Filed Under:Agent Broker, Sales & Marketing

Reboot Social Media

BranchOut, Google+ and other social media tools change the landscape

We are all familiar with movie sequels. In fact, the first movie sequel dates all the way back to 1916’s "Fall of a Nation," which was the sequel to the 1915 feature "Birth of a Nation." The general expectation of sequels is that they are not going to be as good as the original. I could argue that it depends on the movie, the screenwriter and director of the sequel, but I won’t get into that here.

Certainly, when you consider some movie franchises such as "Star Trek," "Friday the 13th" or "Harry Potter," you can see that they come from all genres with varying degrees of success.

A new take on movie sequels came in 1999, when George Lucas released the first of a trilogy of "prequels" to the blockbuster "Star Wars" series. The prequels told the stories of the characters leading up to where the originals started. Throughout the 25-year history of "Star Wars," Lucas continued to tweak and add to each new re-release of his movies. He brought new aspects to the films, updating the quality of the special effects so they didn’t seem outdated.

Related: Read Rick Gilman's previous column "Ounce of Prevention."

A recent trend in movie making is the "reboot," in which directors and producers leverage the strength of a movie franchise by re-releasing the story in a new movie with different actors playing the key roles. The most recent, coming next year, is "The Amazing Spider-Man," which starts at the beginning with the main character, Peter Parker, getting the famous bite from a radioactive spider that starts the ball rolling again. Often a reboot tries a different tactic with the story, such as the "Batman" reboot, which made the movie and character much darker than the 1989 film version.

Social media’s reboot

I believe we are at the beginning stages of a social media reboot. For a while now we have been inundated with new social networking tools that each offer their own take on how best to network.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—just the very tip of an enormous iceberg—are all subjected to some form of reboot. In addition, there are variations on a theme; just look at Groupon [see my article "Groupon as a Marketing Model" from February 2011], whose industry leadership quickly spurned Living Social, Daily Pride, Gluten-Free Deals and GroupPrice, among many others. But reboots are not about just coming up with new variations.

Much like George Lucas tweaking his "Star Wars" movies, most social networking sites try to improve on their models. But lately I’ve come across a couple of new social networks that are different, not necessarily in a good or bad way, just different. Like the movie analogy, these reboots leverage the success of an established networking platform and its population of users, sometimes in partnership with them, sometimes not.

Related: Read Gilman's article "Social Media ABC's."

The first one that crossed my email was It’s really LinkedIn on Facebook. It’s built upon your Facebook profile and you log in with your Facebook username and password. There’s lots of information on jobs and companies and instead of LinkedIn’s "Recommendations," BranchOut has "Endorsements."

As people join your network on BranchOut, their friends are added to your career network as well as the companies that contact has networked with. As an example, a colleague of mine joined my network and automatically his "50,408 friends" were added to my career network. And, I learned that I was now connected to "helpful people at Microsoft, IBM and United States Army and 663 more companies."

My point is that I’m not sure what BranchOut is bringing to the social media table. I know it’s a matter of market share and survivability, but I think the shine has tarnished a little with respect to touting the humongous number of "friends" you have on any social network.

BranchOut is new and whether this reboot of a LinkedIn-type of network inside the Facebook platform will survive and thrive only time will tell.

The plus in Google

The next new platform I was invited to join was Google+, a social network that Google hopes will rival and eventually outperform Facebook. There is a lot of functionality that crosses both platforms but offered in different ways. Google+ has colloquial terms—Circles, Hangouts, Huddle, Stream and Sparks, which makes it seem friendly.

  1. Circles are how Google+ participants organize their friends. You create circles based on common areas of interest, like "family," "work people," "book club," or "golf buddies." Then you drag your friends into appropriate circles; they can be part of multiple circles and when you share messages or photos and videos, you can choose which circles receive the information.
  2. Hangouts, for me, seems to be the neatest feature of Google+. It’s an easy, informal way to start a group video session with people from your circles. You select the "Start a hangout" button, which opens up a video chat window and then choose whom to invite. For those of you who grew up in a city environment, it’s like hanging out on the front stoop; your friends walk by, stop and talk a while.

    It maxes out at 10 people, but then do you really want more than 10 voices and faces at a time? A great feature of Hangouts is that while you’re talking with your friends you can all watch a YouTube video. Could be a great way to conduct some training or quick spur of the moment office meetings.
  3. Huddle is for group texting. Just as you would think, Huddle lets you group text specific people or a particular circle of friends. But it’s only found via the mobile app version of Google+, currently only available on the Android and iPhone platforms.
  4. Sparks is another feature that, as the name implies, "sparks" ideas in you for content to share by showing you stuff that’s out on the web. Of course, Google being the largest search engine going, the content you can find is endless. Once you find something you’re passionate about, share it with the circles that will appreciate it. Over time, Sparks keeps track of the things you care about.

Right now Google+ is a consumer-based social network "project" and while it boasts about 18 million users, it’s still not widely available; it’s by invitation only. Work occurs on a business version of Google+ that a select few companies to test. If you’re interested in seeing what the potential for your agency might be, check out this link.

Related: Read the article "Get Visual with Video" by Rick Gilman.

I guess the overriding message in all of this is twofold. First, there are always new platforms and networking tools coming out and finding the right ones for you and your agency should be based on what you are comfortable with; how easy its interface is to operate and whether it fits your agency’s culture and brand. Second, unless you’ve got a lot of time to spend kicking the tires on these new platforms or you’re like me and just enjoy being out on the edge, I would stay away from social networks whose logos haven’t dried yet on the letterhead.

I will say that the creative minds that come up with these new tools are getting much better at it and every once in a while you see something that really gets how people like to work and play. When they pop up, I hope to be able to bring you news about them here.

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