Is app.net ‘s Dalton Caldwell the new Zuckerberg? – #blogbus

Dalton Caldwell, 32, is the founder and CEO of app.net but how he got there is a long story. A native from Texas, he went to university in Stanford, Calif., then joined Symbolic Systems in 2003. He was a precursor in social networks (check his bio on wikipedia) at the time (2003) when Friendster was around; he is the creator of Imeem, which was “originally a Skype-modelled Desktop social network in a peer-to-peer approach”.  After multiple incarnations it became a music sharing system, the 75th largest website in the world and “the first legal music downloading system”. Imeem, as it was called, was eventually acquired by Myspace in 2009. Caldwell was also awarded the best mobile app award by Techcrunch as early as 2008, when mobile was unknown to most. Now you start to understand. Dalton Caldwell is a trail-blazer, and anything but the average start-up founder, he is a true wizard, a brilliant mind who is responsible for the latest buzz in social media in the valley … and the rest of the world. Imagine that, he turned down an “acqui-hire” offer by Facebook which could have made him even richer than he already is.

[will app.net turn out to be a home run? photo antimuseum.com]

Now, will app.net replace Facebook and Dalton Caldwell be the new Zuckerberg? If he dons the same kind of hoodies, needless to say his philosophy is entirely different; and I have to admit that I like it a lot … Let’s zoom in on app.net with the notes taken during the interview we had with him last week during the blogger bus tour in Soma*, San Francisco:

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[Dalton Caldwell, the CEO and founder of app.net]

Caldwell launches mobile photo sharing app before Instagram and loses

Caldwell and his teams wanted “to do something which is mobile first”. What with the immense success of applications like Instagram and Pinterest, the focus is on mobile. Facebook is getting to grips with this now that analysts are criticising them for not being able to monetise on mobiles at a a time when users are shifting from Web to smartphones.

Two and half years ago, the team started working on a mobile photo sharing “pre-instagram” application named Picplz. After they raised funds and came to realisation they would only lose the battle against Instagram, they did the right thing, folded Picpliz and went on to the next thing. It often happens like this in Silicon Valley. In the high-tech business, Pivoting moments like this happen all the time. Don’t forget that Google ended up being a search engine after Yahoo! had refused to buy their algorithm (as per the story described in Scott Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation).

Caldwell turns down acqui-hire by Facebook

The team then “took a few shots with the same infrastructure” and of Caldwell’s own accord, “this is why they were able to catch up so quickly with App.net”. The first idea was to help third party developers find how to integrate their apps within Facebook or Twitter. Caldwell’s team started building more tools for the Facebook platform and after opengraph “came to fruition, it all worked so well with Facebook that they wanted to “acqui-hire” them”. Yet, Caldwell “wasn’t enthusiastic” to put it in his own words. A friend of his then suggested not to worry about the websites but to focus on the APIs. This was in 2008-2009. App.net wasn’t yet what it is now.

Social Networks becoming ad companies will shut down their APIs

If most social networks like Twitter and Facebook started off as APIs and helped build entire ecosystems around them, “[they] couldn’t stick to this because of monetisation” Caldwell explained. He then wrote a blog post (What Twitter could have been) on July 1 (a Sunday) in which he vented his frustration. Little did he know that his post would attract a hug following and that he was about to start something new. The blog post “took off, with hundreds of thousands of visits, (even though it only consists of a few paragraphs). In that piece, Dalton Caldwell contends that “every API will be closed by social networks because [popular social networks] went away from being API companies to become ad companies and it means that they have to control everything”.

if they decide to close their APIs, then why not build an API?

“The idea then became to build an API company!” Caldwell went on. “Most people don’t know how bad things are, and they will notice in the next few months that certain applications stop working” he said.

[apps.net : global feed page]

crowd-funding … in a matter of weeks

$-largeThis is how app.net was given a front end which “looks like Twitter looked in 2007” the young entrepreneur added. Just as a proof of concept, for this front-end is not meant to be a Twitter replacement. Developers are proposed to build applications on it. Imagine a social chess game for instance, all built on the common API and digging from the common user base.

