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With the rise of 'open platforms' on the web, particularly on popular consumer-oriented services like Facebook and Twitter, it's never been easier for individuals and small upstarts to get their applications in front of millions of consumers quickly and efficiently.
The appeal of open platforms is easy to understand: instead of having to deal with the dreaded chicken and egg challenge most new consumer internet upstarts have to contend with, you can leverage the existing userbases of popular services.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. These are but a few of the services many of us have come to enjoy.
Yet there's one thing that seems anything but enjoyable about them: dealing with their customer service.
What is a 'social media expert'? What qualifications does one reasonably need before being paid to assist businesses with social media campaigns?
Despite the fact that there are plenty of self-proclaimed 'social media experts' out there, these are two questions for which we don't have good answers.
Here's an obvious but sometimes forgotten social media factoid: the most successful services of the past several years have been created by upstarts.
Microsoft, Yahoo and even Google? They haven't had much luck building a homegrown success. The big names in social media, from Facebook to Twitter and MySpace to YouTube, were all created by little guys.
Facebook is already pretty open. Its developer platform enables developers to build applications that leverage Facebook users' 'social graphs' and its Connect API gives developers the means to 'connect' their websites with Facebook.
But, perhaps in an effort to compete with the service Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can't have (Twitter), the social network is set to become even more open.
Social networks are so intriguing to marketers because they represent the internet equivalent of a popular hangout, thoroughfare or stadium.
If you're looking for eyeballs, social networks like Facebook and MySpace have no shortage of them. But eyeballs don't always equate to revenue, or ROI, and capitalizing on them has proven hard for marketers and social network owners to do.
The current state of the financial markets has made it very difficult for startups to go public. Even startups with significant revenue and bright futures have no guarantee that they'll be able to go public anytime soon.
The dismal IPO market is taking its toll on venture capitalists, who invest in companies that they expect, if successful, will be liquid within some years.
As Facebook's unbelievable growth continues unabated, the company is increasingly finding itself scrutinized by critics who are asking a simple question: 'where's the money'?
Even though Facebook is generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, its costs are growing rapidly and there are various unsubstantiated rumors that the company is on a potentially disastrous financial path.
It used to be that you do a decent job of protecting your brand by registering the domain names that incorporate your brand name.
Not anymore. Thanks to social networking sites and other online communities, consumers are increasingly interacting on third party services that have become targets for brand hijackers, impostors and opportunists. Their MO: snap up usernames that are related to major brands (and prominent individuals).
We've written about the potential of using social media for customer service, or at least monitoring and responding to customers' comments and complaints, and here is a great example of how valuable this can be.
Naked Wines, which launched last December, was very quick to get involved in social media; it has a Twitter account as well as a Facebook group, and this example shows the value of monitoring and responding to customers' concerns where they are talking about you.
Content may be king but many companies have found that producing and distributing quality content requires a royal bank account.
The plight of the newspaper industry is a good example: news hasn't gone out of style but, for many newspapers, the cost structures associated with producing the news is incompatible with today's market. Costs simply exceed revenues.
Yahoo has a lot of work to do as it looks to rebuild under new CEO Carol Bartz. Bartz has assets to work with, namely Yahoo's diverse portfolio of highly-trafficked properties.
One of the biggest challenges: figuring out a way to pull them all together, both from an operational standpoint and a functional standpoint.