Monday, April 25, 2011

Should social networking/marketing be decentralized (a positive experience)?

There is a lot of talk about social marketing these days.

Some feel it is the next big thing -- pushing the valuation of Facebook to billions of dollars.

Others worry that it might be a bubble that will leave us with no real infrastructure or innovation gains when it bursts, and that the best and brightest among us are wasting their time and skill trying to get people to click on ads.

I don't know how social marketing will evolve, but I do know that it did not begin with Facebook. Amazon was one of the first to capitalize on social media -- their user-written reviews surely contributed to their outstripping Barnes and Noble back in the earliest days of online book selling.

I was reminded of the early days of Amazon because I just had a positive social shopping experience there. I went to the Amazon Web site to find a book, but found a book reviewer instead. The reviewer's name is J. Marsano. He did not like the book I was looking for, but I liked something about his review, so I started browsing through his other reviews.

When I read his review of a picture book on Greek Mythology, I ordered it for my grandchildren. I bought the book without hesitation because I had gotten to know Marsano through his reviews. I learned that he lived in Brooklyn, was a fourth grade teacher, had an ipod, worked on boats, was married, was going to get a pet rabbit, bought his wife an ipod docking station for her birthday, etc. It felt nice -- I liked and trusted the guy. So, I took his advice and bought the book.

The process was almost perfect -- it served my purpose and Amazon's.

Only one glitch -- I had a question, and would have liked to send Marsano a message -- to ask for a recommendation for a kids book on Norse mythology. I could not do that through Amazon, so I had to ask it in a comment on his review and hope he sees it. Kind of like putting a note in a bottle and thrown into the sea.

Do we really need to centralize our social marketing and media in Facebook or anywhere else? Would it be better to decentralize -- to add social networking as a feature wherever it is relevant?


  1. Larry,

    I've been thinking about your comments here and they resonate, as does the article you quoted from Business Week.

    Years ago I was a tech recruiter toward the back-half of the dot com boom. I was uneasy at the end because I felt, as I said many times, that I was recruiting the best and the brightest to "find new ways to make websites blink," as I put it at the time.

    To be sure, I was likely imagining the groves of academe to be somewhat fuller than they are--sources tell me they've seen some zealous pruning--but I never shook the sense of unease and intellectual betrayal.

    Our oblique connection through Amazon does suggest that there is something to the hype of the 'social revolution', however. The signal to noise ratio of the web is lower than it's ever been, no doubt--and I am remembering back to the days of Usenet here--but shining gems remain hidden.

    Has the 'playing field' been 'leveled'? I think that's thoughtless hype. However, rating systems like Amazon's, which are comprehensive and well built out, do shift attention away from the product as a thing and shift the value to a product's use in context. The buyer has more (potential) information and can influence purchasing decisions.

    Another proof of the power of the social dimensions of the web is the growth of an old industry: publicists' services, once reserved only for corporations and public figures, now reach out to individuals. Witness the growth of businesses like, which acts as a public agent to "safeguard your online identity".

    Just some thoughts. I'm curious, too: what thing did I review negatively that you were interested in?



  2. i think the marketer wouldlike it to be centralized out of shear ease, but i know that i would kinda like it to be decentralized. quite recently, i was looking for a facebook-like site for IS,computer science,and /or busadmin students only. just to bonce around ideas.

  3. Julian,

    It sounds like you could have written that Business Week article ten years ago.

    Have you read Jaron Lanier's book:

    I have not, but from what I hear, I think it is related. Advertising seems like an undignified way to pay for the Internet. Still it has not yet become a "vast wasteland."

    > what thing did I review negatively that you were interested in?

    The book "What Would Google Do?"