buy twitter followers
 

All posts in Social Media

Millennial Entrepreneurs: Coming of Age Interpersonal Duality

Just over a decade ago, the launch and subsequent evolution of social behemoths like MySpace and Facebook changed the way we communicate, access information, and view the role of business and purpose in society. Now that social media is past the early adoption phase and is fully integrated into every day society, we’re beginning to see a paradigm shift as these Millennials (myself included) come of age into full blown “adulthood” in the social age. I’m not sure if this concept has been discussed at length, or if it even has a name, but I will be referring to it henceforth as interpersonal duality.

A Brief Background

Before the birth of modern-day social media, it was assumed that only highly educated people had access to quality information. When it came to business, only those that fought their way up the corporate ladder could run, let alone create, successful ventures — especially large Fortune 500 entities. The only approved societal path for a fresh-faced college graduate was to put in sweat equity at a large corporation until they could retire with their 401k’s and whatever the corporation was willing to give them with their departure into the abyss.

The elite Millennials like Mark Zuckerberg and Tom Anderson changed that perception. They showed that you didn’t have to have a college education to make the world a better place, and even more so, you didn’t need an MBA to create a successful company. The sentiment of the time was simple: we didn’t like the way the world was telling us to behave, so we changed it. Coding, technology, bootstrapping, and start-ups carved a path where Millennial kids, burdened with impending college debt and a disenfranchised view of the way corporations suck away your soul, found a more efficient path. Don’t like the way something is done? Do it differently. Go your own way.

And it worked.

I mirrored that sentiment, even in college. I was unwilling to accept that I would have to put in 5 years of wasted effort as an assistant when I knew I had more to offer the world today. After skipping my way to be Head Producer at a large music tech startup, I watched it suck the life out of me and everyone in it. It was then that I realized I wanted no part of the traditional work journey. At 22, I started my own company with the sole purpose of fulfilling my passion. I’ve never looked back. Most of my peers, especially friends from college and high school, have also gone on to build successful businesses with the same philosophical construct. Every single one of them (us?) was unwilling to accept a societal standard of rules that our parents and elders dictated to us. Our time here is short, so why waste it being inefficient?

Because of this philosophy, it’s now the people in tech under 35 that are making rockstar money and living lavish lives. In the meantime, rockstars and celebrities are trying desperately to hang on to what’s left of their notoriety by flaunting drama just to stay relevant in an over-saturated, content-driven market (thanks, TMZ). The ability to be heard thanks to social media and technology is infinite, yet the mountain to become (and stay) someone with true influence on the masses is now nearly impossible. We have become a society with access to limitless information at our fingertips, yet we use it to share pictures of cats, dogs, and viral entertainment. No one cares about the crisis in Libya, AIDS in Africa, or that tickets are now on sale for Justin Timberlake’s new tour (in fact, I didn’t even know he was on tour until he cancelled his MSG show last week! Proof in the pudding). The irony.

The rise of Interpersonal Duality

This background is all well and good, but it’s still not the point of this blog. Here’s the point:

10 years ago, services like MySpace and Facebook became popular because they were tools built by Millennials for Millennials to serve our angsty early 20s purposes. When Facebook was TheFacebook, it’s biggest draw (at least for me) was the fact that I could connect with my classmates. On a campus of 25,000+ students, that was invaluable to my social college experience. Even with MySpace or Xanga, social media was a way to personally express yourself in an environment where digital was the new kid on the block. You could write your passive aggressive blogs about your ex anonymously and feel like you were connecting with everyone on a bigger scale. It was like a canvas to a painter with no social repercussions.

Millennials used social media to connect emotionally to one another. That’s why it was built. That’s why it worked. Period.

