Jul 312015

This week showed the disparate

At the time of its IPO in February 2012, Facebook claimed to have 845 million active monthly users. Eighteen months later at the time of their stock market float, Twitter boasted a more modest 232 million.

This week Facebook reported 1.19 billion monthly active users while Twitter still languishes at 300 million, a number that disappointed the market and saw the smaller company’s shares drop 11% after their quarterly earnings announcement.

Even more worrying for Twitter, and competing networks like Google, is Facebook’s success in mobile services with 874 million people accessing the service through their smartphones every day last quarter.

So successful is Facebook in engaging roaming users that some pundits are predicting the company’s Instagram product may well overtake both Twitter and Google in mobile advertising revenues over the next few years.

More concerning for Twitter is the company is still not profitable – of the business’ $957 million gross profit, an astonishing $854 million was eaten up in administration and sales costs which indicates their overheads are in need of some dramatic pruning.

What is clear that Facebook and Twitter have very different user behaviour and, as a consequence, the revenue models are not the same. Twitter is never going to be Facebook.

So the question for Twitter is what does it want to be? Certainly the current quest to drive up revenues seems doomed. Perhaps it’s time to accept the company is a smaller operation and start to plan accordingly.

Jul 122015

New York Times writer Nick Bilton delves into Twitter’s search for a new CEO and comes up with a left of field conclusion – the company doesn’t actually know what it is.

Twitter has certainly been casting around to define itself, particularly after its stock market listing that saw it valued at over twenty billion dollars.

Bilton flags one reason why management is so uncertain about their company’s identity, that it’s directors don’t use the service themselves.

As I see it, the problems at Twitter come down to a lack of leadership and a micromanaging board.

And the churn is constant: many of its founders, chief executives, numerous product directors and other top brass have been fired or pushed out. Three of the eight positions on the current board belong to Mr. Dorsey and the former chief executives. About half of the board barely tweets.

The lack of social media credibility on the board raises another issue about how much direct industry expertise should a company’s directors have. While it’s almost certainly not desirable to have insiders dominate a board certainly some, if not the majority, of directors should have some experience in the industries the company operates in.

For Twitter though they desperately need to define the business and what its valuation really is. Even more pressing is to show how the platform differs from Facebook as the confusion of investors, users and advertisers isn’t helping.

Ultimately as Bilton suggests the direction of a business is determined by the board, it’s time Twitter found at least a few directors who at least use social media, if not have some understanding and experience in the business.

Jun 042015

Five years ago I did a presentation describing how a website was essential for every business’ online strategy.

The Business Cornerstone was delivered at the time where many advisers proclaiming Google Places and Facebook as adequate for building an internet presence.

Over time, the importance of having your own domain and website has been proved as different platforms have messed users around with changing terms, arbitrary rulings and often simply closing down services.

The importance of doing things your own way was underlined yesterday with the announcement by Medium, and Twitter, founder Ev Williams that the company is restructuring and shouldn’t be considered a publishing platform.

For those who’ve published pieces on Medium that the service is not a publishing platform would have come as a surprise given the company has spent the last 18 months encouraging people to contribute to their site.

That Medium is pivoting into something else – a Facebook, an Instagram or a Google Plus – shouldn’t be surprising but once again it illustrates the interests of this services are not necessarily the same as yours and when they conflict it’s your interests that will come off second best.

While platforms like Medium, Facebook and LinkedIn are useful for distributing your message, the best long term online presence you can have is your own website. It’s a lesson those who rely on free third party services keep having to learn.

May 282015
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Paul Wallbank regularly joins Tony Delroy on ABC Nightlife on to discuss how technology affects your business and life.

Along with covering the tech topics of the day listeners are welcome to call, text or message in with their thoughts and questions about technology, change and what it means to their families, work and communities.

If you missed the May program, it’s now available on our Soundcloud account.

For the May 2015 program Tony and Paul looked at some of the gadgets coming out of the Internet of Things, what your social media posts say about you and Mary Meeker’s big Internet Trends report.

Join us

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Australian Eastern Summer time or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to @paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.

