiny sensors in objects and and shared through social media. Take the Botanicalls experiment, where plants tweet whenever they need watering. BakerTweet from digital agency Poke is an interesting e-commerce example: Local bakers tell Twitter followers when freshly baked goods have popped out of their ovens. This clever semi-automated system combines virtual community with real-time inventory information about perishable products like doughnuts. And it's not limited to smaller players: Dell (DELL) has used Twitter as a sales channel, already selling more than $1 million of discounted products through alerts to followers.

In truth, we won't be able to point to the Next New Thing in social media for a while yet. It always takes time to separate temporary fashions from long-term trends. Remember how long it took for Web 2.0 to emerge after the dot-com crash. It will be three to four years before the current waves of social media innovation recede and we can comb the beach to see what fascinating new digital life forms are left behind.

Andy Hobsbawm is European Chairman of Agency.com and co-founder of Dothegreenthing.com.

Back to Readings #1

A Twitter Code of Conduct

To prevent information leaks and other liabilities, companies are drafting guidelines for social media interaction. A rule of thumb: Don't be stupid

By Douglas MacMillan

During a recent tour of interactive ad agency Tocquigny's Austin (Tex.) headquarters, Chief Executive Yvonne Tocquigny was confronted by her guest, an executive from a large energy company who was a potential client. The visitor had recently learned that Tocquigny was wooing one of his company's competitors—by seeing a message that one of Tocquigny's employees had posted to Twitter "It took me by surprise," says Tocquigny. "I realized that we needed to be more cautious about what we throw out there in to the universe."

Twitter can be a great business tool. But as use of the Web site for 140-character messages spreads to workplaces around the world, companies are also discovering the risks. Now, instead of just worrying about a dubious blog post or an embarrassing photo of the boss being posted to Facebook, employers have to contend with staffers shooting off frequent blasts of personal insight into a public and traceable sphere. "The concept of [workers] posting inappropriate material that could be harmful has been around for a while, but Twitter accelerates the problem because of its immediacy and volume," says Mark Rasch, a former head of the U.S. Justice Dept.'s computer crime unit who now consults with companies on creating policies to address employees' use of technology.

To prevent sensitive information leaks, blemishes on a reputation, and other potential liabilities of a Twittering workforce, companies are drafting new employee codes of conduct and educating workers about what they should and shouldn't say on the site. The basic rule: Don't be stupid.

Room for Interpretation

Tocquigny didn't lose its deal as a result of the embarrassing leak, but the company moved swiftly to prevent it from happening again. Instead of having multiple staffers contributing to Tocquigny's official Twitter feed, the company assigned one person to be accountable for every message posted to the account. And managers rewrote the company's "social media guidelines"—created in 2007 as a result of damaging photos posted to blogs. Now, they include a list of what should be kept off sites like Twitter. One line now reads: "Respect our confidentiality and proprietary information."

Still, the new guidelines leave room for interpretation, according to Tocquigny. There are times when the agency's reputation is clearly helped by an employee sharing valuable industry insights, even information that might have once been considered a trade secret. Such posts could help establish the agency as a thought leader in new areas of marketing and communication. "There is a grey area," admits Tocquigny. If people aren't sure, she now says to her team, they should ask a manager for guidance.

Drafting corporate policies to deal with social media can be a difficult process. Many companies understand the marketing power and other benefits of encouraging key executives to be active on Twitter. And many understand that drafting a policy that's too draconian can undermine morale, or send the most media-savvy players elsewhere. In a large bureaucratic organization, it can also take months to draft and approve a policy that pleases everyone. And that's hardly a recipe for marshalling the power of social media. The reality, says Rasch, is that "these things tend to create a row in the office."

Blurring of Public and Private Lives

So what is the right way to monitor Twitter use in the workplace? First, understand that it's essentially impossible to prevent employees from signing up for the service. But employees need to understand that it's equally hard for them to separate themselves from their place of employment in the eyes of the public. What they do online is inevitably going to reflect on the company. The rules that govern other behavior in the workplace, from how company-owned computers are to be used to how company time should be spent—implicitly cover Twitter. What staffers post during the work day, and what they say about the company, is something they should know they'll be held accountable for.