But now that social media is so mainstream, people are beginning to recoil on the initial Millennial uses of social media. Today, if you go to jail for something, the media scours your Facebook and Twitter to make assumptions about your lifestyle and personal essence based on your posts. If you’re looking for a job, your potential employers scan your social media to see if you’re a partier, a threat, or if you’re as intelligent as you made yourself out to be on your resume. Social media’s cardinal rule of emotional expression is now the exact tool that gets used against you. This means that people are now more vague, or even worse, are avoiding using social media for what made it popular — connecting in an authentic manner. This is why teens are abandoning traditional social sites at alarming rates, opting for services like Snapchat that make their interactions a mere blip in existence before they’re completely forgotten (or so they think ;)).

So, as a Millennial, whose entire “awkward teen” life was centered around emo status updates and angsty blogs, how do you handle the transition into “adulthood”? It’s no longer appropriate for us to make status updates about the difficult parts of our lives (like divorces, deaths, or health problems) because it leaves you open and vulnerable to tarnishing your “public image”. But if you’ve spent your entire life getting used to connecting to other people in a digital world, how do you transition to connecting in real life? I’ve found it a lot harder than I thought I would.

As an example, I’ve been going through a lot of very intense family drama over the past six months. Of course, I posted a pretty vague status update a few months ago on my personal Facebook page (friends only) about the frustration I was feeling, only to be met with text messages and IMs from a client about how it was inappropriate, and that I need to always maintain my public image. I should never let anyone know that anything is ever wrong. Ever. To an extent, she’s not wrong. My mom taught me that as well, which is why connecting with people is harder for me than some in the first place. I care more about other people’s problems than my own because then I never have to be vulnerable, which is almost always easier. But is it? Is it really easier if you can never express who you really are with people?

Ultimately, is that the world I want to live in? Is it the world you want to live in? A world where social media can no longer be utilized to connect in a vague way while going through difficult things? Where does the line get drawn on what is publicly or privately acceptable, and what is not?

This is the true essence of the interpersonal duality dilemma, in my opinion.

I don’t think that there’s a right or a wrong answer, but it is an impending battle that I firmly believe will only get harder as social media and technology continues to inject itself into the every day, especially for Millennials and the generation below us. I’m already concerned with teenage kids who do not seem to know how to have real conversations because they’re only used to texting, but I’m also not sure how to fix it.

Either way, as humans, I don’t think we can give up our humanity or the need for connection. Will we begin to turn our back on technology to connect again with real people?Will we even be capable of doing so? Or are we destined to become robots with perfect lives on the surface while the inner turmoil slowly eats away at our souls.

And the bigger question: which is worse? The corporate soul sucker, or your inner-self soul sucker?

You decide. I’m out of answers. :)

A Case of the Bad Entrepreneur: How a Bad Ego & Not Staying on Top of Industry Trends Can Equal Missed Opportunity

An Overview

It’s been a while since my last post, but 2012 has been the busiest to-date for all of us over at Plastick Media (me included!), and 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger. With our expansion, we’ve had a lot of reasons to broaden our horizons into sponsored brand integration, especially with this year’s upcoming Sundance Film Festival, which is now one of the most star-studded event for the entertainment industry.

As a result of our amazing Sundance opportunities, we put together some unique integration concepts for high profile events that would benefit a variety of brands that wouldn’t normally be a fit with Sundance, but would allow for them to gain exposure and media activations in an authentic way. This, at the heart of our brand, is the Plastick Model. This meant reaching out to Publicists and PR Reps in industry sectors that we wouldn’t normally do business with, which unfortunately, also meant sometimes talking to people we didn’t know.

And what happens when you talk to people you don’t know? Sometimes you get some bad eggs. Fortunately, these bad eggs teach us a lot about what to do and not do in business. I hesitated, at first, to post this — but, of course, I couldn’t help but pass that information along in hopes that it helps someone in similar situations. This world is, in fact, all about learning, isn’t it?

