Social Network Continues to Change Business Models in Both Distribution and Content

Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer will re-tool ad platforms in bid to resurrect the mobile app and website giant

Call it the iron filings problem in marketing. How do you tweak the network so that the individual electron spins of the individual collectively move in a magnetized way so that collective action, collaboration, communication, and advertising can be organized and monetized?

The Internet and social network are changing how goods and services are created, targeted, communicated, and evaluated in ways never before imagined. And the jury is still out on how to do it. Look at what’s happened in the last week alone.

Do you try the Big Magnet approach like Facebook where you get everyone in the network to talk to everyone else? Kind of like Six Degrees of Separation? Probably not. I doubt I could influence President Obama or Vladimir Putin or Chris Christie or Bruce Springsteen even though I might not need to get to Six. But WhatsApp lets me talk one-on-one with someone who I know and who may know them (or not).  Shouting from the rooftop is not the answer, Facebook found.

Just like Yahoo is finding in its banner and search ads.  If  put up a big billboard on I-95, I might get attention but not influence the thousands of motorists traveling north and south on that band of interstate concrete or a Yahoo user’s screen through the course of the day. That’s perhaps why Yahoo acquired Aviate, a start-up working on an Android app that tries to anticipate the needs of phone users based on their location, time of day, and their past habits.  But, like Yahoo announced, and Google and Microsoft have long been doing, I can stream advertising to them individually by being more creative and integrating what I am looking at with what you want me to look at.

And if I want to safeguard my iPhone, maybe I acquire, like Apple did, a software company like AuthenTec that enables me to have fingerprinting-sensing technology that could go on all my iPhones or be available to users.

Or, according to one expert, Apple could expand it 3-D sensor technology to turn the iPhone’s camera into a 3-D scanner, which could send images to be reproduced by a 3-D printer.

Or if I’m Netflix and Comcast, I realize that the future of entertainment is a lot like the impact of the drought in California and I better lock up the pipe-building business (the cable distribution companies) to the water (the entertainment content) I need. Or if I’m MSNBC maybe I need to think about how I’ll fill that new digital pipe with news video, along with other video news start-ups, like Vocativ, that mines Internet data and provides segments to news start-ups like the new program, “Ronan Farrow Daily.”

And maybe that sensor technology Google acquired through its purchase of Nest, the household and commercial interactive thermostat company, can pave the way for other “things” in the Internet of Things.

Both Google and Microsoft say they are hiring with new employee skills in mind to launch these ventures and chart the social network and get those iron filings called users and customers to move their way. Satya Nadella says Microsoft is looking for people who can own “an innovation agenda” in order to grow the software giant rather than see it a toppled Goliath.

And it’s not just expertise anymore. It’s behavior that hungers for learning, according to Google. Kind of like complex, adaptive systems comes to HR.  Learning and leadership that is “emergent,” says Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google.  What does he mean by that, you ask? What’s that look like?

Bock explains: “They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.” Big ego then small ego. Step up, step back. Bock calls that “emergent learning and leadership.”

And so fishing where the fish are is not just about what acquisitions to make or products to perfect.  It’s retooling how business models and the people who are adapting to the Internet, the smartphone, Big Data and the Internet of Things.  And what are those skills and attributes needed?  Soft skills that encompass leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability, and loving to learn and re-learn.  Be prepared for interviews that tease out these attributes.

In the meantime, Yahoo is looking for new advertising platforms to keep its business and its 800 million monthly users and advertisers on board.

Traditional business models are under siege.  As Kesha sings in her hit song with Pitbull, “It’s going down, I’m yelling timber.”

For more on how the Internet is changing business models and hiring, see perceptive reflections and reporting by Edward Wyatt and Noam Cohen, Vindu Goel, and Leslie Kaufman :

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