For a sense of how to manage the process, take a look at IBM (IBM). The global giant maintains a wiki on its Web site, which includes a section about suitable behavior on social media sites. Created in 2005 to cope with the hundreds of bloggers that were emerging in the company, the wiki has grown to cover employee activity on other sites like Twitter and Facebook. The document, which employees must certify they have read and sign each year, asks IBM workers to be up front about their identity and position at the company. And, notes Gina Poole, vice-president of social software, it tells them to "stay away from controversial topics that aren't related to your IBM role."

Such advice can't be repeated too often. Two years ago, when an employee of Melbourne-based online media firm Sitepoint used Twitter to break the news about a new hire before the other candidates could be informed, co-founder Matt Mickiewicz used the incident to send a message to other workers. He asked the Twitter culprit to write a memo about the incident and send it to everyone in the company. "We haven't had it happen again," Mickiewicz says.

The Mom Litmus Test

Of course, airtight policies are often less effective than common-sense advice. Brad McCormick, executive vice president of digital communications at PR agency Porter Novelli (OMC) likes to make it easy for his staff to use their own judgment. When in doubt, he tells employees using Twitter, "don't say anything you wouldn't say to your mom."

Douglas MacMillan is a staff writer for BusinessWeek in New York.

Back to Readings #1

Keeping Momentum in Social Media

A few simple steps can keep employees involved in a company-sponsored social media platform long after the excitement of the initial launch, advises the Corporate Executive Board

By The Staff of the Corporate Executive Board

While many companies are enticed by social media, most struggle to sustain successful initiatives, particularly when it comes to utilizing new mediums to mobilize their workforce. Companies recognize social media's potential as a powerful tool for internal communications and thus move forward yet fail to get the anticipated employee-participation levels.

Launching a new corporate social media platform typically involves a flashy marketing campaign, excited e-mails, and intranet notifications to help create an initial "pop" in participation. But that excitement can quickly die down if employees don't really see what is in it for them.

Making this failure even more acute, Corporate Executive Board research shows that employees mobilize around people, not companies—especially in an environment of uncertainty and corporate mistrust. Connecting with peers, namely through virtual social media platforms, helps employees understand the relevance of company goals, model behaviors, and share the resources they need to get their jobs done.

To harness the social media opportunity and create ongoing employee participation in internal initiatives, companies should look to create social media channels that:

• Humanize anonymous peers. Give virtual contacts more of a persona to recreate the social bonds that naturally motivate people to help those they know. For example, instead of limiting an employee profile to job title, contact information, business unit/segment, allow employees to include more personal information (such as photos, interests, past jobs) to give them a more multi-faceted identity.

• Increase access to the platform. Offer employees an always-on forum to share information. This allows employees to contribute and interact when it makes sense for their own projects and needs, making it more work-embedded.

• Make it easy to use and relate to. Beyond just functional ease of use, lower the mental bar for employee participation by making sure that the content being shared or discussed on the platform is relevant to their job or interests.

• Give employees an ROI. Ensuring employee relevance creates the perception of future benefits, making it easier for employees to imagine how they could get reciprocal help on topics important to their job or interests.

• Create peer pressure. Get the right people involved in the beginning to encourage participation on a grassroots level, and then make sure that ongoing use of the platform is visible to all employees.

Return to the Executive Guide to Social Media Special Report Table of Contents

The Corporate Executive Board (EXBD) drives faster, more effective decision-making among the world's leading executives and business professionals. Powered by a member network that spans over 50 countries and represents more than 80% of the world's Fortune 500 companies, the Corporate Executive Board offers the unique research insights along with an integrated suite of members-only tools and resources that enable the world's most successful organizations to deliver superior business outcomes.

Return to Readings #2


Starting a Corporate Social Network? Don't

Save your company's cash. Leveraging Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter is fast, easy, and free

By Stephen Baker

There's a recession out there. Money's tight. So here's a cheap piece of advice for managers wondering how to harness the power of social networks in the workplace: Don't spend a dime.

