How late adopters get into social media

See, the early adopters are forgetting to study how the late adopters actually do get involved in our worlds.

Those in the social media worlds seem to often forget that it’s still a Google World. Most normal people who aren’t frantically checking FriendFeed or Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn all day long are just hanging back doing 1998-style searches for stuff. And most of those, in my experience, are using Google. So I call it a Google World now for late adopters.

Lately a BUNCH have showed up here looking for info about recession. I couldn’t figure it out, until I looked at my referer log, then looked at Google.

Here, do a Google search for “recession 2008.”

Hundreds of people do that, or one for just plain old “recession” every day for MONTHS.

Welcome late adopters.

OK, OK, I see that people are saying that we should stop calling our latest economic troubles a recession because, well, technically we’re not in a recession.

So, we need a new term for what we’re going through.

We’re not jobless, but our paychecks in the US are worth less and less every day thanks to a combination of dollar weakness and oil price increases.
Our home prices, according to Zillow and our neighbors have gone down so much that we won’t be able to sell our home and come out ahead anymore. Our equity is gone, and that’s if you’re one of those who still can afford to make payments. If you are one of the unlucky ones who didn’t plan ahead you now are renting some cruddy apartment and your credit is in the toilet.
We’re still paying for a war by printing more funny money, which means there will continue to be pressures on our economy.

Maybe we’re not in a recession, but we’re in a deep hole of economic dung. DHED. You heard it first here.

If you’re a late adopter and don’t know about all that newfangled RSS stuff, not to mention you haven’t heard of Twitter yet, not to mention FriendFeed, that’s OK. We love you just the same. Hope you visit again sometime thanks to the wonderful quirky Google World.

Oh, and if you are a late adopter and you see this thing called FriendFeed over on the right side of my blog? Ignore it. You won’t need to know much about it for at least six more years. Not to mention, don’t think of watching those FastCompany.tv videos we’ve been shooting. Someone might see you watching videos and think you’re on YouTube or something.

Microsoft's real problem

I almost wrote a very long blog post telling Microsoft how it could get back into the search business. In response to all this stuff in the Wall Street Journal and on TechMeme about how Steve Ballmer is telling employees that he thinks he can guide Microsoft into the advertising business without buying Yahoo.

I got about halfway through that long post and I just deleted it. Why? Because they don’t care to listen. So why am I wasting my time talking at 1:30 a.m. to a few billionaires and a bunch of arrogant coders who think they built something of value when, in fact, they’ve just built second-rate Web sites (Windows Live Spaces anyone, sorry, it sucks even if there are 100 million of them) who don’t have a clue about how to get back into the search game and who are never going to have a clue?

I’m bored. Microsoft buying Yahoo is just going to be very boring for users for a long time. Why? Even if things go perfectly it’ll take six to 12 months to get approval by EU and DOJ. And they won’t go perfectly. Even after the deal is done it’ll be another six to 12 months before these two cultures get together in any significant way. So, that’s a year to two before we even see anything non-boring.

I find that Google listens a lot more than Yahoo or Microsoft does. Google has left billions of dollars on the table that it will go after over the next year, if they are as smart as I think they are.

Where are those billions? Well, let’s just look at one tiny little sliver of Google’s system that it’s left alone. Google Travel. That page sucks. Think about how you decide to take a trip. Does that page help? Not really. No video. No cool people telling you about interesting places. No personality. No branding. No interesting Web services.

And the big brand travel sites aren’t any better. Now, what about parenting? Other activities?

This is why Facebook is so interesting as a business. Facebook has some inherent advantages to creating market need that no one else is even attempting to do. Ask Jeff Pulver how he gets hundreds of people to show up to his breakfasts all over the world. He just opens up a Facebook page and writes what he’s doing.

Or, ask any winery how much of an impact this small little video show is having on their business. The red carpet rolled out on our little wine tasting trip told me everything I needed to know about its impact.

Funny, Microsoft just bought Farecast, which is one piece of what I’m thinking about, but will Microsoft do anything innovative with it? I think it’s distracted with this purchase. Too distracted to do anything soon enough to keep the newbies like Mahalo and the Googlers’ from figuring it out.

