The Power of Real Time: the Super Bowl Twitter Experience

Twitter-cheerleaderI watched parts of Super Bowl LXVI in a lounge at LAX, on my way to the Bay Area.  Not being in an ideal setting, quite distant to the screen, my natural instinct was to tap into my second screen to enhance the experience, so I fired up Twitter on my iPhone, and came face to face with the new social media reality for essentially the first time.

Now I am reading that it was a Twitter record with 12K tweets per second during the game.  While TV viewership is flat, the real time web was alight with interaction, commentary and sharing, demonstrating what is now possible in the connected world.

I really think it's a combination of a few separate curves that is defining the new real time web experience.  On one hand, the community is getting more fluid in its expression.  Conventions are being established and the new vocabulary and interaction modes are now better understood by all.  Some of the early clumsiness has now diappeared.

Secondly, the commercial voices are better integrated. So when Madonna or Shazam or Foursquare are interacting with their audiences, that is also more fluid.

And most importantly, the online communities are extremely comfortable integrating the living room experience to their online conversations.  For me, Twitter was an enhancing addition to my TV yesterday.

All of this tells me that we are still in the very early stages of media and entertainment disruption we are seeing enabled through the connected economy.  It also tells me there will be many more great businesses that will be created in this realm.  What excitement to feel on the month of the Facebook filing.

Local Marketplaces and Network Effects

Professional

I am sensing a tipping point in the usage of LinkedIn among Turkish professionals.  My invitation volume from Turks has increased by at least an order of magnitude since the beginning of the year.  While I have historically been very promiscuous with my LinkedIn connection acceptances, I am now changing my behavior and have modified my privacy settings to make it more difficult to friend me.

I have been watching the ratio of Facebook and LinkedIn users closely.  Today Facebook stands at 800m users and Linkedin at 116m.  That ratio suggests that with ~30m Turkish users on Facebook, Linkedin should enjoy a crowd of 4m.  I don't know what that number is but Google AdPlanner suggests traffic numbers at less than 1% of global traffic.  That tells me the traffic and attention upside on LinkedIn for Turkey remains enormous.  

Combine that with the facts that LinkedIn is enjoying the recent growth I mentioned (albeit anecdotally) in the first paragraph and it is already ranked 61 on Alexa Turkey, and one would expect LinkedIn to break into the top 25 properties by Turkish traffic fairly soon. Game over. LinkedIn has won.

Cember.net was the first company to try to capture the Turkish professional networking opportunity.  After the Xing acquisition, the mindshare that it enjoys has all but disappeared.  That was followed with a few attempts to provide similar utility to Turkish professionals, but no one was able to reach critical mass.  Now LinkedIn has arrived and the window of opportunity has been shut.

This should be a lesson to ventures in areas with significant global network effect.  In local markets, there will exist a window of opportunity to build a marketplace and get to critical mass, at which point you can exit the local venture before the global players prioritize your market.  If you are too slow, you will not be able to realize value before the global network effect kicks in.

Ross Dawson: Turkey’s a Hot Internet Market

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My friend Ross Dawson was the keynote speaker at the IPZ2009 (interactive marketing summit) last week here in Istanbul.  It was great catching up with him and listening to his insightful social media presentation.

To follow up, he has just posted his "Five reasons why Turkey is one of the hottest Internet markets in the world".  Since I have made it my business to invest in the Turkish internet industry, I obviously agree with all of his points.

One interesting point Ross has picked out is the language skills.  He found English skills outside of the professional sector pretty weak.  However, Turks grew to be the third largest nationality on Facebook prior to the introduction of Facebook in Turkish.  Which makes me think there is a level of language skills, while not sufficient to communicate conversationally, allows one to utilize social media pretty effectively.

Ross's post would be an excellent primer on anyone interested in the Turkish internet market.

Openness Enhances the Value of the Social Graph

Network_effect The newly enabled ability to publish to Twitter from Facebook Pages has led Nic Brisbourne of DFJ Esprit to think this may lead to an erosion of value in the owner of the social graph.  He goes on to pose the question whether eyeballs are actually more important than the ownership of the social graph.

My thinking on the issue is differs from Nic's.

Social media relies on the network effect. Over the past 15 years of the internet, we have learned that the network effect (and metcalfe's thinking) thrives in open environments.  To revisit, one only has to remember AOL.  Therefore, in the race to claim ownership of the social graph, the walls would always have to be temporary – one competitive barrier as the players tried toreach critical mass.  The more open direction Facebook has been taking lately is a critical strategic one.  It's also the only one available if it will survive, and perhaps eventually win at creating the identity layer of the internet – the social graph.

Openness will ensure the sustainability of Facebook's (or Twitters's) social graph, as it continues to enhance the value its users derive from the investment they make in maintainging their connections on Facebook.  It would be the erosion of that value, not the fact that other platforms can benefit from those users' previous efforts (establishing their connections) to provide higher utility to those users, that would threaten the value of Facebook's social graph.

Nic goes on to remark:

The upshot of all this that value doesn’t accrue to the ‘owner’ of the
social graph every time it is used and hence the value of these sites
is less about the number of registered members and more about the
amount of time people spend on them creating and consuming content.

Facebook’s acquisition of Friendfeed makes sense in this light, as does the recent rush of investor interest in companies like Tweetdeck.

The game doesn’t stop here though – to generate real value you need to make your app/site sticky and find a way to monetise. ILike and Slide’s falls from grace have shown us that.

Measuring the real value of the social graph in terms of the stickiness of a media property or its monetisation ability is limiting.  I think that we are not close to understanding the commercial value that could be extracted once the identity layer of the internet is established.

For me, the one area that seems to look more and more critical in the emergence of the social graph is in whose hands it ultimately ends up. If Facebook wins, and it remains a private (or publicly-traded) commercial entity, the profit maximization motive (especially the short-term profit focus prevalent in public equity markets) may ultimately limit the value it stands to deliver.  Imagine how incredibly limited the Internet would end up if the global system of interconnected networks it resides on belonged to the telecommunicatiosn companies (sort of like the way mobile networks have evolved).

I don't really know if the thinking within Facebook is along these lines.  So far, by resisting desperate monetization attempts or  early acquisiton offers, they hint that it may be.