That's right. Don't hire consultants or a tech team. And whatever you do, steer clear of software architects. Most companies that build their own social networking tools end up with failures. The problem goes far beyond clunky design and balky servers. It's simply that social networks are useless until they draw a crowd—and most of the crowds are busy on public sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

So instead of spending a fortune to draw employees, customers, and clients to your site, how about meeting them where they already are for free? Chances are lots of them are among the 200 million on Facebook and the 30 million on LinkedIn. And more of them are Twittering every day.

Here's how to start: Go to Facebook and search for the name of your company. There's a good chance there's already a group. (I just tried H.J. Heinz, a company I used to cover, and found an "I Work(ed) at Heinz" group with 159 members.) Join the group (if it seems appropriate), read what they're up to, then try posing a question: Is there a place for the company in this group, or perhaps a separate one?


That starts a discussion, and who know where it leads? Yes, running a company group on a public site raises issues. It's no place for secrets and inside information. But you know what? You probably don't want that type of info circulating on private networks, either. Each secret is just a cut-and-paste away from the blogosphere. What's more, transparency is a virtue of the social Web. Maybe customers or suppliers will join. Sure, smart employees working for rivals will take a look, too. But if they see a lively site, maybe they'll ask you for a job.

Move over to LinkedIn. They have company groups, too, where the same process might yield fruit. LinkedIn also runs a section called "Answers," in which you can pose a question to the crowd. Consider asking them to recommend the most useful company groups. Then take a look at them.

On to Twitter. Set up an account. It takes two minutes. A lot of companies use Twitter for 140-character tidbits of public relations. Forget about that, at least for now, because no one is following you. Instead, think of Twitter as a customer outreach tool.

Start by going to www.search.twitter.com and search the name of your company. You'll see quickly that people are Twittering about it. You might consider clicking the "Follow" button for each of these people. That means you subscribe to their Twitter feeds, and each of them gets an e-mail informing them that you're tuning into them. Chances are they'll keep talking about your brand, and you'll pick up insights—for the right price.

Baker is a senior writer for BusinessWeek in New York.

Return to Readings #2


Jeff Jarvis: Openness and the Internet

As our social lives, business, and government become more transparent via the Internet, there are benefits for anyone who wants to create and connect

By Jeff Jarvis

In the company of nudists, no one is naked. We are entering an age of publicness when more and more we will live, do business, and govern in the open. Some see danger there. I see opportunity.

The evidence of the trend toward openness is all around. Young people are sharing their lives online via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Google (GOOG), and whatever comes next. Though that mystifies their elders and appalls self-appointed privacy advocates, the transparent generation gains value from its openness: This is how they find each other, share, and socialize.

In business, in the wake of the financial crisis, the public and government will demand far greater disclosure. Companies should view transparency not as punishment but instead as a necessary step in rebuilding trust and repairing relationships.

And in Washington, President Obama has promised a new transparency in government—against the sure resistance of bureaucrats and politicians. For government, too, transparency is the prerequisite to trust. As newspapers shrink and die, one way to assure many more watchful eyes on government is to make all of its actions and information open and searchable. Government should be transparent by default.



Are there dangers in publicness? Yes. For one, we can all share too much and turn into the nation of narcissists. Young people may regret tomorrow what they make public today; this is why Google CEO Eric Schmidt jokes that we should all be able to change our identities at age 21 but I think we will all be protected by the doctrine of mutually assured humiliation (I won't dig up your college-party picture if you don't dig up mine). More important, our information can be stolen, misused, and misconstrued. But the issue isn't really privacy, as its advocates insist. It is control. We need to be masters of our own data and how it is seen and used.

But we also need to understand the benefits of living and working in the open; that is the discussion that is being ignored. I can attest to the value of the public life. As I wrote my book, I explored its ideas openly on my blog and that enabled my generous readers to improve, challenge, correct, and add value to them all. In the book and on my blog, I revealed the most private and personal of information—that I have a minor heart condition—and again my readers gave me advice, support, and information. I'm having a ball now reading readers of my book on Twitter as they quote and review it (and I respond). Finally, because I am on Facebook and LinkedIn and have a blog and use Twitter, I have made business connections—and money.

