Ruud Questions: Alexander van Elsas

When you go beyond technology and social media as marketing channels and start to look ask questions like "how does Twitter change us", "does Twitter change us", "how might things be different now we're all on Facebook", or "how does privacy work for you and me these days" it will take only a few clicks before you end up at Alexander van Elsass Weblog on new media & technologies and their effect on social behavior.

Alexander is one of the Thinkers out there -- and I file him in that folder in my RSS reader too.

Interested in the way technology and social media is changing the world for my daughters I happened upon his blog somewhere at the start of 2007; I think via a reference from Steven Hodson but it might have been via any of the other current day social media technology gods as well. Alexander is read and referenced as easily by Louis Gray as he is by Corvida.

Besides that -- and depending on your point of view that could be an "on top of that" -- he's from the Netherlands 🙂

Links and emphasis are mine.

You "do" Glubble: social networking for families. Not as a comment, either positive or negative, but are we going to see this more and more; splintered, walled social networks?

Huge social networks like Facebook and MySpace show incredible growth and obviously provide users value in networking. But at the same time their business models prevent them from being user value focused. Their focus is on the network itself, leveraging its size with advertisement.

I think there is room for smaller networks where the focus is on user value. In general I would say smaller networks have better revenue generating potential.

Glubble for families has been created as a way for extended families to connect online.

It has 2 unique characteristics. It is private, unlike most social networks, and it lets small children participate. We made it private because we feel that you should be in control of your most important relationships. You need to be in charge of your privacy. You get to decide who can join and with who you share your most important experiences with.

At the same time we see young children getting online at earlier ages and get into contact with social networking. Parents all face the same challenge. How can you support your child discovering great things online and at the same time be able to keep them safe and teach them good digital citizenship? We provide the tools to do that.

You advise companies on their Web 2.0 strategy and initiatives. In that description, what is Web 2.0? Is blogging or being on Twitter Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a term that can have different meanings. Ask Tim O'Reilly about it and he might talk about the shift from applications to data.

In general people seem to associate it with social networking and social media.

I've always felt that it was technology enabling conversation and interaction. It allows us to interact anywhere, anytime. And interaction is where the real value lies.

All these web 2.0 services, blogging, Twitter, they all provide us ways to interact. The data Tim talks about is worth less until it is used in our interactions.

That is why I like Chris Brogan's take on it. Web 2.0 is a 2-way web. (Ruud: I've also talked with Chris - here's the interview with Chris Brogan)

Coming back to that advice... In general terms, along what lines should a company's Web 2.0 strategy be? What is it that businesses can do here -- and should they be here in the first place?

My advice would be to think how your company can truly interact with your customers. If you are thinking about having a presence in social networks just because it is good for your brand, or sales, think again.

The essence is 2 way conversation. You need to be able to genuinely add value to this. Brand exposure or sales should be a side effect.

If you have a large company, think about how you can make it small and accessible.

Think about how you can find your customers instead of letting them look for you. Be a real person, not a profile with 20 people behind it. Start joining the conversation. Provide genuine value. Be prepared to help people if they are asking you for it.

And then build out this interaction into a presence that your customers value. This will have great impact on your company culture. Your employees will need to embrace this, and for management it will mean that you will have to empower it. But the reward is great a well.

In many places of the world the sky has fallen. Some are in hiding, some want to dig themselves out. When it comes to making money online, is all that's left to your friends "blogging with ads" and "sell a product" or are there other viable ways still?

I never liked the mainstream business model of providing services for free and create revenues with advertisement. This can only work if the advertisement itself provides value.

Google has taken this space. Search and advertisement are a great combination because the advertisement itself is valuable to the user. In a social network it provides no direct value other than sponsoring the cost of providing the service.

Free is great, but it is the accompanying advertisement model that needs to disappear. As said earlier, this business model forces you to concentrate on network value instead of user value.

I prefer business models that focus on user value and monetize that value. It is the simplest and most direct business model. It comes with many advantages and if you execute it smartly it will bring you very happy customers and as a side effect excellent revenues.

With their web presence set up and no real money to speak of to go forward, what do you suggest your friend does to get the ball rolling, to start to earn money?

Build user centric services and focus on continuous delivery of value to your user base.

Use the Freemium model to deliver the basis for free (with near zero cost distribution) and monetize on premium services.

Keep your operational costs to a minimum, as you do not want your customers to pay for the overhead you are creating to deliver value.

Force yourself to constantly innovate your concept of user value. You want customers to stay with you because of the trust and value you provide, instead of locking them in.

As a result constant user centric innovation will keep competition out and your customers happy.

And remember. It is fun to engage with happy customers. Do not underestimate this aspect. If you provide genuine value you will have fans instead of customers!

About the Author: Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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