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21 June 2011

The future of social media

Recently, French media banned the words "twitter" and "facebook" on TV. Well, that's what the press would have you believe. Here is the original decision in French. The real (not hyped up) story is that TV networks are now only allowed to mention Twitter or Facebook if the story is about Twitter or Facebook. Anything else, such as "follow TV station XYZ news on twitter" was deemed to be advertising on a public network and broke the rules. Fair enough I thought, seems to make sense to me. Why should a social network get free advertising if it isn't the subject of the news story. Pete Cashmore of Mashable thought this ban was "Ridiculous". I disagreed and posted my thoughts supporting the ban on Mashable, and the next web and on Hermione Way's wall (5th June). One response on The Next Web wrote "For a "noob" you certainly put forward a good point. I think what you proposed would be a great idea". Facebook and The Next Web, please note though - individual comments should have their own URL so that people can link to them and so says Tim Berners-Lee.

So that's the background to this post.

As Tim says, Facebook is becoming a closed silo of content. It wants things that way so you have to go to facebook. Advocates of an open web want the content fully opened out so that you can link to individual comments and work with all the data. Facebook doesn't want to go down the way of Myspace as little more than a hosting platform.

However, my point in relation to the French story is that the news networks and indeed anyone else shouldn't be asking anyone to follow them on twitter or facebook or any third party site. You don't need to go to twitter to see my tweets, you can see them here courtesy of a widget. You don't need to visit my blog with a web browser, you can subscribe to the RSS feed and read it in an RSS reader. When I tried to define Web2.0 in 2009, I wrote that a large part of it was the sharing of data between different sites and applications. The same should be true of social media.

When I go to Facebook, I get the Facebook branding and advertising. When I go to Twitter I get the Twitter branding and advertising. Do respectable major brands really want or need this? Sure they need to engage with their prospective audiences but on a 3rd party URL with 3rd party branding and advertising (possibly from competitors) isn't really the ideal platform. Does anyone remember Geocities, Netscape, Digital or CompuServe? None of those links work anymore. 3rd party sites that have been wound up or bought over. Only today Club Penguin, value $700m, has gone offline because Disney forgot to renew the domain in time. that wouldn't be so great if it was your twitter or facebook campaign in dust would it? Where's your service level agreement with facebook or twitter? You don't have one? What happens if like Google you suddenly lose access to all your data or your flickr account gets deleted? Oops. Not such a good social strategy anymore was it giving out all those 3rd party URLs you had no control over, no backup strategy and no compensation if they are down. The ideal approach would be to edit and store all my brand's social media content locally on-site and push it to relevant social networks as needed, thus giving me some fall-back should they foul up. A site central social media dashboard, shouldn’t be too hard to put together – think of it as a super TweetDeck - sold for £25m and it was mostly Twitter oriented rather than a general platform.

Big brands should be looking to protect and consolidate their identity rather than dilute it across the web. If I want to engage with a trusted brand, I should be able to do it on their site. Their social media landing page should show me what's going on in the world of social media for the brand in as much one place as possible. It should blend discussions, videos, updates, "likes" and conversations in a view that has the brands look and feel but also their advertising rather than their competitors. Social media platforms are just that - platforms. Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and the likes we have great platforms that reach millions of users. Just however as you can "like" my page at without actually going to the Facebook site, a brand should be able to embed their Facebook fan page within the brand's page. They should be able to embed their twitter feed within the brand's page too. Some sites already do this, see my profile on mywebcareer. It shouldn't be difficult for a brand, on its own domain, with its own branding and its own control to behind the scenes connect up with its different online presences in social media to present one consistent view in one place. I used to have a LinkedIn profile at , for a while LinkedIn changed it to http and then all the links broke. I think it is easier now for me to just maintain the brand at so I am in control if LinkedIn change their policy again. Big brands should take note, if they manage to control their social media presence through URLs they own rather than a 3rd party and branding they own rather than a third party then of course the French will have shown us the way and no-one will need to advertise Twitter or Facebook anymore. Just say "non" to 3rd party branding, URLs and loss of data!

Is this the future of social media we really want? Feel free to share!


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