In reports I've written for BusinessWeek, the heads of Dell (DELL) and Starbucks (SBUX) corroborate the value of business in public as they each now seek and discuss customers' ideas openly. Comcast (CMCSA) has learned that there is a public discussion about its service happening independently and that is why it assigned staff to monitor and respond to Twitterers' complaints. Every company alive is hiring search engine optimization experts to help them manage their public face for Google and its users. What more powerful business elixir is there today than Googlejuice?




There are business opportunities in this new transparency. Google has won the war to organize our information. The next frontier, possibly even more valuable, will be organizing us. I don't believe the victor will be a single social network that has the most members. No, the Internet is our social network and the Google of people will be the service that makes sense of and gives us control over our information and connections. Note well that this battle is being fought in the open as Facebook enables us to use our identity there on other sites and as Google endorses an open standard for identity.

Openness itself will also yield more knowledge and value in commercial relationships. Google recently announced that it would enable us to see and correct its targeting data about us. That might seem to be a defensive response to those pesky privacy advocates but it's actually cagey business. For whenever we set Google straight about us, it becomes better informed and can more effectively target advertising. I've long wanted to be able to tell sites which ads they should and shouldn't show me (if I have to see them anyway). That's the cookie that would put me in control and it would give marketers valuable (if not always comfortable) intelligence.

Of course, there is also gold in the aggregate data mined from our public actions and words—the wisdom of our crowd. The more public we are, the more opportunities there are to learn and create value. If there's a business model behind Twitter, I suspect it's that, for Twitter's treasure is tapping into what a critical mass of people are doing—and thinking—right now.


As we see publicness grow as a force in society—and it will—it's important to understand the phenomenon in the context of the Internet itself. Contrary to the dreams of publishers and producers, the Internet is not a medium, and contrary to the hopes of retailers, it's not a cash register.

No, the Internet is all about creation and connections. It enables any of us to create content and find an audience for it—the purest public act. Fame is a force almost as powerful as sex and money. The Internet also connects us with information and each other. The key to Facebook's growth, I think, is that it moves past the tiresome fad of anonymity online to help us establish real identities and organize real relationships.

There is where the opportunities will be in publicness: helping people create, helping their creations to be found, and helping people connect. That will be the secret to social success.

Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do? (Collins, January 2009), teaches at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism and blogs at Buzzmachine.com



Return to Readings #3



Jakob Nielsen Critiques Twitter

Not everyone is hearts and flowers over Twitter. Web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen discusses the hazards and limitations of tweeting

By Rebecca Reisner

Few would dispute that Twitter is the hottest social medium around. The microblogging application, which enables anyone with Internet access to issue short public messages—about where to buy the best red-velvet cupcakes or what the latest tally is on swine flu—has enjoyed stunning growth that has made Facebook and MySpace look like yesterday's children. An increasing number of CEOs are employing Twitter to communicate and bond with customers and employees.

Nonetheless, it might be time to put some brakes on tweeting, according to Jakob Nielsen, a principal at Fremont (Calif.) Web-usability consulting firm the Nielsen Norman Group and author of 11 books on the way humans interact with technology. Nielsen recently answered some of BusinessWeek.com's questions about Twitter. Edited excerpts follow.

Are you surprised to see so many CEOs tweeting?

Well, there are always people who jump on the latest bandwagon, no matter what it is, but I do think it's surprising that CEOs would have the time to tweet, since they can't just toss off a sentence without repercussions the same way a normal user can. One of my former bosses once said that he had to be very careful what he said because tens of thousands of people in his organization would actually take it seriously and act on it. So if he said something that was easily misinterpreted, it could steer the company in the wrong direction.

Do you think it's a good idea for CEOs to tweet to their customers?