The Case of the Bad Entrepreneur

For one of our packages, we were looking for a unique audio visual company to create a tailored listening room, so we reached out to a seemingly well-known publicist who represents some big brands in the a/v world. Our pitch was via Facebook, as we’ve gotten a lot more traction via Facebook than via email, Twitter, or LinkedIn. It was, very simply, an introduction to who we are, the Sundance opportunity, and more about us on a B2B level.

boohiss
 

Publicist’s Response #1: A Case of the Bitters

We’ve only ever had one negative response to our email or social outreach, and this scenario was the first. The publicist in question responded to my head of Business Development with:

There’s no lazier, more unprofessional, impersonal and dehumanizing method of sales solicitation, that does more damage to a brand, than the half-assed, blind, attempted ’emailed in,’ ‘I’m a big fan of your clients’ email inquiry, especially through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts. You’ve just proven you’re a hack. Piss off or I’ll flag your account for Spam.

whatevs
 

My Response #1: Sticking Up for your Colleagues

Normally, I would just let such an email go; it’s not worth responding, in most cases. This email, however, was so rude and derogatory that I couldn’t help but stick up for my colleague. So I emailed back:

***,

Recently, my head of Business Development, Sean Reilly, reached out to you to connect on Facebook. We approached you at *** (names retracted for security purposes) because we know mutual clients in the industry (***, *** et. al, as I have long history in the music business), and I was also scheduled to be a speaker on the **** panel last year before it was cancelled.

While I understand that you may feel his outreach was “canned” and/or lazy, it most certainly was not. Regardless of how you took its origination, your response was beyond rude and unnecessary, and something that I do not tolerate in any communication. If you have no interest in furthering conversation with us, you can simply choose to ignore it. I would never send an email like that to anyone, nor would any of my colleagues; to be honest, I’m pretty appalled. Perhaps you’re conducive with conducting yourself online in that manner, but I will not tolerate my colleagues to be treated as such.

The world, in today’s craziness, is a difficult place. Communication via Twitter, Facebook, and email have significantly limited face-to-face interactions to a point where people feel they can treat people however they want because there’s no real face — just a computer screen and a keyboard. As a reminder, there is a face here, just like there’s a face (yours) reading this email. We are all human, and we are all people. It’s fine if you don’t like our method of interaction or communication, but I do implore you to remember that there’s no need to further hatred in a world already filled with it.

Good luck with your future endeavors.

Whew! Armed with a small sense of peace for dealing with a matter of importance to me, I went about my day. That is, until I received this extremely disheartening email and a barrage of notifications on our social monitoring platform.

boohiss
 
 
 

Publicist Response #2: The First Threat

This email was a direct response to me. It was short, but to the point.

You simply have no clue, do you? Now I see where your poorly trained people get their attitude of ineptitude and entitlement. A) NO ONE with an ounce of credibility solicits business through social media accounts and B) You’re going to wish the following is something you never wrote and forwarded to me because C) the internet never forgets.

boohiss
 

Publicist Response #3: Public Execution

As if that weren’t enough, said Publicist continued to post Tumblr Blogs, Tweets, and Facebook messages, tagging my business development colleague and me in a shockingly public manner. Here’s what he wrote:

So I deservedly spank a very lazy, half-assed sales rep, Sean Reilly, from a company called Plastick Media for possibly one of the most dumbed-down, invasive business solicitations EVER through our Facebook page and I get this from the founder of the company, Tori Kyes, a person who clearly has no business savvy whatsoever. I don’t suffer fools lightly and when I get solicited in such unprofessional, meaningless, half-hearted and time-wasting ways, I let those individuals know it. This is your cliche’ Los Angeles publicist personality. You know the type. The parody of the publicist everyone simply hates. Opinionated, condescending, arrogant, etc… I can go on. In a nutshell, she really thinks her sh-t doesn’t stink and all others should bow down to them for reasons that simply escape me. The self-entitlement from this, so called, ‘publicity professional,’ is staggering. If you invade our business uninvited, waste my time, and cost us money, like an insect, don’t be surprised if you get stomped on like an insect:

(followed by my original email, as well as a re-post of my personal cell phone, direct line, email address, and contact information)

whatevs

My Response #2: Knowing When to Leave Well Enough Alone While Still Standing Your Ground