The new project son attracted 10,000 users in a matter of weeks. Which means that the $ 500k goal the company had set up for themselves by the end of August. “This is how start-ups work” Dalton Caldwell explained: “if Youtube had launched 6 month later or before it wouldn’t have succeeded. Social media made it happen it wasn’t us. We are just under 20,000 users now. No idea how long it will take for them to have million of users versus the current 20,000. I don’t know how long it will take us to reach millions, maybe it will never do. In fact in depends on whether somebody develops a killer application based on the App.net AP!” he said.

a lot of people got angry

Caldwell admitted to making a lot of people angry; with a few lines he put his finger on a fundamental issue which is plaguing the current development of social media. Social networks were developed with the idea that Marketing could be done differently and barely 3 years ago, the world was buzzing with Tara Hunt’s Whuffie Factor concept, a founding book placing social capital over financial value. With the race to monetisation – which grew even worse with Facebook’s IPO – all of this is gone for good. We are left with advertising and I admit to sharing Caldwell’s frustration; a frustration I had already vented a year and a half ago as President of Media Aces in France.

“We are building a privacy model and we are not going to impose a business model” Caldwell concluded. “Those who build the best apps will be rewarded and there are 6 apps in the application store so far” he said.

embrace the philosophy … well worth $50

It’s hard to tell whether App.net will scale to millions of users like other platforms. As a matter of fact, it’s not even competing on the same level at all. At any rate, for social media veterans like me, Caldwell is spot on in terms of how he approaches social media and it’s well worth $50 in my eyes. After all, app.net may well just remain a social network for the happy few who want to escape interruption marketing and the use of your private data and content by public companies. If only for that, I feel like joining App.net and supporting Dalton and his teams.

Caldwell may not be the next Zuckerberg after all, maybe just the other way round. Small is beautiful!

notes


*Soma = South of Market (downtown San Francisco district situated south of ‘Market’, a major artery in the centre of the City.

scenarios for the future of social media – #blogbus

eye-largeI put this presentation together at very short notice in order to facilitate asession organised by Orange Business Services for its clients. This isn’t therefore a piece of scientific research, far from that, but merely a few random thoughts put together, in the light of what my team and I go through on a daily basis as well as the conclusions from our visits in Silicon Valley (Sept 17-22, 2012) as part of the blogger bus tour (check http://live.orange.com for details as well as Twitter for the #blogbus hashtag).

the Orange Silicon Blogger Bus tourWe got invaluable feedback, visions and first-hand information straight from the horse’s mouth during that trip and this has been very helpful in order to put together this presentation.

Even 10 years after their first introduction (LinkedIn was launched in 2003!), there is still a lot of sniggering or at least doubts with regard to how social media can fit in the business space. Yet, we have established that many a company has successfully managed to use these tools (and the philosophy behind it) to integrate word of mouth marketing into their Marketing strategies. This has been the subject of quite a few presentations which I have uploaded on the http://slideshare.net/orange and http://slideshare.net/ygourven spaces, so I won’t touch on that in today’s presentation.

I will therefore take the fact that social media can be used for business for granted and jump to the part dedicated to the analysis of what I think could well be the future of social media.

note: for those who haven’t yet got to grips with the benefits of social media in business and how it can be implemented, please refer to my slideshare presentation entitled: useful social media: what social media platform for what purpose? available from our slideshare corporate space at http://slideshare.net/orange

The good old days of web 2.0, the cluetrain manifesto, the pioneering days of the social web and social web marketing, those days are well and truly over. 8 years after the term social media was coined by O’Riley, and it may seem like ages ago in “Internet/dog years” actually. Yet… because we are missing these days doesn’t make any difference. The times have changed. let’s face the music and draw our conclusions from then on…

So what is the future of Web? Will the ‘non-searchable adjacent Web’ described by Geroges Nahon replace everything, therefore doing away with net neutrality and turning everything into a commercial space? Or will users flee en masse and start joining new social networks such as app.net?

Here are my thoughts in the following presentation which I will unveil today at midday in Paris in front of our customers.

real influencers in social media may not be those who you think! – #blogbus

On day 3 of the blogger bus tour we had the opportunity to meet face to face with two young start-up managers from San Francisco based Social Chorus an “influence marketing” company named Social Chorus. We were able to spend a whole hour with them and discuss influence, influencers, people-powered marketing and … “the power of the middle”, a concept which I have found particularly appealing.

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Nicole Alvino (above) is SVP and co-founder of Social Chorus, she was “employee number two” in the company. Bobby Isaacson (below), senior Manager, implementation has been as Social Chorus for about three years now (he admitted “feeling like a dinosaur” which sounds strange for such a young man) and does business development that is to say that he sets up partnerships with other companies, in order to be part of their ecosystem.

