This is another step in what I’ve been calling the conversational interface…
This was predictable, given all the media hype and new folks, and the very real newbie problem I outlined in this post last month.
I predict Twitter will address this issue, and growth will resume, but at a more moderate and sustainable pace. But this is a very clear sign that Twitter, which made the cover of Time magazine last week, is on the other, less happy side of a traditional hype cycle.
As a reminder, here’s what I said in a post just a month ago, noting the incredible growth of Twitter:
I think this is both Twitter’s most important and dangerous phase of its young life. The retention problem must be addressed, and quickly. In my previous post about Twitter adding value to new users, I suggested Twitter incorporate some structure around its suggested users feature.
But with an inflection like this, I think it’s time to swallow hard and embrace some serious social media jujitsu. In short, Twitter should integrate Facebook Connect in its signup process, and offer it as a feature for current users.
For the past few days I’ve been focused on a final draft of an essay, co-authored with Tim O’Reilly, focusing on the theme of this year’s Web 2.0 Summit. It’s rewarding work, reminiscent of the early days of Wired, when I’d regularly edit or write long form pieces focusing on big ideas and the future, but grounded in real world examples from today.
But writing and editing this kind of stuff is also challenging work, and I often procrastinate, as I am right now, by writing a blog post or skimming the web for interesting tidbits. And boy, did I find a funny one today. According to CNN, the term “Web 2.0″ is not only now an “official word” in the English language, it’s also the millionth one, of all things. (This according to the Global Language Monitor, a website that uses algorithms to determine when words enter the language.)
The theme for this year’s conference is “Web Squared,” a very real nod to the idea that “Web 2.0,” five years in, needs to be refreshed. From the draft Tim and I are working on:
The Web is evolving so quickly, it’s clear the “versioning” terminology that we borrowed from the software industry – Version 1.0, 2.0, etc. – no longer captures the pace and impact of the Web’s true nature. The web opportunity is no longer growing arithmetically, it’s growing exponentially. Hence our theme for this year: Web Squared.
We plan to post a draft of this paper soon, and will be asking for all your input in making it better. Meanwhile, it’s kind of cool that a term Tim and his partner Dale Dougherty coined way back in 2003 has made it into the history books. I wonder if and when “Web Squared” might make it in?! I guess we’ll know in five or so years…
Gian Fulgoni, Executive Chair of Comscore, has an interesting analysis of what’s happening in paid search lately. It’s germane to my earlier posts about paid search share sliding and Google’s decision to allow trademark ad bidding.
In his post, Gian notes that overall search queries are up dramatically (68% over two years) but:
if one looks at the number of paid clicks, the growth rate is a lower 18%, which raises the question: why have paid clicks grown 3x slower than the total number of queries?
The reason appears to be that the ad coverage (i.e. the percent of search results pages with a paid ad) has dropped from 64% to 51% of searches.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Why has ad coverage dropped? Gian has two hypotheses. First, search engines are getting better to reduce less relevant advertisers from the mix. But the second reason points to a more important potential breakdown in the AdWords model:
An analysis of comScore data shows that search queries are actually getting longer and that as searchers become more experienced they are using more words per search query. And this apparently reduces the likelihood that an advertiser has bid to have his/her ad included in the results page from these longer queries, due to paid search advertising strategies that limit ad coverage, such as Exact Match, Negative Match, and bid management software campaign optimization.
In short, our queries are getting closer to real conversation, real natural language, and Google’s algorithms are having a harder time keeping up – matching advertiser demand to our increasingly complex queries.
As Gian said, fascinating.
Also worth noting, my pal Chas’s analysis of what the decline in paid search means for brand advertising.
Over at the HP SMB marketing site, my second post is up. Now, for most of you, this stuff will not be particularly new, but it’s good to recall that just 42% of all SMBs have websites, and most of those are not particularly social in nature. From my post:
Most small business websites are not very good. That means you have a chance to really stand out. And that’s a huge competitive advantage.
At this point you’re probably rolling your eyes and saying “Yeah, right. Now I have to spend thousands of dollars making something that’s just going to break in a few months, and then I’ll have to pay another grand to fix it.”
Not true. With small business and the web, the best way to start is to start small, and start social. Your business is a network of relationships – between vendors, clients, colleagues, and co workers. So instead of worrying about boiling your website ocean, trying simmering the social seas instead.
I have been thinking about this a lot. How we are finally taking technology and making it serve our evolution, the two major breakthroughs of being human – our fingers – finely tuned gesticulation as a reflection of our minds – and our voices – again, finally tuned expression of our minds.
Pattie is on to something here.
This post is really a bookmark of sorts, for more thinking that I’ve been doing about how this relates to search, real time search, and interface.
Props to Jeff Kravitz (among others) who reminded me how important this is. Jeff is a wonderful photographer, check out his work here.