Mostly no. Posting on the Web is the modern PR, and the CEO's job is to articulate the company's vision and direction, which requires more than 140 characters. Being perceived as a wise guy or a shallow thinker is not going to do your stock price much good. We have just completed a usability study of investor relations info on corporate Web sites, and one of the big reasons individual investors turn to companies' Web sites is to find the CEO's vision and take on the company's and industry's direction.

Because users don't want to read very much online, this information should be addressed concisely, but not as concisely as in a tweet. Better to write something deeper (or post a video clip, since investors also want to assess the CEO's personality by watching him or her speak), and then announcethat, with a link, from the company's general Twitter update, as opposed to in the CEO's personal tweet.

Is Twitter is a fad or here to stay?

Something like Twitter is certainly here to stay, even if that specific company could go the way of Excite and Geocities. Being early doesn't guarantee success if a better implementation of the same idea comes along. But fundamentally, this micro-announcement service does serve two needs: to post updates with low overhead and to follow a concise stream of updates.

Do you think the growth of Twitter is a threat to individuals' ability to concentrate?

If you care about productivity, don't check your Twitter feed while you're trying to get work done. Disruptions are deadly for productivity because it takes several minutes to reorient the brain every time you go off track looking at something else. Stick to checking updates once per day—for example, during lunch. All the tweets will still be there.

I don't think companies should ban Twitter use during business hours because it does have its business uses, as previously discussed. But companies could cash in major productivity gains if they advised employees on how to minimize disruptions. The growth in social media can become a major drain on the economy unless people learn how to be in control of their time instead of allowing external updates to be in the driver's seat.

Are you a fan of any particular organizations' tweets?

One example of good business use of Twitter is the CDC's stream of updates on the H1N1 influenza. I have two recommendations for improved usability of this account: (a) Spell out the full name (Centers for Disease Control) in the bio, because not everybody knows the acronym CDC; and (b) link the "Web" field directly to a specific page about H1N1 instead of a generic page about all possible health emergencies, including many that are not of current interest.

Rebecca Reisner is an editor at BusinessWeek.com .


Return to Readings #3


VIEWPOINT January 21, 2009, 8:36PM EST

Social Networks Are the New Web Portals

Social networks like Facebook and MySpace are becoming the new gateways to the Web, threatening the dominance of Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL

By Jeffrey F. Rayport

Not long ago, it seemed that four companies would forever dominate the Web in traffic and ad dollars. Each of the Big Four—Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), Microsoft's (MSFT) MSN, and Time Warner's (TWX) AOL—attracts more than 100 million unique visitors a month. Collectively the group accounts for roughly 90% of gross ad dollars online. So far, so good.

But now those companies are facing a threat to their dominance. I'm not talking about the recessionary headwinds that have slowed growth even for mighty Google. Nor is this about the self-inflicted wounds that have weakened the positions of the other three players. Yahoo spent the last year in turmoil following Microsoft's takeover offer, inducing Carl Icahn to elbow his way onto the board and then force out CEO Jerry Yang as business conditions grew increasingly dire. AOL is hardly better off. Its former CEO, Jonathan Miller, freely admits that AOL essentially missed the boat on social media and the decline of AOL's legacy connectivity business. Microsoft failed to acquire Yahoo and continues in vain to seek a credible competitive response to Google's search advertising juggernaut.

These travails aside, there are bigger threats on the landscape. Today's massive social networking systems are rapidly becoming Webs within the Web—one-stop shops for a wide range of services (from content to communications to commerce) that were once the unique province of the Big Four.


For example, through a combination of its own creation and that of third-party developers, Facebook has become a world unto itself. Now the Web's largest social network as measured by active users (140 million at yearend 2008), Facebook offers bread-and-butter portal services like e-mail and instant messaging as well as photo posting and video sharing. But Facebook's reality extends much further. A partnership with Amazon.com (AMZN) has produced a shopping application that lets users buy items at Amazon without leaving Facebook's site, while tapping opt-in "news feeds" that broadcast activities on Amazon, such as product reviews and wish list updates, to Facebook friends. At the same time, a chat feature introduced last spring, which automatically populates itself with a user's Facebook "friends," may render older services like AOL's AIM (where new users must build their own "buddy lists") socially impoverished.