I just don’t see Microsoft and Yahoo making any serious moves into search or advertising that comes off of search, do you? Yet I see that Google is weak in other areas (and I told them such when I met with them the other day — they listened, and that listening behavior told me they know that they are going to see more growth in non-search areas if they execute well). It stuns me why Ballmer isn’t going after those areas (as bad as Google’s Travel page is, Microsoft’s is worse) instead of spending billions trying to buy Yahoo, who clearly doesn’t want to be purchased (Farecast, again, was an interesting purchase, but only if put inside a bigger strategy).

Unfortunately Ballmer is hamstrung by two things: 1. the returns that they need to see to have any real effect on the bottom line are so huge that it causes Ballmer to have blindness to small things and 2. they really don’t have that many people working there who really grok the Internet. Think about that for a second. If you really knew how to build a scalable web site, wouldn’t you be joining Facebook or FriendFeed right now instead of toiling inside Microsoft where they can’t even seem to execute on a purchase of Yahoo very well? Heck, just reading Mini Microsoft tells you that things aren’t being seen well from inside the walls. Yeah, there are those inside Microsoft who are happy with the way things are going, but I’m hearing more and more screams lately from inside the walls. I hope to learn more when I go to Seattle June 10-13 to visit Microsoft and learn more about the Internet strategy (which is becoming more interesting on several fronts like what Scott Guthrie, tools, Ray Ozzie, Mesh and infrastructure, and Dean Hachamovitch, IE, teams are doing).

I don’t see the Yahoo acquisition ending well for Microsoft but I’m losing my will to care anymore and I’m not the only one. THAT is Microsoft’s real problem.

Google: take the money off the table — build great niche search sites around topics like travel, wine, parenting, housing, automobiles, etc. You have a year to do it before Microsoft can even START to figure out where you’re weak.

Too bad that Ballmer didn’t have a vision for the Internet. Imagine if Microsoft started doing some really great niche sites with its $40+billions? Imagine that…

Why Microsoft Live Mesh will fail with early adopters

OK, OK, forget for a moment that many early adopters are serious Mac fans and are trying to wash Microsoft out of their hair.

I’ve stumbled onto what really is challenging for companies that want me to load software onto my computer: when something goes wrong we start uninstalling everything to see if there’s something the matter. And things with limited utility are gonna stay uninstalled.

Joel Spolsky said this yesterday about Live Mesh, but came at it another way.

I just had a problem with Skype video and I uninstalled everything to see if I could get my system to behave. Guess what? After uninstalling 10 things Skype video works great. I need Skype video a lot more than I need backup.

So, guess what goes? Everything but Skype video.

Fail. And we wonder why most of what gets the hype lately is Web sites? Here you go. Sorry Ray Ozzie.

The really interesting FriendFeed page to watch

You’ve seen my ego feed on FriendFeed. It’s the one on the right side of the page on my newly-redesigned blog. You know, that’s where you can find all the crap that +I+ have done on the Internet. All my Google Reader shared items. All my Qik videos. All my Twitters. All my Flickr photos. All my Fast Company videos. And a ton of other stuff all show up on my ego feed.

But that page really isn’t really that important for you to watch.

There’s one FriendFeed page that is FAR more important: the one where you can see YOUR stuff that I’ve liked and commented on. Why is that more important? Well, it’s where you’ll find a lot of new stuff from other people. It is where I signal to you what I think is important to pay attention to (which is quite a database, if you look at it along with my ego feed, since that includes all sorts of cool stuff I’m seeing come through my Google Reader feed).

If you haven’t figured out yet how to see this page for everyone, just look at this URL:

http://friendfeed.com/scobleizer/discussion (replace “scobleizer” with the name of your favorite person on FriendFeed).

I thought about embarrassing most of the A listers on FriendFeed, because very few of them actually read that many blogs (I can tell, they rarely comment on, or link to, or FriendFeed with other people’s blogs).

One guy who does it well? Louis Gray. Is it any wonder that Louis is moving up the TechMeme Leaderboard (he’s currently 37, ahead of Wired News)? It’s not to me.

The best way to become a great blogger is demonstrate you listen to other people. FriendFeed is BY FAR the best way to do that.

