The Facebook/Google war over your blog's friends

I haven’t added either Facebook Connect or Google Friend Connect yet, but they sure are taking over tons of blogs very quickly. TechCrunch and Gawker both turned on Facebook. So, I asked my readers on FriendFeed for whether they have turned on either and tons of results came in (good resource so you can see how everyday bloggers are using these technologies).

My blog here is hosted on WordPress.com, which makes it difficult to use widgets like these. I want to go back to Matt Mullenweg and ask him which ones he’s going to support (he founded Automattic, which makes and hosts WordPress here).

Anyway, which ones are you using? What have you learned, if you’ve already used them? Have they improved the time spent on your blog? Do your users like having these widgets? Why have some blogs seen more than 2,000 people use them, while other blogs only have a handful of users? (It doesn’t seem to be totally based on popularity of the blog, but might have to do with where they are placed on the page, and how they are talked about on the content of the blog too).

Other questions I have:

1. Is this a winner-take-all game? Will people feel pressured to add both widgets? Will, at some point, they remove one? (I think it is, long term, if they stay similar. I hate clutter on my blog, and if one gets slow, it’d be tossed in a micro-second, and I’m already noticing that the same friends are on both anyway — so why not just get rid of one?).

2. Will there be advertising that appears? Spam? Bad behavior (I saw one obscene icon already). Of course advertising will appear on these widgets eventually. They might say no today, but three years from now? Right. And, even if they don’t put ads on the widgets themselves, they certainly will have an ad sales force that can tell you EVERYTHING about the blogs based on who has visited them.

3. Why is the UI so rudimentary? These are like mini rolodexes and already users are asking for search, list views, and other features because soon the more popular blogs will have 10s of thousands of users in these systems (maybe millions for sites like Huffington Post or TechCrunch) and they are already useless with 2,000 users so soon people will just stop using them unless they evolve quickly.

Anyway, tons of blogs are talking about Google’s addition of Twitter into feeds that integrate into its system. Here’s the best blogs I found on the topic:

TechCrunch: What the Twitter/ Google Announcement Means.
ReadWriteWeb: Google Brings Twitter to Friend Connect.
Social Times: The Social Advertising Race has Begun.

One thing I’ve noticed is that Google is getting picked up a lot more because of the Twitter announcement.

Facebook tears down part of its walled garden

Another thing that Facebook just released is embeddable videos. TechCrunch covers that part.

But they missed how important a change in direction this is for Facebook.

This means that I can embed videos on blogs from Facebook and make those videos available to everyone.

Facebook now is a YouTube competitor and one that has a huge advantage: you know a LOT about the people who publish the videos on Facebook due to their strict rules and the social network — you can click on each person who uploaded video and you can see who their friends are, which is very valuable to knowing whether the person who is publishing video is someone credible and who has authority with other people.

It also means that we no longer have to visit Facebook to interact with an important data type kept there.

To me that’s huge and worth underscoring. Will Facebook continue opening up its walled garden? Interesting to see this in light of Facebook’s other battle with Google over how it’ll open up its social graph data.

Fast Company’s video with Facebook’s Chris Putnam explains the new embedding system along with the new HD video quality they just turned on.

Nice to see Facebook opening up to the Web, though, and tearing down its walls. What do you think?

Where Google and Facebook are fighting the next monetization battle

Think about something you’ve purchased recently. How did you decide to buy that thing?

In my buying behavior I find that I can split it up into three phases:

1. Need generation. This is what happens when someone shows you something you didn’t know you wanted, but that you immediately get interested in. It might be a TV show (how many people will visit China over the next few years because of what they are seeing on TV at the Olympics. I bet a ton).
2. Research. You’ve decided to buy something, say a new car, but now you need to figure out which one is best for you. Some of the things you do here are to ask your friends, look online for reviews, read Consumer Reports, etc etc.
3. Purchase. You’ve decided what you want, now you go looking for the best place to complete the transaction.

Think through to the best businesses on the Internet. Most that I can think of fit into one or several of these three phases.

Google, for instance, makes billions of dollars from advertisers who want to help you complete a transaction. Do a search for digital cameras, for instance, and there you’ll see ads.

But competing with Google is not really possible, even for a huge multi-billion dollar company like Microsoft.

So, since Google has pretty much locked up the last phase, where is the next Internet monetization battle taking place?

Both Facebook and Google are beating each other up to lock up the next phase: social recommendation and participation.

Google calls this FriendConnect.

Facebook calls this “Facebook Connect.”

Yesterday I visited Facebook to get an up close look at Facebook Connect. I had previously attended the Google FriendConnect launch and even videoed that with my cell phone.

It’s interesting, though, that both of these systems haven’t gotten widespread use yet. It’s also interesting that the teams both struggle to explain why a normal business would use these technologies in their own business’ sites. At least in language that a normal person who isn’t a Facebook addict would understand.

So, let me simplify into a single sentence. Adding social networking features to your corporate sites helps your users through the research phase of the buying process.

These will get widespread use over the next few years as stories come out about successes.

But let’s look at one site that’s very close to what I’m talking about.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library.TV.

Now, Gary owns a wine store in New Jersey that is selling about $50 million per year in wine. That means he has the third phase of the buying process nailed down. He’s the Google of the New Jersey wine market.

So, how is he changing his business? (He calls it bringing thunder to the wine industry).

His website and show are TOTALLY about extending his reach into the other phases of the buying process.

His video show creates the need in your head to try more wine. Today’s show gets me to try out some Italian sparkling wine. I had no idea before I watched that show that I needed to try that wine.

Now, notice what happens next. Look at the comments. 136 of them when I wrote this post. You can see the research phase of the buying process happening there. People are recommending different wines than Gary did, or backing up what Gary said, etc.

Now, Gary is WAY AHEAD of most other wine stores. I went to Google and searched for “Wine store” and found wine.com.

But notice that they don’t even get close to creating the need in my head for different kinds of wine that Gary does. Video is unparalleled for creating need for new things.

And, also notice that if you wanted to research Wine that they don’t have the same kind of research community that Gary is building.

Now, could wine.com go past winelibrary.tv in the research phase? Yes. They already are tracking top contributors to their reviews. But using Facebook’s Connect they could go way further: they could tie their contributors into Facebook itself and add all sorts of interesting interactive features. I know that if a friend of mine, like Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, buys a paticular wine that it’ll be good (Loic has great taste in wine).

By making the site more personal and bringing my friend’s choices into a site like this it’ll convert me to more wine sales at a far higher rate than it does today.

But imagine if Gary’s site did that. He already is 90% there (he’s always on Twitter interacting with people and his video show is just so much more of a personal experience than reading the reviews on wine.com).

If I were a marketer I’d be trying to figure out how to stay up with Gary. Why? Well, do you think his viewers are going to price shop Gary? Hell no. How do you stay up with Gary’s concept? Google and Facebook’s new APIs are the way to do that.

What do you think? Are you thinking of using more social features on your website?