Facebook's mobile alerts, long familiar to the site's users, are just the tip of the iceberg in wireless apps, as the company delivers mobile services for plain-vanilla cell phones and more sophisticated smartphones. Applications for popular devices, such as Apple's (AAPL) iPhone or Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry, deliver even richer social experiences. Video has taken off, too, with 45 million clips uploaded on Facebook to date; last month, the site also introduced higher-resolution video formats. Facebook users can send video messages from the site and from mobiles.

Though Facebook now offers 52,000 applications created by 660,000 developers (this has done much to enrich the site's features), other social networking giants have entered the fray, too. News Corp.'s (NWS) MySpace, for example, claims 120 million active users; it recently introduced a service called MySpace Music that lets user create and host playlists on their pages.


Social networking sites are also growing at exponential rates and attracting users of all ages. Facebook's fastest-growing segment is users over 25 years of age. LinkedIn, the business-oriented social networking site, claims more than 30 million active members with an average age of 41.

Of course, scale is only one metric of success. Another is what tech types call "engagement," or "time spent." Researcher ComScore (SCOR) ranked Yahoo the No. 1 site for engagement, with users worldwide collectively spending some 120 billion minutes on the site in October. For the same period, Google users logged 42 billion minutes. Yet, Facebook and MySpace were not far behind, with 34 billion and 18 billion minutes, respectively.

The traditional portals still win on unique visitors per month, but from the standpoint of where Web users "live" their lives online, social networking sites are gaining share.


What all this augurs is a new stage in an ongoing battle for influence, even dominance, of the Web. Back in the "old days" of the late 1980s and early '90s, online service providers such as AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServ generated revenue through monthly subscriptions for bundled services, which combined connectivity, communications, and content. With the advent of the Web's friendly user interface combined with the rise of Internet service providers, which offered dial-up and then always-on connectivity, the old guard gave way to a new host of dominant online players—the Big Four portals. While Google focused largely on search, Yahoo, AOL, and MSN provided a rich array of content as well as services and relied on advertising rather than subscriptions to pay the bills.

Now, as usage shifts to social networks, there's a catch. This is no longer a race to build destinations, but constellations.

To be sure, the social networking sites, like the portals before them, aggregate services to provide one-stop shops for Internet users. But they're competing, too, in a race to provide a social context for Web usage generally. Facebook Connect and MySpaceID are new tools that offer users a way to make their social networks—previously wedded to a single platform—portable across other social networking sites and, in fact, Web sites of all kinds. Google's Friend Connect, based on that company's OpenSocial standard, represents similar functionality. Though late to the game, Yahoo is planning a pan-Web social offering, and Microsoft has built one into its new Windows Live. In practice, these services mean users can visit a site for the first time, register with a standard username and password, and find their experiences instantly enriched by friends' lists, profiles, reviews, ratings, and feeds. In essence, it's a way to bring social context to sites that have no social media components of their own.

It's all about defining a new World Wide Web—a meta-Web that has the functionality of a social Web.

While the portals are doing their best to catch up, challenges abound. Google's oft-stated mission is "to organize the world's information." Organizing information is how earlier generations of Web companies have traditionally created value for users, with or without search. But the new game is radically different. Facebook, in particular, has set out to organize not the world's content, but the world's people. As this social meta-Web emerges, the players that own and harness social applications will radically reorganize and reshape the Web in ways we can only imagine today, and that will profoundly alter our experience of the online world.

Jeffrey F. Rayport is founder and chairman of Marketspace, a digital strategy and customer experience practice affiliated with Monitor Group. Rayport was previously a faculty member at Harvard Business School.

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How Twitter, Facebook, and others are - surprise! - strengthening friendships

By Don Aucoin, Globe Staff  |  June 20, 2009

When Emily Lippard went to a wedding in her home state of Virginia last weekend, it was chockablock with old friends she hadn't seen for a while. Yet Lippard wasted little time on the usual, pro forma "So, what have you been up to?" questions.

Lippard already knew.

