Interview: Nova Spivack On Facebook, Google And Microsoft – Who Will Triumph?

Nova Spivack was an initial angel investor in Klout, a social networks analytics tool, which quantifies people’s interests by measuring their influence on others and also who in turn influences them.

Nova is now working on Live Matrix which is being designed to navigate the Web by time instead of space.

“Basically all these things at the moment are happening in a perpetual present. There’s no sense of time on the Web. What Live Matrix is doing is trying to index what’s happening when at different times.”

With the increasing amount of video on the Web and expansion of such services as Ustream, more and more scheduled events, lectures, sports, and so on are being fed out onto the Web. Therefore it is becoming increasingly important to find out when these items start and finish. As more content appears with a temporal dimension, there is more of a need to find that material.

Nova adds, “The past two decades have been spent on the space dimension of the Web. That is, what’s where? What keywords are on what pages. What people are at what sites. What content is where. But now we’re looking at what’s when. I think that’s a huge, open, uncharted piece of the Web. It’s a big opportunity.”

In the first part of our interview with him, Nova talks about the potential winners and losers as Microsoft, Google and Facebook duke it out for world domination. In the second part of his interview, Nova discusses the fragmentation of Semantic Web technologies and what that means for all of us.

It is clear that Facebook and Google are stepping on one another’s turf and there is no way for them to avoid that happening. Nova thinks that Facebook will eventually triumph, but Google may not be safe in the number two slot.

Facebook will be the dominant player on the Internet because it already has a social networking structure on its side. Nova points out, “Neither Microsoft nor Google has a strong social networking brand that people use. They are both in this difficult position as being viewed by consumers as tools rather than as places. Facebook is a place. It’s a place where people are spending an increasing amount of their time.”

It is a lot easier for Facebook to build a search engine then it is for either Microsoft or Google to build a social network, let alone a social network of 500 million users. Also, Facebook has a social graph, and by using their ‘like’ system, they can gather even more information about what people are interested in and value. If they do it right, they could build a search engine far superior to either Google search or Bing. The only reason Facebook haven’t done it already is because they have been too busy trying to get their house in order.

But coming second is not the same thing as being safe. Google will need to watch themselves. As Nova warns, “If you look at Microsoft… they have people and senior executives who have a lot of experience in looking at a market they want to enter that has another leading player, and going in there and winning from a number two or number three position. In a way that’s what Microsoft is actually best at.”

What happens with these industry giants is very important for all of us. It is more than a drama being played out in the techy news services.

“I think it’s important to everybody who has an internet company and of course every user of the Internet. For those of us in the internet business, I think it’s interesting to see where these are going because it affects who we might partner with or what services we ought to be focusing on for integration of special features. Should we spend a lot of time SEOing into Google or should we spend more time SEOing into Facebook through the likes [system]?”

As it stands now, it is for Facebook to lose. Google and Microsoft are handicapped by being perceived as tools instead of places. Fortunately, they cannot make real use of the data they have acquired about us through Gmail and Hotmail without our permission. But as long as they stay in the game and can use the information and experience that they do have, they will always have a chance.

Interesting times.

The second part of this interview is also available. Nova Spivack also spoke at the BlogTalk event held in Cork in 2008. BlogTalk is returning to Ireland on 26-27 August; check out the speaker list.

Facebook – Why Your Business Should Have a Presence

Facebook is the largest personal social network in the world. So why should any company bother doing any business networking elsewhere?

1. The Stats speak for themselves.

It is always a good thing to go do business where people are. Facebook has now passed the 500 million user milestone. If this growth keeps continuing soon Facebook will become the world’s first truly global social network. As a business you need to be there. Facebook is essentially becoming the new Web.

2. Establishing your brand on Facebook helps to humanize your brand – where is the Love?

Using Facebook people get to see what sits behind the brand. You need to be a part of the Facebook community. If you are considering developing your presence on Facebook it is where plenty of your future prospective customers are to be found. There is plenty of need for corporate and professional sites but with Facebook Pages this is changing fast but this will no doubt shift in the coming years as web traffic and individuals spend more and more of their time on Facebook. So it pays to build your community on Facebook. This in turn can drive your fans towards your company’s website.

Ignore this at your peril. There is a shift online and as a business you need to pay attention.

3. Trust and the “Social Glue”

Online community is a term you keep hearing over and over again. Facebook is a social connectivity tool and this is how people really like to interact and connect with one another. Many people use Facebook email to send mails to their friends now without bothering to even log in to their own personal email account. You can share, share, share with Facebook and this is what human beings enjoy doing. Online community is the best place to engage with people in an online space and it therefore makes complete sense to build a presence in Facebook to tap into your community online.

Research over and over again points to the importance of word-of-mouth and peer-generated content which comes from a community of practice or interest online. In creating your brand on Facebook you are giving your online fans the chance to Like your brand. Messages and special offers to the people who Like you on Facebook can be targeted specifically to those people who are interested in your product or brand. This is a great way to build up loyalty with your customers and offering special offers.We are also living in an attention economy and all the attention is currently being focused on Facebook.

Your brand needs to make decisions to shift time, money, effort and resources into creating an online presence and figure out the right way that builds relationships and drives traffic back to your website. It is not a wise tactic to dismiss the notion of online community for your business. According a recent Fast company article Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has discovered, for the first time, that social networking triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains. And that should be a wake-up call for every company.

4. Social networks like Facebook are driving traffic online.

We are at the cusp of a major shift in the direction of diverted Web traffic this change in direction of Web traffic has only come about with social networks being created in the last few years – Facebook in particular. BF (before Facebook) it was MySpace and orkut. Social Networks like Facebook are beginning to challenge Google in the traffic stakes. Facebook is becoming the web’s top source of traffic. The speed at which this change is happening is lightening fast and this may explain why many corporate brands are slow to adapt to the change and the pace of change as it happens.

5. Customer Service

You can use Facebook to manage your online reputation, engage customer awareness by engaging with your customers in Facebook and targeting customers with specific messages and Facebook promotions. It can be used to advertise with targeted advertising.

6. Social networks like Facebook are disruptive.

Facebook is currently disrupting advertising, media, one-to-one and one-to-many communications, and online search. Search is changing and becoming much more social. People buy things online based on their friends recommendations. Search Vs Recommendation is sure to be a battle ground between the the two main Web players of Google and Facebook. Recommendation is a smarter type of search. Facebook has a lot of data on people and is steadily building up a rich picture of who people are, what their interests are and what they like. People trust their friends just ask Dr Love.

Ina O’Murchu is a Consultant at Social Bits