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Social Chorus (the company was in fact renamed in February 2012 and is the result of the merger of youcast  and the halogen media group) is a social marketing/influencer platform. The main problem the company is solving is that it is virtually impossible for customers to figure out whether influencers are really influential.  This is in essence, what Social Chorus is about: it provides both a tool and service for finding influencers (they might not just be bloggers, but also power twitter users  for instance. There are two offices, one in New York City and one in San Francisco.

NYC and SF: a world of difference…

To European eyes, those two cities might appear very similar but in fact, according to Bobby and Nicole, they are very different. New York is more about media and advertising and agencies, whereas Silicon Valley and San Francisco have always been, at least since the seventies onwards, more about high tech. But this is not all. Mentalities are also very different. Bonding is more difficult in NYC, a very large metropolis where, according to our discussion, people and companies tend to keep things for themselves, rather than share and get together in Californian fashion. And this is what makes all the difference. As I described in my post about Rocketplace, a lot of what happens in Silicon Valley is down to the ecosystem. San Francisco has a leg up in that game. Only Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas are adopting the West Coast spirit our hosts both declared.

social media at the forefront of investment

Start-up investment has changed too according to Nicole. “2 years ago, investment was more into media and advertising, now it’s a lot more about social media” she said. This is changing the ball game, Nicole said, “now that agencies are becoming more social they are tending to move over to SF”.

topical and brand influencers … not who you think

Social Choris is aiming at “brands wanting to become more human and having relationships with influencers” Bobby added. But how do you identify them and how can you tell they are really influential? “it’s a combination of art and science” Bobby went on. “There are topical and brand influencers” he said. Social Chorus will traditionally tap into its 1.5 million influencers database but they might also use Kred and Klout. Sometimes the best influencers are niche bloggers through .

social media influence: the pyramid metaphor

“Imagine a pyramid” Bobby went on: “PR handles the celebs, super fans and topical bloggers are in the middle and at the bottom, you have the vast majority of fans and readers who click and comment”. They might not be bloggers, they could just be twitteres for instance. Social Chorus’s focus of the solution is measuring the impact of a conversation with influencers. Manage the relationship over time.

the “power of the middle”

As soon as I can, I will also post a video interview of Nicole in which she explains that most brands are wrong to focus on just the top celebrities. “This can become pretty expensive soon” she said. I would also add that celebrities are often too self-centred in order to be generous. All middle tier influencers on the contrary are more open and more prone to become brand advocates because they will want to develop a relationship in the long term with the brand.

only 10-20% of agencies are ready to do that for themselves

Social Chorus is working with agencies like Edelman, Ketchum and others. It’s mostly agencies who are delivering this service to clients, but there are a few clients like Gatorade for instance who do this for themselves. “What we find is that the interest in that space exceeds the knowledge of how it works” Bobby declared. As a result, only 10-20% of the brand on average are willing to do this by themselves.

One of Social Chorus’s biggest challenges though is to hire developers; there is a lot of competition for developers. A very skilled developer in the valley can be paid $100 k and even up to $ 200 k if he has very special skills it’s commonly said here. As a matter of fact, as an entrepreneur told me at an after work party last night: “the developer in question might even be paid more than the project manager he reports to!”.

Social Chorus can operate over 3 different countries: UK, US and Germany. They will soon launch a new version in 2013, which will extend the service to other countries.

Intuit: the social media manager who found his job with social media

Intuit is a company offering business financial solutions for small businesses. It has been awarded great distinctions including the great place to work award by Fortune. This presentation was delivered by Björn Ühss, global social media manager at Intuit at the useful social media conference which took place in London last week. It was about the changing landscape and mindset of Social Media:

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[Björn Ühss, in the background, behind Amber Hayward, became Social Media manager after targetting his future employer via LinkedIn adds]

“One of the things that changed is that social media reached the C-suite and it’s more and more of a priority. At Intuit it is coming from the CEO, it’s a business decision” Björn Ühss said. “It’s not a marketing decision and it concerns everyone in the company” he added.

According to Ühss, Edelman ranked Intuit quite high in the hierarchy of companies using social media too. “Starbucks has issued numbers whereby 38% of their fans are more likely to visit the stores when they have seen a branded message” Björn Ühss went on. “Social Media has now reached considerable scales. Besides, Facebook has now become a giant and is on a buying spree like former high tech giants were a few years ago”.

The presenters stressed that the recent IBM CEO 2012 study predicted that in five years’ time, CEOs will be hired not only on their credentials but on their ability to manage their e-reputation and that of their company.