She had, after all, been following their exploits on Facebook. She knew that the male college buddy who had always vowed not to marry till he was 35 had just gotten engaged, even though he is only in his mid-20s. She had seen the dramatic pictures taken by another friend during a white-water rafting trip. And her friends, in turn, knew that Lippard had relocated to Boston, was working for a public relations firm, and was loving it.

Yet somehow all this advance knowledge, rather than making their face-to-face conversations redundant, actually made them more vibrant. Lippard, 24, came away from the wedding feeling closer to her friends than ever. "I could skip past some things and get to the deeper stuff because I know what they are doing on a day-to-day basis," she explains. "It definitely strengthened my bonds with them. It does kind of merge both worlds."

This may have been a watershed week in the brief life of social media, with worldwide attention focused on the use of Twitter in Iran to organize protests against the disputed results of a presidential election and to convey information to the outside world. By midweek, in recognition of the microblogging site's emergence as a key communication tool in the crisis, the US State Department asked Twitter to delay previously scheduled maintenance of its worldwide network because it would have cut off service to Iranians.

Eight weeks ago, MySpace and Facebook were used to spread word of a mass hooky day that brought thousands of Boston high school students to Revere Beach (one person was stabbed and six were arrested).

But far from the public spotlight, on a much quieter level, social media are extending their reach into private, everyday life - and overturning some conventional wisdom in the process.

In the view of some early doomsayers, online social networks threatened to undermine flesh-and-blood human interaction. In this view, real-world social ties would weaken as users crouched before their computers, as with online chat rooms, rather than go out and socialize. Actual friendships and old-fashioned human contact would steadily give way to virtual friendships.

Yet as Facebook marks its fifth anniversary and Twitter-mania spreads, it is becoming clear that many users employ social media to spend more time with friends, not less.

Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter make possible the sort of impromptu, instantaneous get-togethers that keep friendships from dissolving amid the demands of job, family, and the inevitable evolution of personalities and interests that can sometimes erode once-common ground.

Consequently, especially for young people, these Web-based tools don't just help them coordinate their social lives, but also, over time, tighten the bonds of their real-world friendships. Online contact seems to deepen offline contact. When it comes to social media, the emphasis is on the social, not the media.

Catie Schadlick, 24, of Brookline says she has "bonded much closer" with friends near and far thanks to Facebook, noting that she recently used the site to get together with local friends on a hiking trip, a trivia contest, and a concert, while keeping close tabs on far-flung friends. It's helped us avoid that slow drift into friend limbo-land, where you're like, we were really good friends three years ago but now I don't know what their life is like," she says.

Gina Cotter, 19, a college student from Medfield, says that in an average week she gets a steady stream of "Event" invitations on Facebook: sorority parties, birthday dinners, philanthropic fund-raisers, student panels on studying abroad, invitations to go to a club.

"There's no other way to reach as many people as efficiently," Cotter says. "You can put up as many posters as you want, but a poster is a poster. It is very rare that I stop, write down the date, and remember it. But I'm on my computer all the time, and by the end of the week I'll have seven events on my page right there."

The net effect, Cotter says, is to widen her circle of friends and to deepen preexisting friendships. "It definitely facilitates relationships," she says. "If we didn't have those means to bring all those events together, I'm not sure we'd be doing face-to-face interactions as much."

So could social media be changing the nature of friendship, turning it into a blend of online and off line? Some of the leading Internet theorists seem to think so.

"We are witnessing the death of cyberspace, the death of the idea that the Internet or digital networks are an alternative to real life," says Clay Shirky, author of "Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations," which examines the cultural implications of online social networks. "Once everyone you know is online, the Internet becomes an augmentation of real life rather than a replacement for it."

Howard Rheingold, who teaches social media at Stanford and UC Berkeley and who published "The Virtual Community" in 1993 and "Smart Mobs" in 2002, echoed that view. "We are seeing very strongly that people are using social media to extend their classroom or their neighborhood or their face-to-face relations beyond what they might normally be," Rheingold says. "It's a means of staying in touch with people that you do know in the face-to-face world."

