The Future’s So Bright II

(March 18, 2009) Can you recall the emergence of Google? The financial crash had hit its bottom, the recovery was moving slowly. The ashes of the dotcom era included high rolling Search Engines like AltaVista, Lycos and Northernlight. These companies indexed the web and provided great search results. But, they were never quite enough.

When Google emerged, the buzz was all about the uncanny accuracy of the search results. The competitors provided competent answers. Somehow, Google invented zing in the search output. No one even guessed that it was possible to wow the end user with search results. Although search engines were big before Google, it’s reasonable to say that Google created the market.

Google’s primary brand asset was the delight with which users received their service. Very happy customers generate big word of mouth. Google’s initial success came from showing people what they wanted to see.

That’s the asset they’ve been liquidating. Today, Google search results are composed of things that people want you to see. It’s gone from a medium of discovery by searchers to a medium of discovery by advertisers and marketers. The native results you get from Google today are from people who want you to see them. This is the opposite of the original proposition: things people wanted to see.

Google used that initial bit of user joy to build out a suite of product offerings. Each, in turn, begins with joy that evolves towards utility. It’s the underlying formula for Apple’s success…convert joy into long term customers.

Twitter is doing something different and something similar.

(It is estimated that over 700,000 small businesses are now using Twitter, sending nearly three million messages or “tweets” per day.)

With any technical innovation from ipods to operating systems, an interesting thing happens. The original designers intend for the product to be used in certain ways. Inevitably, users understand the product or service differently and use it as they see fit. Great companies (think Apple app store) follow their customers to the value with periodic fits of leadership.

“The meaning of the software is what the users do.”

Here are four tools that take twitter’s functionality and use it in different ways.

  • TwitterFriends provides a remarkable level of insight into the meaning of your use of Twitter. It measures how people use Twitter along 20 characteristics. It gives you a clear picture of personal (or business effectiveness). TwitterFriends  encourages an introspective look at the utility of your communications on Twitter and offers some ideas for improvement. It’s clear from the way that the data is constructed that there are several types of users. Some look more like publishers and some look more like conversation.
  • HootSuite gives you the ability to manage, schedule and monitor the performance of Tweets. The tool  lets you decide when you want to distribute your information. It shows the number of clicks your tweets generate.
  • facilitates the development of followers on the basis of numbers. It tracks and suggests the names of people who will follow you if you follow them. The race for the largest audience on Twitter, something that propelled network size as LinkedIn developed, rears its ugly head here. It’s reasonably clear that most people will want some differentiation in their followers. But, you can expect to see more of the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ behavior until things settle out a bit.
  • “”>Blellow combines twitter utility and a job board.

The one thing you should notice about these four approaches to Twitter is that they all sort of regurgitate things you already know. Twitter’s real impact is going to come from things you don’t know yet.

I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendfeed. Catch up with me.


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