At some point, you have to recognize when belligerent folks who love confrontation are trying to bait you. With the previous actions, I recognized there wasn’t much to say to this individual. At the same time, however, I felt it was important to let the publicist know that his claims and posts were unreasonable, and that if they continued, I would pursue alternative action. The following is my response:

Dear ***,

1. We do business all the time via social media, hence why we are a social media agency.
2. I’ve taken screenshots of your threatening posts on our Facebook Page.
3. I’ve forwarded the screenshots and your threatening email to our legal counsel, and we will be on the look out for future libel material thanks to our proprietary social media monitoring platform.
4. This is the last correspondence you will receive from anyone at Plastick. The next correspondence will be from our legal counsel, if further provoked.

Have a wonderful evening.

boohiss
 
 
 

Publicist Response #5: The Nail in the Coffin

But that wasn’t all, of course. He followed up with a final email.

Please have your legal counsel explain to you who’s doing the provoking and threatening! You’re going to be surprised by their professional advice, especially in the areas of libel, slander, and threatening behaviors. Why? I know. Because I actually have a legal background. Oh, and I am sure your (snicker) ‘proprietary social media monitoring platform’ (aka: Google alerts) will have you clued into the ‘threatening posts’, which are simply your own arrogant, belligerent and self destructive behavior and words thrown back at you, pretty soon.

You’re a comedic cornucopia of arrogance and self-entitlement that’s stunning, and a parody of the rank amateur behavior Sean displays so well. The guano doesn’t fall far from the bat…

Hugs,
***

Well, then.

Lessons to be Learned: A Look at Both Sides & How to Handle Situations Like This When They Arise

So what can we learn from this? Well, there are quite a few things. Let’s take this situation from both sides:

The Publicist

  1. Saying things in a public forum about people that are untrue and/or harassing is not only unprofessional, but it’s also illegal. If you’re going to post something of the magnitude that this person did, you’re opening yourself up to lawsuits. It’s most advisable to just let it go in the first place before you open yourself, your clients, and your business up to potential harm.
  2. Listing people’s personal, private contact information is considered bullying and is against most social platforms terms of use. If you’re going to post conversations, which is your right, be sure you do not include any personally identifiable information, and only quote the person instead.
  3. While posting hastily nasty things about people may make you feel good at first, it usually only makes you look like the jerk in the end. If a client, employer, or colleague gets word about the hateful things you say online about other people, it leaves you open to negative recourse for your actions.
  4. Always verify information before posting on public forums. Much of the publicists said claims against myself and/or my business are blatantly untrue. While this doesn’t matter much in the end, if people try to verify your claims and they turn out to not have merit, it dings your reputation, not theirs.
  5. Always be careful of the things you say, as you never know who you’re saying them to. Always maintain a respectful, courteous attitude, and you will minimize ill reactions to your responses.
  6. There is never a need to make personal attacks towards individuals.
  7. At the end of the day, this person’s ego got in the way of seeing a fantastic opportunity for their clients, and then blasted said interaction all over the web. Not only was he not doing what was best for his client, but he also burned a bridge and blasted it on the Internet. If a client were to see this, what would they think of their hired representative? Would you want your client to see this interaction?
  8. Ignoring social media as a medium of interacting with people and perpetuating business is a gross misnomer and proof of lack of understanding of the latest PR tactics and industry trends. (If you could see this individual’s website(s), it would perpetuate proof of this case, but I’ll refrain from sharing)