It can also be a way to discover new dimensions of longtime friends, according to Caroline O'Reilly, 20, a college student from Holliston. "It strengthens the relationships because we're able to understand everyone more, how everyone has changed," says O'Reilly. "You see the activities that they're doing and the kinds of friends that they have now. So it's just easier to understand their stories and how they are as a person now."

Jennifer Taddeo, 35, of Franklin gets together once a year with half a dozen college friends for a few days. Last year, the first since she and the others had begun using Facebook regularly, they were able to move right past the basics of "who-what-when-where" straight to the emotionally richer territory of "why?"

"We just jumped in, because we had been getting these daily updates," says Taddeo. "So we could say: 'I notice you've been complaining a lot about work. Are things better with your boss? Or are you moving on?' It's cut off that first day of round-robin where we're all sitting around asking, 'So, what is going on?' It made a big difference."

Even so, some believers in the usefulness of social media are also mindful of its limitations. At that Virginia wedding last weekend, as Lippard and her friends discovered fresh depths in their Facebook-fueled relationships, they also promised that from then on, they would deliver status updates more frequently via the telephone, with a human voice at the other end.

"We made a vow," says Lippard. "We know we see what's going on in Facebook, but we can't just rely on that. We need to do a better job about keeping in touch once a week, or at least once a month."

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.  

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Friendships: The Next Big Business Strategy?

By Ray B. Williams

Created Jun 14 2009 - 11:33am

If you have 347 followers on Twitter , what are the chances that they'll click on the same online ad you clicked on last night? This is the kind of question that advertisers and researchers at MIT and IBM are dying to know the answer to, according to Stephen Baker, in the June 1, 2009 article in BusinessWeek, "What's A Friend Worth."

Jeffrey Rayport, formerly of Harvard Business School, reports in an article in BusinessWeek, May 18, 2009, "The Shift To A Social Web," that a shift is underway that is ushering in the next stage in the battle for influence on the Web, which involves companies such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL and others. This battle will change the way we use the Internet and how advertising is used. Rayport sees the capability of people taking their social identity from site to site, which means Web companies are no longer in the business of building "destination sites,", but rather, social networking players are racing to extend their influence over the entire Web by exporting their social features to all sites. We may even see Google's cited mission "to organize the world's information" change to "organize the world's people."

Friendships have changed drastically, particularly among Gen X'ers and Gen Y'ers, because of the technological tools of social networking sites. The really successful networkers combine face-to-face relationships with the online connections such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to keep the network of friends and business connections alive.

Many companies now are realizing the goldmine of marketing and promotion that exists and are using social networking to their advantage, which may in turn sound the eventual death knell for traditional advertising. Other companies, such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM are examining employee relationships inside the companies with the intent to improve communication and knowledge.

A third area of social networking--of personal opportunity--is an important development. Entrepreneurs and recruiters and careermanagers realize the power of social networking, using it to create business opportunities and recruit talent.

In essence, we are witnessing a great social and technological experiment in which millions of people around the globe are working and socializing in oceans of data. And advertisers are now realizing they can understand better people's attitudes, preferences and psychology by studying social networking sites. Of course this massive amount of information produced by social networking sites is not all good, and much of it can be inaccurate, irrelevant or just plain boring. So the issue of information literacy rises to the fore--the ability of people to access, assess and use information wisely from the Internet, including social networking sites-- in an intelligent manner.

So where do we get the best information? From our friends, maybe the only trusted source? Friendship data promise insights into not only the marketplace but also the corporation itself. Researchers now can trace the hidden networks, identifying both the people who transmit valuable information and those who may actually block it, and how people can bypass them. Some companies now study their internal networks, and actually suggest friends to employees, much the same as a networker might arrange a personal luncheon between two strangers for mutual benefit.

For managers and executives who have launched themselves into using social networks for business purposes, the challenge becomes how to interpret friendship data and how to manage these networks and fit them into employee careers.

There is no question that the value in online friendships for both businesses and individuals alike is poised to grow and be used for purposes beyond what we can now imagine.


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