Examples of How the Web is Changing Business Relationships

Consumers have more power than most realize today. Here are a few examples of what can be done today and will seem commonplace soon:

1. Put home improvement projects out to bid. Rather than calling around to find someone to work on your home, just take pictures of what you need done and post them to Craigslist. Let people compete for your project. This is so much more efficient than dialing through the yellow pages since you’ll hear from people who have the time to solve your problem.

2. Ask for restaurant recommendations on Twitter. Do you have one night to spend out in a new town? Send out a request for recommendations to your Twitter followers. Someone who knows you and cares about you will probably get back to you within minutes. Or, you could rely on someone who doesn’t know you for a recommendation.

3. Post your target salary on your blog. If you’re good at what you do, someone may be willing to pay you more to do what you do than you are making now. Why not post your current “Make me Switch” target salary to your blog so people know what you’re looking for? Perhaps your current employer would find this offensive, but they shouldn’t. You’re giving them first-right of refusal, so they can’t complain if you receive an offer they’re not willing to match?

4. Use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk for tedious tasks. Need to get a large volume of tedious work done but can’t find the time, or maybe your eyeballs are already starting to crack from dryness. Outsource the assignments to Mturk.com and watch how fast things get done.

What would you ad to this list?

Examples of Distributed Content

I’ve been thinking about how content is becoming more distributed lately, and thought I’d list a few examples of how this works in my life:

1. Meebo: I chat simultaneously with friends who are using Gtalk and Yahoo chat through a single web based interface rather than running multiple resource-intensive chat applications on my desktop.

2. Facebook SMS: I receive new friend requests and wall updates via SMS. I can choose to accept friend requests from my phone by replying with a single letter ‘a’ and follow up with messages to my new friends via SMS.

3. Craigslist via Google Reader: I subscribe to searches for specific products that interest me. New listings matching my custom criteria automatically come to me within minutes of their posting on Craigslist.

4. Digg, Techmeme, & Google News: I catch up on headlines using aggregators rather than relying on the sites where the headlines were originally created. This gives me quick access to the cream of a much larger crop.

What would you add to this list?

Laziness and the Facebook Advantage – Or Not

Mark Cuban explained over the weekend that Facebook is in the social networking driver’s seat since they have the most people with the most complete profiles – and they’ve done so using their real names, unlike MySpace. Since it’s a pain to duplicate such efforts, Cuban things Facebook has a serious competitive advantage in this space.

Joe Duck said that Cuban is just being lazy, to which Mathew Ingram countered, “well duh. Who isn’t?”

In my opinion, they’re all missing the much larger social network that we’ve all built up over our entire lives on the Internet: our contacts databases. We each have MANY more connections within our contacts databases, together with email, than we have on any social networking site. For example, I have 120 Facebook friends, but 2677 contacts in my Gmail account.

Tapping into that level of relationships should provide for much more powerful advertising opportunities than relying on proactive contributions ever could. Imagine Google mapping out the relationships between everyone who uses Gmail? Or everyone who uses Gmail combined with everyone who’s ever emailed someone who uses Gmail? That probably covers 99% or more of the Internet without relying on users proactively inputting information into any social networking site.

That’s closer to what Google achieved when they figured out how to bring a greater level of relevancy to web search without relying on any proactive steps by webmasters or searchers, such as voting. They just did a better job crunching the data that already existed.

Online Conversation Power Rankings

I’ve been thinking about the conversation starfish for a bit now and came to the conclusion that one area where the starfish falls short is in giving proper weight to the various channels (or tentacles) represented on the starfish.

To make up for this, I’ve put together the following chart to help describe the power of each channel. I’ve used two factors: Conversation Builder and Conversation Loyalty. For both criteria, I used a 1-5 scale, creating Conversation Power Ranking maximum of 10.