The Business Owner

  1. When receiving negative feedback, weigh your options before responding and be sure you’re willing to deal with the consequences.
  2. When responding to negative feedback, it’s always advisable to ensure you are wary about your tone. Minimizing aggression, accusations, and any language that may make the reader filter to the “offensive” is the best course of action.
  3. If there is no way to minimize the aggressive tone, you must choose your battle wisely. In most cases, it’s best to leave well enough alone. In many cases, a tailored response may work in your favor — but is it worth the ones that don’t?
  4. Don’t jump to legal conclusions too quickly. No one likes lawsuits. If you’re going to threaten with one, be prepared to do so. And f you’re going to sue, be sure it’s something worth fighting for.
  5. Minimize interactions with belligerent individuals as soon as you recognize they are one.
  6. Don’t allow yourself to be upset by personal jabs from belligerent individuals; they’re just trying to upset you. When you’re upset, you make foolish mistakes that will come back to haunt you. Don’t let emotion get the best of you.
  7. True PR representatives would never risk their reputation, or their clients reputation, to bully someone online in such an unprofessional manner. You shouldn’t either. As a result, use the opportunity to express the realities of the situation to the public at large in a positive way (like this blog).
  8. Mentioning names and companies only gives more traffic and mentions to said individuals. Don’t give them what they want.

How to Handle this Crisis and What You can do if you become the brunt of Cyber-Bullying / Harassment / Slander as a Business Owner

Cyber-bullying, harassment, and slander are serious offenses online. While the online world is still figuring out how to deal with these situations at large, there are things that you can do in this situation to minimize the effects:

  1. If on a social network, contact the powers that be of the offensive or offending tweets in an effort to create a paper trail and remove any sensitive data that shouldn’t be on the web. You can report offensive behavior via the following links for relevant sites:
     
    Twitter: https://support.twitter.com/forms/abusiveuser
    Tumblr: Email abuse@tumblr.com
    Facebook: Click Report on the Offensive Post
  2.  

  3. If the abuse continues and is an immediate threat or harm to you, report it to the authorities. If it’s not urgent, do not use 911. Simply call the local Police Station.
  4. Not everyone has access to advanced social media metrics and monitoring tools like we do, so ensure you do a Google Search for your name or company to ensure it hasn’t risen to the top of search results. If there are no reports, set up a Google Alert to ensure you stay on top of it. If there are, look into hiring an SEO / Reputation Management Company (or learning to do it yourself) to push negative press down.
  5. Utilize your own social media channels to combat any negative criticism and to offer your own side of the story. Be sure, however, not to make it an equally negative post. This is your opportunity to show your differences.
  6. If abuse continues, hire a lawyer or forward to your existing legal counsel and ask their opinion on options to pursue.
  7. If possible, make nice by sending a care package in good will efforts to make amends
  8. Whatever you do, do not do anything drastic or emotionally driven. Do not email their clients, blast them equally on social media, or have your friends start harassing them online. This makes you no better than them, and just isn’t necessary.
  9. Don’t waste your time dealing with people who only want to destroy you. Spend your time working with people who want to build you up.

At the end of the day, I feel badly that an email I meant honestly got spun into a Tori-bashing session. However, it gave me a lot of insight into how to deal with crisis management, a better plan of action in the event that it happens, and a quality control filter on how to better pick and choose my battles as a business owner. While I’m still largely appalled by this person’s behavior, there’s nothing I can do but to find the silver lining, execute what I can to protect myself and my business, and employ methods that will allow me to not repeat any behavior that would duplicate this situation in the future. I hope this lesson came in equally as handy for you.

In gratitude,

tk

Let the Data War begin: What you Should and Shouldn’t Know about the Facebook Like / Connect Features.

You’ve seen it on popular websites.  It’s the bigger, more bold blue button that says: “Connect with Facebook to Login.”  As a consumer, it’s an easy way for you to provide information to a website to skip the “registration process.”  As a business, it’s an easy way to supply your marketing list and integrate with your users. Regardless of which category you fall into, it’s imperative that you are aware of both sides of the issue, and how the future will affect your life and your business.  This is especially true with countries like Germany forcing businesses to remove Facebook pages and like buttons because it violates their data privacy laws (which is actually inaccurate, but we’ll get to that later).

Facebook Connect is a wonderful tool.  It allows Businesses to access data to provide more relevant information to their users, and consumers a way to keep in touch with their favorite brands.  We use it here at Plastick Media frequently for our clients and custom Facebook apps, but we have noticed that misconceptions about its use are increasing.  So, I’m going to clear up a bit of the confusion.

