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Jan 2011

Is RockMelt the start of niche social media products?

Posted in Business tactics, Social Media, Technology | 0 Comments

Surfing around the web the other day in Google Chrome, my shiny browser of choice (if you work with copy from all over the globe, Google Translate is in-window with no need for extensions or plugins and is priceless), I stumbled onto a browser that I’d heard of only vaguely: RockMelt. Imagine a browser as visually appealing and capable as Chrome or Firefox, but with every single social networking application integrated into the browser from the get-go. No plug-ins, no add-ons, and it’s as much a part of the software as the minimise button.

By taking social media and placing it unavoidably in your online path, it’s going to make you browse differently, and, if you’re big on Twitter or Facebook, more efficiently, if anything. No more flicking between tabs or add-ons, just pure and simple social networking from within the tab you’re on. It’s not an aggressive tactic as you’re never forced to use these features, but I’d be lying if I said their demonstration video didn’t make it all sound so tempting (especially the glockenspiel and mouth organ soundtrack – Ed.)

Niche software has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the major plus-points is that, from the perspective of the (in all likelihood) small business responsible for the software’s design, you’re targeting a more focused area of your potential market. This can lead to dedicated users who’ll return often, and even better, a loyal community who through small bits of open-source coding can contribute in their own way and it won’t cost you a penny. However, it also means you’re not going to be able to expand in the way you might want to, and that means sacrificing the niche features of the software just to bring in bigger numbers.

Social media users, or people using other software for specific tasks (such as Yahoo!’s social media integration into their email system) are going to benefit because they’ll be able to focus. For people promoting products and services via Twitter and Facebook, that’s a god-send. However, when you’re tired of the social looking-glass, it might be harder to walk away. Merging browsing, Twitter, Facebook and even instant messaging into a single program is great for a neater task-bar, but what about resource consumption, or the risk of the program crashing? Being able to chop, change and trouble-shoot singular aspects of your online software suite is key to not becoming over-dependent on the one program. That and I can’t see any old-school CEOs turning into IM addicts any time soon.

Essentially, RockMelt’s doing what a lot of people want to be done – better communication, social or otherwise, and connecting the world more efficiently than before, albeit at the risk of damaging the more formal, traditional means of communicating via the web. People can now have a more community-based browsing experience, even if they’re using their Yahoo! email account, and it fosters a friendlier, more social online environment. Apart from the inevitable wave of link-spam by new, over-excited RockMelt users, but they’ll calm down soon enough, I hope.

RockMelt and similar niche social media products and services are furthering the place of niche software in our society. If everyone’s got an App for what they need, every business has a market, albeit a small one. To become a more social online community and go beyond the 4chan-esque forum flame wars and endless comment trolling is something to be cherished and aimed for. The friendliness and interactivity of the web isn’t just limited by our attitude, but also the software and services we use. Continuing to further social media can only benefit a hostile, immature internet by fostering a more familial approach to online social communication. RockMelt’s is definitely the start of something new. You’ve nothing to lose by being part of it.

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Jul 2010

The true cost of a business’ social media integration

Posted in Business tactics, Online PR, Social Media, Web 2.0, Web Design and Usability | 0 Comments

Drifting through the web on a peaceful Monday lunchtime, I stumbled across possibly one of the most interesting and informative infographics I’ve seen. Created by Mashable, titled “Google’s Long History of Social Media Attempts” is an entertaining insight into one of the biggest web companies in the world, and its continued struggle for social media presence.

Reading down the years, a clear pattern emerges: Google have bought their way into more social media companies and invested in more projects than the majority of all businesses, globally. But for all their attempts to break the ice with the new generation of socially and digitally savvy teenagers and twentysomethings, something’s gone slightly awry. No one seems interested.

Now, for a company as large as Google, it seems almost absurd, doesn’t it? They’ve got millions, if not billions of dollars to spare on new projects, and everything they touch is hailed as a viable alternative before it’s even in alpha. However, putting successful projects such as Blogger to one side, Google are in a unique position – one of, if not the biggest web presence of any company in the world, but with all the social media success of a ten-year-old with a mobile dongle and a dream or two.

Google Me has been rumoured to be a direct competitor to Facebook. After severely underestimating the continued growth of the social-networking giant, Google now face a dilemma that is familiar to smaller companies like Bebo and the ever-falling-behind MySpace: how to get back into the face of the people.

It seems simple enough, but Google’s single greatest strength has simultaneously become its greatest weakness. The majority of internet searches go through Google’s famous search engine. But placing results for Google Me above Facebook, or even as sponsored links, could cause opinion to turn against Google and perceive the company as biased.

The same goes for small businesses – how to break into social media? If you’re a web company with Zuckerberg-esque aspirations, then you’ve got your work cut out. But you’ve still got a head-start over Google in terms of getting ranked higher and higher without it looking slightly too quick for the few cynics and conspiracy theorists.

You’ve also got, I’d wager, a smaller budget than the colossal entity that is Google. This also gives you an advantage – a smaller budget requires more careful planning, and less public humiliation when a big project falls through. An interesting look into Google’s inner workings tells many tales of failed projects and Google’s personal investment in the employees that push it further in the direction of global dominance of all online media.

If you’re a web-design company, maybe even just a solo entrepreneur, this seems daunting and, if anything, completely de-motivational. But never fear – you can network, you can join communities, and you can build up your web presence the way you want it to evolve. With countless failed projects behind their doors and a few too many beyond them, Google are now beginning to look like a company desperate to break into social media.

Your advantage comes from your unknown status. By lacking the stigma of a money-wasting corporate entity and focusing on one specific idea rather than anything with even the remotest prospect of serious monetisation (Jack of all trades, master of none), you can put forward ideas in a less critical environment. Public reaction, especially via the web, is crucial to the initial success and the build-up and expansion that follows.

But social media maintains its presence in society, a theory confirmed by The Social Network, the film about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s rather controversial history, that will debut later this year. Taking Facebook off the internet and into the cinemas places it in the hands of yet another audience, and the genius of it is that it was never officially commissioned or sanctioned by Facebook in any way whatsoever. Hopefully, Google will be in the front row taking notes along with web-design graduates.

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