Conversation Power Rankings

Conversation Builders are channels that work well to draw new audiences. They tend to be things that help illustrate new ideas, are easy to link to, and have the potential to create buzz. I put blogs at the top of the Conversation Builders (represented in blue) since it’s a format that lends itself well to publishing ideas on a regular basis, thus building an audience.

Conversation Loyalty, as I define it, covers channels that work very well for building deeper relationships with people who may have first found you through a Conversation Builder. The top of this category is Events, since physical meetings provide the richest form of loyalty building. However, other tools that help foster ongoing relationships, such as Twitter, Flickr, and online video work very well too.

What’s the point? Prioritize where you invest your time based on your communication goals.

Overlapping Starfishes

Darren Barefoot put together a great starfish diagram to help explain Robert Scoble’s recent video where Scoble outlines how conversations move around the web from platform to platform.

The idea here is that conversations aren’t limited to just blogging, or YouTube, or Twitter. The conversation is not platform dependent.

However, the reality of web conversations has yet another level: personal vs. professional. Most people I know who use the web for professional conversations also have a personal life that’s at least partly lived online. And it uses many of the same services outlines in the starfish diagram. For example, a person may use Twitter to keep in touch with personal friends who may or may not share professional interests. One may also load a combination of personal and professional photos to Flickr, and use YouTube to publish both professional and personal videos.

Sorting out the boundaries between personal and professional starfish diagrams is something we’ll see more stories about over the next year or two as more conversations move onto the public web to take advantage of the powerful communication platforms.

iJustine and Technology Evangelist at Mall of America iPhone Launch

Apparently, there is a new phone coming out on Friday from Apple called the iPhone. We thought it would be fun to cover the launch at the epicenter of American retail: the Mall of America, which happens to be only a few miles from Technology Evangelist headquarters.

And, why not have a bit more fun with it by bringing Justine from iJustine.tv to town for some co-coverage?

Starting Thursday afternoon (assuming airlines cooperate), I’ll be hanging out in Minneapolis with Justine and a local techie, Aaron Landry. The Aaron Landry that we’ve interviewed before on Technology Evangelist. Aaron happens to be a neighbor of mine, but I met him through conversations on local blogs.

It turns out this Internet thing is a small small world.

At some point around 18 months ago, I mentioned to my wife that I had an “online friend” named Aaron who I thought was originally from Stillwater, Minnesota. It turns out that Aaron and my wife went to high school together a decade ago.

And it turns out that there is an Aaron and Justine connection as well. Justine won a contest on Iminlikewithyou.com held by Aaron where he sent a postcard (yes, the paper kind) to Justine. Justine showed off the card she won in this video.

I’ve never met Justine and I’ve only visited with Aaron in person around four times, including a time when we tested the Twitter scavenger hunt game, Least Dangerous Game. Yet, I’m sure we’ll have fun together since we’ve all had a chance to get to know each other through our blogs, videos, emails, and analog postcards.

If you live in Minneapolis and have time to hang out on Thursday night, send me an email or give me a call. My contact info is on my profile page. Let’s turn a few more online friends into real-world friends then see what this iPhone hype is all about.

Where Do You Contribute the Most Content, and Why?

There are literally thousands of websites in existence today that allow you to sign up and contribute information. But, how do you decide which sites are worthy of your time?

This comes to mind after noticing tonight that I’ve rated over 400 movies on Netflix, yet not one movie review on Amazon.com. Yet both sites – and many more, such as IMDB – offer rating services for movies. In my case, Netflix was the first site that offered an immediate return on the information I contributed. Plus it has a social network where I can let my friends can see what I’ve rated.

I contribute to Wikipedia articles from time to time when I think I can add some value, but without the immediate return I receive from changes to my Netflix recommendations.

And I post comments on at least 100 unique blogs a month in order to join conversations that interest me. My reward here is making contacts with people online who share similar interests.

How do you decide which sites are worth contributing to? Do you seek an immediate or obvious return on your investment of time and knowledge or is implied reciprocity good enough?

My only hope is that someone finds this post worthy of a response. 🙂