With the latest popular iteration being used as an “automatic registration” tool on sites like Mashable, Living Social, and Groupon, many companies have gone overboard on what information they choose to pull from a Facebook profile.  I actually have a client, the lead programmer of a leading luxury nightlife/hospitality brand, that pulled every piece of information possible from people that connected to the apps he built.  Not only did he pull every piece of information possible, but he also pulled information from their friends if they hadn’t changed their privacy settings to not allow him to do so.

Let me put that in a lamens-style hypothetical situation for you.  If my friend Katie went to the Sports Authority Facebook Page, saw that she could get a coupon for 50% off, and did the mandatory process of clicking on the “connect with us” to receive said coupon–she’s now agreed to give Sports Authority application whatever data they decide to ask for.  And there is a LOT they can ask for.  Not only that, but depending on her and her friend’s privacy settings, she could also be giving away MY data, even though I could care less about Sports Authority.

The trickiest part about the whole process, is that most people are unaware of what data each application is asking for.  In fact, if you’ve ever connected with an app, you usually see this window:

The icons to the left outline what data you’re allowing the program to access from your profile.  If there are more than the allowed list limit in this window (usually 6 or 7), it will usually display a count below, stating “and 43 other permissions.”  If you don’t look at what data the app is pulling from you, then you’re potentially allowing businesses to take advantage of you.  If you’re a business that does this, I highly encourage you to look at the reasoning behind WHY you want this data.  While I’m sure it’s a great tool for demographic information, the potential for it to put your consumers in a negative situation far outweighs the potential use of good information (especially with Mobile Threats and Hacktivism on the rise).  Since almost all of us are Facebook users these days, I think it’s imperative for the social good of social networking that entrepreneurs take the stance of only taking what data they need and will find useful in helping to provide better products and services to their customers.  Period.

Now, that kind of spells doom and gloom for us users, doesn’t it?  This is exactly why the German state (linked in the beginning of the post) is fining and banning the like button from websites and asking businesses to delete fan pages.  The reality is, however, that actually “liking” a page does not allow information to pass between the user and the fan page, other than the privacy limits you employ currently.

Confusing?  Let’s look at another example.  If I set my privacy controls so that only my friends can see my data and I like the Sports Authority page, then the administrators of the Sports Authority page will not be able to see or interact with any of my content.  If I leave everything wide open, however, they can.  And since Facebook recently allowed pages a little bit more flexibility in interaction (posting on fan’s walls and commenting on status updates, for example), it’s important for you to start setting your data privacy to a comfortable level for you.  Trust me, brand will be utilizing this more heavily in the future.

But anyway–the misunderstanding between Facebook Connect and the “Like” feature on pages is why the Germany ban is ill-informed and wrong.  Well, at least it’s wrong to a certain degree.  They should be putting stipulations on Developers misusing Facebook Connect, not Fan Pages and Like buttons all together.  They’re not the source of the harm.  It’s companies pulling data they shouldn’t be pulling without user’s knowing it that is the issue.  Let’s not forget that we sign up for Facebook, and we allow the data.  It’s not their fault if you don’t check out what you’re sharing.  Right?

Furthermore, this brings up another point.  Because of the staunch issues with data abuse within Facebook Connect, Facebook had to institute controls that allowed users to go in and remove erroneous app permission requests.  Ironically, most people aren’t aware it exists.  Once you go to your app settings page, you will see something like this:

See the remove button?  I can click that little bad boy so that it can’t access my contact information.  The bad part?  There are certain things I would like to remove that are “required” elements of this particular application.  Facebook isn’t Apple, and doesn’t control what Developers can and can’t require.  Personally, I have no idea why Living Social needs to know about my family and my relationships, but I would love it if I could remove it.  Unfortunately, I can’t–unless I remove the app altogether.  You’ll also see at the bottom, you can limit who can see the data that the app shares.  For instance, if you have a permission set to allow an app to post something on your wall, you can control who can see that post or not.  Personally, I don’t want any app to share anything on my wall without my permission.

