Graph Wars: Why Twitter & Facebook Should Call A Truce
Last month, I talked about how the major social platforms are increasingly trying to tie people to their own services, no matter what that might mean for user experience.
As if to prove me right, Facebook then had its very own Valentine’s Day massacre, as well as launching a full-on competitor to Google, whilst Twitter released Vine, a service that seems very similar to a number of others already on the market, including the relatively successful Viddy.
What’s interesting here is that both of these developments highlight how these platforms are trying to create tools that, whilst not unique, are embedded tightly enough into their other services that loyal users wouldn’t want to use anything else.
So, in Facebook’s case, cutting off Voxer seems to show that they plan to make a lot more of their messaging service, presumably to head off all the other messaging services that might start stealing users (and their very valuable data) from the social giant. Data which, lest we forget, powers Graph Search.
Equally, Twitter’s new mobile app Vine, which allows people to create 6-second videos which display perfectly in Twitter Cards, suggests that other video services that currently piggyback off of Twitter probably ought to start thinking about whether they have an alternative business plan.
Twitter has made a lot of the fact that the Vine videos are viewable within a tweet, suggesting that they believe that this will prove to be something of a unique selling proposition. Which will only be the case if other videos, or other videos of that sort of length, aren’t.
As I said in my last post, what this means for brands is hard to define as yet, but I would argue that they should be using the leverage they have to push for platforms to continue to allow some level of cross-compatibility. Spending the time and money to build up content libraries and loyal audiences is much easier to justify if doing so on one platform also allows a brand to engage audiences in other places.
Whilst the platforms might think that they are strengthening themselves by ring-fencing users, and cutting off cross-service support; in fact, they could risk lessening their worth to the advertisers who ultimately pay the bills.
Twitter obviously thinks that lots of people will want to create tiny little videos, and that brands will run after them, creating their own Vines, like moving Instagrams. And, it presumably thinks that this will make its service even stickier.
Facebook, meanwhile, presumably sees definite risk in allowing Vine, and others, to access its social graph (something it’s getting a lot of stick for, despite the fact Instagram did exactly the same last year on more than one occasion.)
But, what’s interesting is that it might actually be necessary for both of them to think about whether they can extract data from sources other than their own, if they really want to build on their existing success.
At present, most of Facebook’s data is still built around the like; it’s their atomic unit of interaction. I’ve said before that I think there’s massive opportunity to make more of Facebook’s decision to open up its system to allow apps to create new interactions: people could socialise the fact that they’ve read a book, that they’ve run a circuit, cooked a recipe, etc.
But, for whatever reason, few brands have taken up this opportunity, and people aren’t really flocking to give more granular details of their daily lives — when was the last time that you checked in somewhere on Facebook?
Google made the world’s most successful search engine by building systems to understand the data that people were willing to create.
Might Facebook not need to look at tapping into existing apps and platforms and the data that people are already sharing, rather than trying to build its own version of everything, if it wishes to build the next generation’s Google?
And mightn’t Twitter be better off if it worked with existing tools that allow self-expression, and concentrated on being the best platform for the delivery of that content, just as Google did with the likes of Google News?
During the halcyon days of the web 2.0 revolution there was a lot of talk of consumers using social media to turn the tables on big brands. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where brands, if they are sensible, will start taking on the social media giants on behalf of the consumers who were supposed to hold all the cards.
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