Our annual event in New York, The Conversational Marketing Summit, has just announced its initial lineup. It’s going to be very, very good. I host this event each year in New York and this year we are focusing on answering a simple question: What Works?
Fred Wilson, who I can’t wait to talk to about his investments in Twitter, Comscore, Tacoda, Boxee, Clickable, Etsy, Tumblr, and tons of other really intersting CM companies.
Bonnie Fuller, the world’s most successful women’s interest editor, who is striking out on her own, a la Arianna Huffington.
Speaking of which, Betsy Morgan, CEO of HuffPo, will also be on hand to discuss that property’s extraordinary growth.
Representing the majors will be Mike Hoefflinger, who left Intel (where he ran $1 billion of partner marketing programs) to head up product marketing at Facebook, and Eileen Naugton, who directs brand initiatives across Google.
Magid Abraham, CEO of Comscore, will give us insight on measurement, and we’ve got a pride of senior agency and media folks: Sean Finnegan, President and Chief Digital Officer of Starcom, Marc Ruxin, EVP and Chief Innovation Officer of McCaan, Richard Kang, EVP at MTV Networks.
And major brands will be well represented: Lou Paskalis, VP Global Media at American Express, Jen Walsh, Global Director of Digital Media for GE, Lucas Watson, Global Team Leader for Digital at P&G, and many many more.
And of course you know I love innovative companies, so joining us will be Max Ventilla, CEO of Aardvark, Oren Michels, CEO of Mashery, and Seth Goldstein, CEO of Social Media.
And that’s just a taste. Join me in New York, to kick off Internet Week, June 1-2. Register here !
I could not make the event, but FM had two participants. Chas summed it up this way: “the format is like a reality TV show: A contest among groups of digital marketing experts, Apprentice-style, in an effort to tap social media tools to sell Tide t-shirts for charity.”
It was a fun night, from what I’ve heard, and $100,000 was raised for charity, which is really cool.
But I really liked what Peter Kim said about how it was an important event not just for charity and team building, but also for P&G as a company, learning to become more social. Just like with Comcast, here’s another example of a massive company learning new tricks. From Peter’s post:
At the end of the evening, P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard remarked that in the future, all employees should get involved in activating connections similar to what had just been witnessed.
The significance of that idea is staggeringly huge. This is a company with 138,000 employees starting to realize the value from having all of its constituents connected and activated. They’re also learning about new tools to change the process of engagement. Events like “Digital Night” help recalibrate the company’s mindset.
P&G is taking steps to make social business a reality.
Sure, it also meant a massive promotion for Tide. I don’t have any problem with that. I got shirts for all of FM’s staff. And it felt good to do it.
This is going to be a very big deal. Or forgettable.
I am not sure which.
I had a conversation with a NYT reporter about this today. (Story here, but I was not quoted). It made me think. First off, this product was not launched by Eric, Sergey, or Larry. So who knows if this is a Big Deal Inside Google, or Pasta Against the Walls?
You all know how much I love the idea of the Conversation Economy. It’s where my nose is taking me these days. So the concept of Google boiling the vast Oceania Vox is very, very compelling.
But then again….I find it hard to trust Google is really serious about this market.
For example, how many real live customer service reps does the company plan to have tasked to this product? That, to me, is a Very Important Question.
It’s the essential human question that drives Google. I bring it up all the time. Community. Media. People. How do you make people scale?! How does Google, a company driven by algorithms and scale, find its Voice?
It can’t be all algorithms. Things that Work Perfectly Because You Get How To Make It Work Even If Your Non Technical Pals Can’t don’t scale. Things that Really Do Work Without Customer Service can (this is Google search, or Amazon, or….etc.).
I just wonder if Google Voice is one of those disruptors. If it’s effortless, if it works without having to call someone to help me make it work, well, it’s a huge, huge hit. But this is telecommunications. I have a hunch it’s harder than that.
I for one very much want it to work. I love the idea of Google Voice.
I just wonder about the execution.
Found in this Wired piece on Comcast:
Thanks to Famous Frank (here’s Searchblog’s interview), Comcast began thinking about going even further. The weekend that the company published its response to the FCC—outlining how it managed its network and how it planned to change—one of Roberts’ lieutenants suggested something even more radical: having ordinary company engineers go on message boards to answer questions. It was the kind of proposal that violated every tenet of the old cable code of business, and the matter could be settled only at an executive board meeting on the 52nd floor.
Roberts, sitting with his back to the window, listened to both sides. Then he declared it was time to be a bit more transparent. He finally got it. He was turning a page. “I think we should do this, but we all have to have thick skins,” he said. “People are going to vent. But that’s all right.”
Comcast is joining the conversation, and that is a major, major shift for Big Business. It won’t be an easy shift, it’ll be way easier to go back to old habits. But it’s encouraging to see Really Big Companies making the transition to the Conversation Economy.
(Hat tip, @TheJames)