This all comes at the recent release of Facebook’s new iteration of Privacy Controls.  They’re attempting to make things easier to understand for people, and it will definitely be a more user-friendly visual system.  With the release, they discussed getting rid of Facebook places, as well as adding more privacy features. Read about the new Features here.  Watch out though, because Facebook plans on adding location-based geo-tagging to every element of your profile.  Imagine the field day app developers will have when they can find out where you are at a moment’s notice, or the places you frequent.  Anyway, here are some tips for you to start maximizing Facebook Connect and stronger privacy controls as both a user, and as a business.

Tips on maximizing your profile data security:

  1. Make sure you’re settings allow for only the people you want to see your profile.
  2. When you connect with an application, check what permissions they’re asking for.
  3. Go to your app settings, and check what information past applications are pulling that you could remove.  If you don’t agree with the information they’re pulling, just delete the entire app all together.
  4. Make sure you control whether or not applications can pull information from your friends or family.
Tips on maximizing your business for ethical data usage:
  1. Utilize the Facebook Connect feature on your website and your Facebook Applications, but only take data that you would normally use in the registration process.
  2. Only require data requests that you know that you actually need on your apps.  If you’re going to ask for something you don’t, allow your users the option to stop sharing that information with you.
  3. Educate your users on your privacy policy, and ensure them that you will not share or sell their data.
  4. Educate your users on what you’re actually using their data for if it’s a seemingly unnecessary use.
  5. Don’t work with businesses that use Facebook data unethically.
  6. Make sure you understand the difference between Facebook Connect and the Like Feature, and educate your colleagues.

Long story short, please be aware of what Facebook Connect is and isn’t.  Be aware of what Facebook Pages are and aren’t.  Be aware of what data you’re sharing, and what data you’re not sharing.  This is the age of the Internet.  Let’s not take advantage of people’s information, and definitely don’t let people take advantage of yours.  Stay informed, friends.  It’s a whacky world we live in.

Google+, Facebook, & The Future of Human Interaction

Iced Cranberry Chai

Iced Cranberry Chai from Silverlake Coffee Company

It’s a lazy Sunday here in Los Angeles. Most people are at the beach, wallowing in their margaritas, volleyball games, and sun tans. I, taking post as the effervescent entrepreneur, however, opted for the coffee shop to do work instead. Not surprisingly, the trip has led me to a few curious questions regarding our future as a society in this evolving ‘social networking’ world.

Upon arriving at said coffee shop, I meandered to the counter, surprised by how utterly packed the place was. There wasn’t a seat in the house, at least on the inside, and I was deathly afraid of having to sit outside in the unforgiving heat. While waiting for my delicious Iced Cranberry Chai, I peaked around at the clientele, and I began to notice a thought trend that followed me to my table outside:

It’s eerily quiet here. Almost every single person has a computer or an iPad, and if they are one of the rare folks that do not, they have their nose buried in a book (people still buy those?). There is no talking, no introductions, no smiles, no wandering eyes. It’s almost as if someone literally superglued their eyeballs to the screen (or paper) in front of them.

Are we so engrossed in our digital worlds, that we literally do not want to exist in the physical one around us? I’ve been in many discussions with friends about this, who can’t even make it through a lunch or dinner without picking up their smart phone for a text or email (we’re all guilty, don’t even try to fight it). But what do the growth (and death) of popular social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and the new Google+ show us about human interaction?

In case you don’t know or conveniently forgot, MySpace was the true beginning of social networking. In college, it was the only place for college bands to create a destination for themselves that didn’t cost you $10,000 (remember when a simple website cost that?), and was a great way for young college kids to find friends/dates. And then “The Facebook” came out. I was happily introduced by my geeky friends at Ivy League and Tech schools that were lucky enough to be part of the initial group of colleges allowed to join. Back then, it was something built by college students for college students, and it caught on like wildfire because of it.

