Interactions on the web are increasingly distributed and new applications (and campaigns) must be built with a decentralized model in mind. As web apps become increasingly ubiquitous, Apple’s expression, â€œthere’s an app for thatâ€� rings truer than ever. In such an environment, first mover advantage becomes increasingly important as early traction can compound quickly via network effects.
One thing that jumps out to me is that the creation of social identity on new systems (such as profiles, personalization and identity) has not really improved. Yes, stuff like Facebook Connect exists, but it’s really only good for the obvious static data and does little in the way of integration based on your historical interactions or types of activity.
A while back Stowe Boyd wrote a post about building listening devices, i.e. eavesdropping tools, to find and act on data posted to our various interaction streams. It struck me (and one of my brainstorming partners, Mike) that there is an opportunity for more sites to launch with integrated, personalized content already culled from the open web. For example, a bot could easily scour the web and auto-aggregate content on your behalf. It could suck in your data, organize it, make it look prettier, and then alert you that a custom feed has already been created for you — all you do is claim it.
One company I consider an early pioneer in this strategy was Zoominfo. Zoominfo began scraping the web and assembling publicly available data into profiles similar to what you’d find on Linkedin. I recall Googling myself way back when and discovering that I had a profile already populated on Zoominfo. It was actually quite compelling because much of the information there was out of date â€“ it made me want to go in and update it (and I did) signing up for service along the way.
Another company that effectively leverages â€œauto-populationâ€� to create a viral effect is Facebook’s photo tagging. While now it’s difficult to imagine anyone not being on Facebook, the genius of the photos in the early days was to allow others to tag you. If you were not a Facebook member, you’d get an email alerting you that you’d been tagged. Once curiosity got the better of you, you’d sign-up and already have numerous photos awaiting your arrival. Sticky.[Know of any other examples I'm missing?]
Now a call-out. One of my favorite companies and (IMO) one of the most obvious to employ such a strategy, currently does not. Stocktwits could be crawling Twitter (maybe even old school message boards) and auto-populating portfolio streams for new users (user talking stocks on Twitter, but not current community members). It’s still a self-selecting community because individuals need to claim their accounts. If actions (conversations, photos, links, etc) are already taking place in an unstructured way, why not channel it neatly saving users work and providing an even lower barrier-to-entry and better-customized experience?
Note: With a few friends I’m working on a little side project. We’re hoping to use this eavesdropping technique. Assuming we do, perhaps we will make the code available for othersâ€¦