Are you listening? How many things have YOU liked or commented on this week?

Early adopter angst

Dang, there has been a spate of early adopter angst lately.

Just read Alex Vanelsas to see a good example.

Today Frederick over at the Last Podcast gets into the act, writing “I kept wondering if the gap between early adopters and mainstream users isn’t expanding more and more and what that means for services that cater mostly to early adopters.”

Over the last few days I’ve seen another misconception: that Twitter is only Silicon Valley people talking to themselves. Do a search for “Silicon Valley” on Tweetscan and you’ll see a few of those. That misconception is easy to disprove: just watch Twitter Vision for a few minutes and you’ll see that very few Twitterers are in Silicon Valley.

There ARE huge differences between early adopters and others. I was in Alana Taylor’s Ustream channel the other night and many people there told me they like hanging out there “because people understand what I’m talking about here.”

In other words, when someone says to “Tweet that” you don’t get blank stares, or, worse, derision.

If I get arrogant about the role of early adopters (some people call them influencers, or “passionates”) it’s because I’ve seen they are the ones who drive society. You really think that guy who I saw the other day on the plane using Windows 2000 and an old version of Lotus Notes is driving society? Riiiigggghhhhtttt.

I’ve seen this discussion happen EVERY TIME there’s a new technology. I remember back in 1977 that only nerds could use personal computers. Very few people (not even Steve Jobs or Bill Gates) understood just how big that would become.

I remember the days when email was only used by the nerds who had access to Unix terminals at universities or research labs.

I remember the days when people said “IM would never be used in enterprises.” Today it’s built into Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange. Seriously. They did say that.

I remember the days when the World Wide Web was only for nerds who did physics at places like CERN and weird kids who went to Stanford. I remember people actively betting against the Web. Luckily the guy I worked for, Jim Fawcette, saw its promise early in 1994 and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build one of the first publisher’s Web sites. That investment is why I’m here today.

Today the angst is onto things like Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. Even older Web 2.0 properties like Flickr haven’t really gone mainstream. Last week we spent some time with Ansel Adams’ son. He had never heard of Flickr. Ansel Adams son!!! That dude should be the first that photo sharing sites pitch, since he’s always talking to press about photography and his company does tons of classes for photographers in Yosemite and other places. Heck, Flickr should figure out how to sponsor the Ansel Adams’ Gallery. But they don’t.

Why not? Because convincing late adopters to change their behavior is VERY hard and VERY expensive. It’s why Amazon doesn’t do TV advertising. Rather they build a product that early adopters, passionate computer geeks, and influencers like.

How does that affect their business performance? Well, compare Best Buy’s price/earnings ratio to that of Amazon’s. According to Google Finance Best Buy’s is 13.91 and Amazon’s is 67.03. I know which one I’d rather have.

Early adopters DO matter. Anyone who says that they don’t needs to go back to business school.

This is why I follow 20,000 Twitterers. I want to study what early adopters are doing and thinking. Twitter is the best place — by far — to do that.

That’s not to say that business people should forget about the late adopters. They are going to be the ones you need to see huge profitability and growth. I guarantee you that most of Ansel Adams’ business is among late adopters now. But then his business has been in Yosemite for 102 years and has one of America’s best-known brands. If you’re building a business today you don’t have those advantages. Your best option is to follow eBay, Amazon, Google, Flickr, Facebook, etc by talking and understanding early adopters first. Why? They are passionate and want to see something new. That guy with the Windows 2000 old Dell laptop? He isn’t looking for anything new. He isn’t going to adopt your newfangled service.

But the people on Twitter and FriendFeed and Facebook and MySpace and LinkedIn and Plaxo? They have already told you they are willing to try new things. Therefore they are probably going to be willing to try your new thing too.

We’ll be talking about this in 20 more years when some newfangled thing comes out, though. Most people have no clue about the role of early adopters, and/or totally misunderstand early adopters and/or even lie about them, hence the “only Silicon Valley people are on Twitter” meme.

While we’re talking about Twitter, Yuvi, the wonderkid in India, did an analysis of my usage of Twitter that’s pretty interesting.