(Author Note:  If you’d like to read more about the real evolution of Facebook, I highly suggest you check out David Kirkpatrick’s “The Facebook Effect.” )

The caveat? Not only was it exclusive, unlike MySpace, but it was a way for you to list your classes, find your fellow classmates to study with, or to finally get an excuse to say hi to that cute boy you were to afraid to say hi to in person without the fear of rejection. It was an extension of everything that college stood for: socializing, parties, and education (sometimes). It was a way to extend your interactions with people you already knew, or to get access to the people you wanted to know. And what about MySpace? Well, they failed to innovate because they didn’t understand the human condition. People want to expand their world, and while meeting new people is cool–connecting with old friends or getting to know an acquaintance better is far cooler.

And as social networking has grown, so has the need to monetize it to make the VCs happy. There’s been a lot of debate on the appropriate way to go about this without offending the membership base. The reason Facebook’s advertising platform works is because it’s based on friend’s recommendation engines, on keywords you post about, and can be targeted to a specific demographic. MySpace, on the other hand, whores their advertising out to whoever will pay them more money, which is why they lost so many member numbers in the first place. You can’t alienate your audience, or they’ll leave you. That’s the lesson MySpace taught us.

Now, last week, Justin Timberlake put up some money to own a significant stake of MySpace. Can he turn it around? Perhaps, but perhaps not. I think that if he focuses on making it a destination for music instead of trying to make it compete with Facebook directly, he will be successful. And the reality is, he is an entertainer, he is a musician, and he knows the business of making things cool fairly well. Going back to the beginnings of Facebook, where it was a platform for college kids built by other college kids, the future looks bright for the Timberlake/MySpace creation. Justin Timberlake, however, also likes to sell out (have you seen his website lately? Try going there without an ad popping up in your face every five seconds, and I guarantee you won’t return again unless it’s for a damn good reason).

Regardless, this isn’t a battle between MySpace and Facebook anymore. It’s not even a battle between Google and Facebook. It’s the battle between our interactions, and their future. You want to know the reason why Goole+ has a chance at kicking Facebook’s proverbially ass? It already has users and products that are solutions to every aspect of a person’s life. Google Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Flickr, YouTube, Blogger. You name it, there’s a platform for you to use made by Google that you’ve already been use to for five to ten years. While Google+ certainly hasn’t worked out all of the kinks yet, nor has it even reached or perhaps even realized its own potential, given the right direction it could take over the way we do things entirely.

For instance, a dear friend of mine and I were “hanging out” in the “hang out” of Google+ yesterday. During our chat, I introduced him to one of my co-workers, and he, being a Microsoft employee, was jazzed that only 20 minutes earlier, he was also introduced to several new people through his other friends in various Hangouts. It was like being at a party without the awkwardness or the hangover in the morning. And these introductions were all from people he trusts.

(P.S.  If you don’t know what Google Hangout is, check out this video.  There’s also an interesting article about why Skype should fear Google Hangout, which is even more interesting considering Facebook just announced a partnership with Skype last week.)

So will Google+ kill Facebook? That depends. It depends on if Google is smart enough with the execution of its vision, if people really want the product, and if it makes things faster or easier. If Google were smart, though, they would find a way to integrate with Facebook. It’s funny that Mark Zuckerberg has the most friends on Google+, so maybe they’re already thinking in this direction. Regardless, it’d certainly make the takeover faster, and make the battle irrelevant. What would the world look like if Facebook and Google were partners? Frightening and exciting thought.

Regardless, though, this brings me back to the original musing that got me here in the first place. What do these things say about our future as a society, and about the way that we interact? Will we continue down this path of getting lost in our devices, or will we break free and remember what it feels to actually talk to one another. What about our children? They don’t even know a world where Facebook and cell phones don’t exist. Will they know how to have conversations with one another? We’ve already lost our handwriting, will we also lose our interpersonal skills?

Food for thought, what are yours?