May 042015

It’s been a bad week for the social media service Twitter with its stock pounded after the leak of poorer than expected results.

Writer Matthew Ingham says Twitter lost its way five years ago when it started closing down access to third party developers, a move that hurt the service’s growth and user adoption.

Twitter’s move was greeted with disappointment at the time and many developers gave up working on the company’s APIs.

With the growth of third party applications stunted, there was little reason for new users to come on board and so Twitter is now disappointing the market with its results.

Basically Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and his team reaped what they sowed in restricting access; they kept control of their data but it’s cost them users and hurt their share value.

Twitter’s woes show that the economics of  cloud and social media services reward business that share data. While there may be some commercial and legal limits to what information can be shared, the default position should be to make data available.

In an information rich society, those who contribute the most get the rewards. This is the point Twitter’s management missed.

Apr 222015

Over the last few weeks much has been written about Google’s mobile search update that went live on Wednesday, some said it would be the death of small business on the internet while others claimed it would be the end of corporates online.

While all the focus has been on Google’s search changes Facebook quietly made a change that will probably be more vexing for many businesses.

Both Facebook and Google are struggling with making their services more useful for users, with the Google changes the intention is to make search on mobile devices more useful in giving preference to websites that work on smaller screens.

In a post on Google’s webmaster blog, Developer Programs Tech Lead Maile Ohye answered the basic questions about the search engine changes which dispelled much of the hysteria and myths about the update. The main point of Ohye’s post is that Google want to show users useful information.

Facebook have a similar problem, they have to balance the often competing interests of their users and advertisers with the main aim being keeping visitors on their site for as long as possible.

The objective of keeping users engaged is the reason for a series of tweaks Facebook announced this week that change the newsfeed visitors see.

The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you. This means we need to give you the right mix of updates from friends and public figures, publishers, businesses and community organizations you are connected to. This balance is different for everyone depending on what people are most interested in learning about every day. As more people and pages are sharing more content, we need to keep improving News Feed to get this balance right.

Facebook are putting their users priorities first in making sure the news feed is interesting and relevant, which the company believes will entice visitors to spend longer on the site and make advertising more attractive.

If it works then it’s a win for Facebook, their users and those who pay to advertise on the site. Again though, the losers are the companies and brands not advertising who thought they could get views by the quality of their content.

Unless the content is very good, those companies not paying Facebook are in for more disappointment as their reach collapses even further than its current pathetic rates.

Google’s change too is something that puts users first; rather than dumping mobile web surfers onto an unreadable page, they are making sure people get to sites that are useful.

In many ways Google is only encouraging what has been best practice for at least five years, that every site should work equally well on mobile devices as they do on desktop computers.

What Facebook and Google are showing us is the value of putting users’ needs first. If your guests are happy then your business model has a much better chance of succeeding, regardless of who the eventual customer is.

Making business more user friendly should be a priority for all companies in a competitive world.

Apr 202015
Local village

One of the tech buzzwords, or acronyms, a few years back was SoLoMo – Social Local Mobile. In reviewing the slides for the Future Proofing Your Business presentation next week, the term came up in one of the notes.

It’s interesting look at the fates of the three different concepts over the past few years; mobile has boomed and redefined computing and social has become big business with Facebook growing into a hundred billion dollar company.

Local though has struggled with Google, Facebook and a host of smaller and newer startups struggling while the Yellow Pages franchise dies. Despite the power of maps and geolocation, local just isn’t doing as well as the other two.

This could be down to the difficulty in harvesting the massive amounts of disparate data available to any service trying to draw an accurate picture of what’s in the neighbourhood.

Google Places tried to standardise that information for local businesses but the complexity of the service and its opaque, arbitrary rules meant adoption has been slow and merchants are reluctant to update details in case they fall foul of the rules.

Local services’ failure to take off has also had a consequence for the media as its in hyperlocal services that publishers have possibly their best opportunity to rebuild their fortunes.

That failure to properly harness mobile has also hurt merchants as many local operations are struggling to find useful places to advertise given Google Adwords and Facebook can be extremely expensive places to advertise.

So the mobile space is still ripe for a smart entrepreneur – a new Google or Facebook – to dominate.