NCAA March Madness is in full swing, and so is Social Media Madness! We started our own Big Dance with 16, but now the Final Four is starting to come into focus, thanks to all of you who have voted for your favorite social media sites.
Based on the predictions for the winner of Social Media Madness in the bracket below, it looks like Facebook (profiled here), YouTube, Wikipedia (profiled here), and Twitter are all headed for the Final Four.
Who Will be the Social Media King?
Facebook may have an insurmountable lead at this point, but anything can happen. YouTube is second in wins. Hulu has upset Wikipedia on many occasions and still has a chance to make the Final Four. And despite this prediction, Twitter may not make the finals.
The Final Four
This is today's social media goliath. After opening its network up beyond college students in late 2006, Facebook has quickly risen to the top, which is why it's the overall number one seed and the favorite to win it all.
Key Wins: Status Updates and Photo Tagging allow users to easily stay connected throughout the day. Facebook is the most-used photo-sharing platform in the world, having more activity than all other photo sites (Ofoto, Flickr, Snapfish, etc.) combined. Facebook Connect allows users to use their Facebook login on various sites (e.g., CNET) to post comments and reviews. They have 175 million users in 170 countries in 35 different languages.
Key Losses: The poorly handled releases of some new product offerings like Beacon haven't helped assuage privacy concerns. Beacon follows user purchase behaviors around the Web and in one instance alerted a girlfriend that her boyfriend had purchased an engagement ring on Amazon. Blocked by Syria and Iran. Still struggling to find a sound revenue model.
Business Use: Setting up fan and group pages is a good way for loyal users to engage and take ownership of your brand. Victoria's Secret has more than1 million fans and Barack Obama has close to 5.5 million fans.
Coach: CEO Mark Zuckerberg is only 24 years old and has this Palo Alto company valuation at around $3.75 billion (down from $15 billion).
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to post their latest updates. An update is limited by 140 characters and can be posted through three methods: Web form, text message, or instant message.
Key losses: Twitter still hasn't figured out a good way to make money. Server issues and downtimes have been greatly improved, but they're still an issue. Facebook's new design is very similar to Twitter and could chew into Twitter's market share. While moms are joining Facebook, Twitter is still primarily used by celebrities, companies, and the technorati.
Business Use: At a minimum, companies should use search.twitter.com to see what's being said about their product. Zappos, JetBlue, CNN, EF Tours, Skittles, and Comcast are good examples of companies that understand the business use.
Coach: CEO Evan Williams, who founded Blogger and later sold it to Google, is headquartered in San Francisco.
YouTube is the leader in online video, sharing original videos worldwide through a Web experience. YouTube allows people to easily upload and share video clips across the Internet through Web sites, mobile devices, blogs, and e-mail.
Key wins: The dominant online video destination. Purchased by Google in October 2006 for $1.65 billion only a year after launch.
Key losses: Hulu and others will prove to be stiff competition in the future as all television and entertainment content moves online. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has admitted that YouTube has struggled to monetize. Perception by Fortune 500 companies is that it's neither easy nor brand-friendly to advertise on YouTube. Have been sued by Viacom.
Business Use: Companies need to leverage their customer base enthusiasm for their product and showcase these videos on YouTube. Anything companies can do to encourage this type of behavior will help spread their brand awareness. Attempting to develop something viral is very difficult to do within internal marketing departments.
Coach: YouTube was founded in 2005 by CEO Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, and is now owned by Google. It's headquartered in San Bruno, California.
Key Wins: Almost pervasively the number one search result in Google for any topic or public figure related search query. As a result of Wikipedia's success, Encyclopedia Britannica recently adopted a hybrid of the Wikipedia model.
Key Losses: The technology isn't the most user friendly. It would be difficult for the general Internet population to quickly and easily figure out how to thoroughly update and edit; perhaps this is by design. Just like with DMOZ a few years back, the people who have earned editor status have too much power and they love to use it. For the longest time, CNET's Tom Merritt, Molly Wood, and Jason Howell were scrubbed by editors. Are you kidding? Wikipedia also makes a habit of blacklisting blogs. For niche topics, the accuracy can be less than reliable.
Business Use: You need to know what is written about your company and make appropriate, non-hyperbolic edits. If you can optimize for search, all the better.
Coach: CEO Jimmy Wales founded the company (along with Larry Sanger) in January 2001, and is based in San Francisco.
Other Social Media Players
Flickr is a video and photo-sharing site that has two main objectives: help people make their content available to the people who matter to them, and enable new ways of organizing photos and video.
Key wins: Yahoo purchased Flickr for $35 million in March 2005. Sites like Snapfish and Ofoto made it difficult for users to easily share photos, which has benefited Flickr. Flickr has expanded into video sharing.
Key losses: Facebook has quickly overtaken Flickr as the top photo-sharing destination. What's their long-term revenue model?
Business Use: Companies should set up accounts to host appropriate video and photos. This is a particularly helpful tool when running photo contests as its inherent sharing capabilities enable user-generated photos to be quickly distributed to your company site as well as other social media sites.
Coach: Owned by Yahoo, cofounded in 2004 by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, who left Yahoo last summer. Now run by Kakul Srivastava, a part of the Flickr team since Yahoo acquired it four years ago.
Delicious is a social bookmarking Web site. It's used to store bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too.
Key wins: Got rid of the hard-to-remember del.icio.us URL. Tags allow you to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders. Acquired by Yahoo in 2005 for an estimated $10-$15 million.
Key losses: Founder Joshua Schachter left January 12 to join Google.
