This post was going to focus, primarily on Dehood, but since writing part two of this series, I fell into a new world of the Social Web companies from all over the world and I have discovered they fall mostly into 5 buckets:
- sharing stuff
- rating stuff
- measuring stuff
- organizing stuff
- selling stuff
All of that is great for marketers. The more people participate in all of that stuff, the more information marketers have on the participants, so it's easy to sell stuff, which is the biggest part of the Social Web. That's where it leaves a lot of people out of participation because there is so much emphasis on the latter, that the rest seems to be rather manipulative.
That's a big problem because the whole point of the web, in the first place, is to bring people together and the social movement has been co-opted by the sales departments of the corporate world. If you pay attention to the big players in the Social Web industry -- Facebook, Twitter... and everyone else -- you will notice that in the beginning, making money was not the primary driver. The passion was about doing something new; about communicating with your local community. Facebook started out as a way for Harvard students to connect in meaningful ways (well, at least as an easy way to hook up on the weekends) and then expanded to Boston-area colleges, then colleges nationwide, etc. Twitter launched as a means of helping people attending SXSW connect and communicate at the event. Selling stuff and meeting complete strangers in distant lands was secondary.
Now, however, when a social web company launches, they want to go big, right away. The VCs push them for that. The press clamors for it. And when you go to social web events (and I've been to three in the past month) that's what everyone talks about... well, almost.
There is that pesky location-based service issue, which is what I started writing about. Some of these services, like Foursquare, have fallen into the social web hype maelstrom and are trying to be as big as Facebook right away, but their value proposition is not about building community, but about the first and fifth buckets. In the process, they also do some of the other three. And after you have become the mayor of several places and spent all your disposable income, there is not much left. People who are status addicts are still entranced by the game, but when you get out into the streets, you find something different altogether.
I am involved in international business. I have relationships with people I have never physically met but enjoy rousing conversations with them on many subjects, all through social media. But I'm involved in my local community and my neighborhood. I actually know and am close to several neighbors. And when I shop, the first place I look is local. That's what it means to be in a community, and that's where the Social Web comes up wanting for the larger market.
In the past year, I have been able to show many people and businesses how to use social media to expand their local presence, but in every case, I have to show them how to jury rig currently available social media to make it work for them. Over the past few weeks, however, I have found a sixth bucket of the Social Web that is trying and succeeding in focusing their product to build real relationships around you, not virtual relationships online; companies that are putting the Social Web in the hands of the rest of us.
I interviewed some of these companies at TechCrunch Disrupt a few weeks ago and a few I got on video. What makes them stand out to me is that they are making applications that can be important for many of the people on the top of the adoption bell curve to see the value in this mobile based economy.
That last point is what is so very important for all of us. Right now smart phones are all the rage. It seems sometimes that the entire world is snapping up iPhones, iPads and Android phones. The reality is, actually, they are not. With all the hype about this stuff, smart phones have yet to jump the chasm into mainstream adoption. Even iPhone sales have penetrated less than 6 percent of the available market. That's because the benefit of the technology is the ability to use apps and there is no compelling reason to use apps yet, other then they are cool and attractive to early adopters.
This new bucket of Social Web companies is approaching specifically the section of the market that just can't see the value in smart phones. How they are doing it will be very profitable, but at the same time, very altruistic.
And that's what we are going to look at next.