Björn Ühss gave us his check-list on how he got social media implemented at Intuit:

  1. How social is your CEO? lead by example
  2. is your culture ready?
  3. who are your social media supporters?
  4. where are your customers?
  5. what data can you use?

Intuit has also managed to make social media work for sales with £99 sale add campaigns (“despite what people say” both presenters emphasised).

But the most interesting thing maybe is that Björn Ühss himself found his job with the help of social media. He posted adds targeting Intuit executives until they thought to themselves “we’ve got to hire that guy” Intuit’s Amber Hayward, social media marketing manager concluded.

SAP: convincing the CFO that B2B social media can be a benefit

$-largeLast week I had the chance to bump into Sarah Goodall from SAP; I was very pleased to see her at the usefulsocialmedia conference in London one year after being acquainted with her at a marketing conference in London. Sarah is one of our best social media practitioners in the B2B world and I was lucky enough to sneak out of the B2C session and switch rooms to listen to her. Her presentation was about how to convince your CFO about the benefit of social media. Not an easy task, but Sarah knows how to circumvent the issue; here is how:

Sarah Goodall looks after social media for EMEA and she presented on June 26th at the usefulsocialmedia conference in London. “How can social media generate value? I haven’t got all the answers!” Sarah said as an introduction, but she has a few clues which she wanted to share with us.

sarahgoodall

Sarah has worked for small and large companies and knows “how to make things work on a tight budget”. SAP sells software and services to businesses; it is forty years old and it comes from “a traditional marketing background” Sarah said, and moving into social business “is a true cultural shift”. Hence, social media “came as a shock” to SAP according to her and “it helped [them] turnaround the sales cycle” Sarah went on. What it means is that there has been more emphasis on posting content on where customers are getting it rather than push that content over to them. Therefore, the transition is to inbound Marketing “even though we are not there yet” Sarah said, very honestly. “Outbound still represents twice the budget which is spent on inbound marketing” she added.

How to attribute social influence to revenue?

At the very heart of the business, there is the owned SAP community, using Jive internally and an external community with customers. On top of that, there are channels which aren’t owned by SAP such as LinkedIn, Slideshare, Facebook, Twitter etc. The SAP community network is fairly known outside of SAP, and is 3 million big nowadays. “A lot of bloggers are contributing in this community, most of them aren’t part of SAP by the way” Sarah added.

On external platforms, SAP have enough fans to fill in football stadiums several times “but this is still not sufficient for CFOs!” she said. Hard facts are required, more arguments needed. So what will it take to drive the point home? “What the CFO is interested in is the impact on customer value, and the bottom line and it’s tough, I’m not going to lie” Sarah said.

secret sauce

So here are a few of Sarah’s secret recipes for getting CFOs to buy in to social media:

  • Potential cost of R&D saved: if you use the comments and the voting and offset that against the money saved on R&D, this is tremendous. There is also a cost of loyalty and there are savings which can be made.
  • Social commerce: this is a little more tricky because “the SAP sales process doesn’t quite work like that” Sarah said. SAP tried to embed links in LinkedIn and experimented on how Facebook posts can lead to a registration. “It’s not enough to generate revenue” she said “it’s not an exact science but it’s enough to uncover value”. There are also chance engagements, they don’t happen very often, but when a potential customer has been turned into a customer later then it is a great achievement.
  • Social intelligence: “this is a little bit more woolly” Sarah said but you can try and get insights from social media, and it can be shown that click-through-rates can be influenced through social media.
  • Social insight: social media is also useful in order to measure brand health. SAP is monitoring what users are saying about  SAP and their competitors. “There aren’t any numbers but it is useful” Sarah said.
  • Sapphirenow: this is the biggest business conference which is organised by SAP. In Orlando, 15% of twitter handles of delegates were identified, and 25% followed the @sapphirenow Twitter handle. “This is still early stage Sarah said but it is very useful to tie to something related to business and prove it’s useful” Sarah said.
  • Social efficiency: social media saves a lot of money on support and reduces significantly the amount of inbound calls SAP is getting for support. SAP mentors are SAP’s brand advocates and “this is media which can’t be paid for” meaning that it is invaluable. SAP also launched a #suithugger hashtag which brought amazing results.

the right metrics

As a conclusion, Sarah said that “you would have to “communicate the right metrics to the right audience. Don’t show clicks and followers to CEOs! Show how social media is impacting productivity. You can’t really talk of the ‘ROI of Facebook’” Sarah warned.

Pearls of wisdom … does anyone have anything to add to this? I don’t.