Business Use: Easy for employees in the same department to keep track of relevant sites and articles. Also for content and entertainment producers it's an easy way to determine which articles/postings the general public finds most relevant.
Coach: Managed by Yahoo, Sunnyvale, California.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows members to create business contacts, search for jobs, and find potential clients.
Key wins: With more than 30 million users representing 150 industries, they have a virtual monopoly on the professional networking field.
Key losses: Users aren't active. The network isn't "sticky." They use the site for specific periodic needs.
Business Use: This will be the place in the future where almost all jobs are searched for and found. It's important for companies to establish a respectable and polished presence as well as begin to build out their network. This includes everyone from human resources to company leaders and executives.
Coach: Reid Hoffman is the CEO, based out of Mountain View, California.
Orkut is a social networking service that is run by Google and named after its creator, Turkish Google engineer Orkut Buyukkokten.
Key wins: Dominates the social network market share for Latin America, in particular Brazil. It's also arguably the most popular social network in India and the second most visited site.
Key losses: Over dependent on Brazil (58 percent of its users). Not contributing much revenue to Google, which is looking to eliminate underperforming business units.
Business Use: Great play for companies heavy in Latin and South America.
Coach: Owned by Google, Mountain View, California. In August 2008 announced that Orkut hosting would be moved from California to Brazil.
Yammer is often described as the internal social network for businesses, or the Twitter for business. It's the self-professed water cooler, allowing employees to update other employees about articles and events (free bagels in kitchen), which is much more efficient and effective than e-mail. It allows e-mail to be saved for items that require a response and eliminates cc: abuse.
Key wins: Cisco, Xerox, and Hewlett-Packard all use it to help increase conversation and communication between employees while reducing meetings. Access is limited by company e-mail address.
Key losses: Is this really increasing business productivity or simply adding one more inbox that employees need to check?
Business Use: Sign-up is easy and free. Rather than answer the Twitter question "What are you doing?" employees answer the question "What are you working on?"
Coach: PayPal co-founder David Sacks, West Hollywood, California; originally built as an internal tool for Geni -- it was so effective that they made it public in 2008.
Digg is a social bookmarking site. After content is submitted other people "Digg" what they like best. Stories that receive enough Diggs are promoted to the front page.
Key Wins: Attracts at least 236 million visitors annually, according to Compete. Founder Kevin Rose was on the cover of BusinessWeek.
Key Losses: Have faced a user revolt as a result of some companies gaming the system. BusinessWeek reported that Digg lost $4 million on $6.4 million of revenue in the first three quarters of 2008.
Business Use: Don't try to game the system. This will end poorly. Follow what your customers/readers find of most interest and adjust product/services/content accordingly.
Coach: CEO Jay Adelson is based out of Digg's San Francisco headquarters.
Hulu is NBC Universal and News Corporation's online video joint venture. The site focuses exclusively on professional content and serves the video within an embedded player on Hulu.
Key wins: Advertising brand recall is higher in Hulu than on traditional TV networks as a result McDonald's, BestBuy, HP, ALPO, etc. have made large media buys. One reason is they tell the user there will be a 30-second commercial and shows the seconds counting down. Avoids the Tivo/DVR issue. Hulu served about 221 million streams to about 7.5 million unique visitors in November, up from 206 million videos and 9 million unique visitors in October.
Key losses: Hulu may turn out to be the Napster of online video viewing. They're victims of their own success as entertainment providers crack the privacy whip.
Business Use: Achieves great brand recall and awareness for companies willing to get creative.
Coach: CEO Jason Kilar spent almost a decade at Amazon.com before heading up this Los Angeles-based venture.
Hi5 is a social network site similar to Facebook, Orkut, and MySpace. According to comScore, in 2008 hi5 was the third most popular social networking site in terms of monthly unique visitors. Ranked as a top 20 Web site globally and the number one social network in more than 30 countries across Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Available in 37 languages.
Key wins: As of February, hi5 claims to have more than 80 million active members, which is up from 60 million in December. Hi5 claims to be number one in the Spanish speaking community.
Key losses: For how successful hi5 has been they do not get much press -- primarily due to it's limited U.S. market share. In Thailand, where they have a solid market share, users are starting to use Facebook, even though Facebook isn't specifically tailored for the Thai market. Is this a sign of things to come?
Business Use: It's very important for global companies to test and play in the Latin and Asian markets, where hi5 has significant market share.
Coach: Privately held firm is steered by founder and CEO Ramu Yalamanchi out of San Francisco.
MySpace is a popular social networking site that lets friends share, message, and stay connected. It launched January 1, 2004.
Key wins: Started social network craze. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation acquired MySpace in June 2005. In August 2006, signed a $900 million dollar deal with Google to be the exclusive search provider. Profitable.
Key losses: A poor technology platform has limited advancement of the product and allowed competitors like Hi5 and Facebook to overtake them in various markets. Google deal expires next year.
Business Use: If you're a celebrity or band, MySpace is the place you want to be to promote yourself.
Coach: Cofounder and CEO Chris DeWolf steers the company from Los Angeles.
Livemocha is a hybrid between social network and a language learning Web site.
Key wins: Has the backing of Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz, which may be why the name is closely related to coffee. Limited competition; LiveMocha competes with italki, a China-based startup offering similar services.
Key losses: Not much brand awareness. Still in beta mode. Overwhelming number of Chinese attempting to learn English don't have enough English friends trying to learn Chinese.
Business Use: Most applicable for travel and offline language learning tools. Also, this is a great free way for employees trying to learn a language for business reasons.
Coach: CEO and Chief Roaster Shirish Nadkarni enjoys his coffee in Bellevue, Washington.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!