3 posts categorized "Social Networks"

09/26/2011 Instagr.am – Maybe the Best Social Network?

I admit it: I’m late to the Instagr.am game. Yes, I signed up when it went live but I rarely used it. Over the past few months, though, I’ve become slightly addicted to it and I think it may be the best social network around. 

For those of you who don’t use it yet, Instagr.am lets you share photos from your smart phone with people following you. It allows you to “like” or comment on others’ pictures. It’s kind of like a visual Twitter, but instead of 140 characters of text, the stream is completely visual.

Of all the social platforms I use, this one feels the most intimate. Perhaps it’s because people share a lot of pictures of their kids and family. Or maybe it’s because there are so many pictures of what people are eating (it feels like there are more pictures of food than anything else!). 

And honestly, I’m completely blown away with the artistry some people are able to capture on their phones. Maybe they just have a better artistic eye than I do or maybe their phones are better (iPhone 5 can’t come a minute to soon for me). Some days I feel like I’m viewing a Still Life with Social exhibit. Just beautiful. 

I think my hesitancy grew out of two things. First, because this feels closer and more intimate, there’s a brief element of voyeurism here. It’s more than either Facebook or Twitter, since it’s pictures, not links or Farmville notices. You’re following what other people see, not think or boast. Initially it felt a little too close for me, and I also hesitated about what I would share myself.


For that reason, I didn’t want to have all of the same people in my Twitter stream (or even on Facebook) on my Instagr.am stream. I have a pretty small Instagr.am crowd; it’s closer to the size of my Facebook than Twitter. And even though I don’t know all the people I’m following very well, I feel like I know them a LOT better through their pictures than I did through their blogs or Tweets.

The one catch with Instagr.am is that it lacks a good desktop app. Instagr.am is built for the mobile platform. There are a few third-party apps that others have built, including a free Web module called Inkstagram. Living in Vermont with its spotty mobile coverage means I prefer desktop versions to mobile. Because of Instagr.am, though, I’m getting over it.

These days, when I open up my iPhone or iPad, the first thing I look at is what pictures other people have posted. I get a taste of different cities, countries and activities. It’s by far my most vibrant and interesting social stream.

If you’re not on it yet, you should start. And if you are, I hope to see you there.


08/01/2011 Why Google+ isn’t Twitter

I’ve spent the last few weeks toying with Google+. I admit, I’m not going into it full steam, but wading in and seeing if it provides enough value to stay. One of the big things I’ve noticed is that I seem to spending an inordinate amount of time trying to group people I already know from Twitter into different circles. And maybe that’s why I’m not really feeling the love, yet.

I find myself longing instead for those early days of Twitter. It was a time to connect with new big thinkers in my industry or people who I had blog-followed for years. People who seemed remote were suddenly available for contact. I found a lot of smart people I didn’t know existed. Following and conversing with them made me better and smarter.

It was a heady time. I found as much pleasure in connecting with people around the world as I did in watching them find each other. It resulted in lots of in-person connections that developed some pretty strong interpersonal ties. I saw it happening at conferences and especially at SXSW.

There’s a chance that Google+’s threaded conversations will make it easy to discover people who I should be connected to, who will have interesting ideas and comments, but who I don’t know of yet. Hopefully that will happen. It hasn’t yet.

Right now the questions for me of this new social network boils down to: is it a place where I’m supposed to more easily connect with my existing network? If so, it’s not really that easy to move my Twitter lists and friends to Google+. Or is it a place to connect with new people? It if is, it’s not really working so well.

Ultimately, I’m looking to use social networks to keep me connected to and informed by lots of really smart people who don’t necessarily live in my immediate area. It’s not to follow big swinging +s whose comments produce an endless thread of responses.

For me, the jury on Google+ is still out.

Screen shot 2011-08-01 at 2.39.00 PM

12/20/2010 Digital Growth: Scale or Jobs?

Investors are flocking back to digital, after surviving one dot com bubble ten years ago. Venture capitalists are pouring money into social networks looking for the next big thing. What does the next big thing look like?

Right now it probably looks like Facebook or Twitter, two social networks that have the advantage of scale. What that means is that they are built on relatively simple platforms geared for growth. The more people who participate in these social networks, the larger the platforms grow. The best thing about these investments, from a VC standpoint, is that you don’t need to scale up the number of employees to match the growth of the platform.

The value of these scalable social networks is size and a promise: once the network gets big enough, you can monetize it (eyeballs being the operative word ten years ago, while today we use engagement).

On the other hand, there are a few social companies that don’t scale well. James Surowiecki wrote a telling article about Groupon in this week’s New Yorker. Groupon’s product is labor intensive. They need to find deals and then help promote them. Groupon has 40 million subscribers and 3,000 employees. The scalable Facebook, on the other hand, has 500 million users and 2,000 employees.

One big difference is that Groupon has made money from the get go. So if you were an investor, would you invest in the sexy promise of scale, or the slower, profitable labor-intensive value? 

To be honest, after reading that article, I have even greater respect for Groupon. Why? Because they’re providing the jobs we need in the digital sector. That’s something we usually don’t talk about all that often. Yes it’s great that Twitter and Foursquare can start up with a few people. But it will be really great when they provide hundreds or thousands of digital workers with inspiring jobs.

The digital age has made us nothing if not impatient. We want things bigger, faster and cheaper. The Groupon story also poses a good question for all of us:

What type of business are you building? For quick scaling or growth through jobs?

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