I saw an interesting development on Twitter today. The current Web 2.0 darling has done an excellent job on highlighting the most popular topics being used by its (unquantified but undoubtedly hugely significant number of) users at any one time – see below:
But there have been many a time when I’ve clicked on a particular trending topic to see exactly what this strange hash tag or phrase is – who the heck knows what #heyhey could be – and the spammers have moved in to hijack the terms.
Which is why the below was interesting when I clicked on something called Google Wave:
It’s not flashy or sexy but coupling the wisdom of the crowds (trends divined from volume) with some sort of human curation (see this list feature Steve Rubel uncovered) gives us some sort of directional insight into where the microblogging network is heading.
What is more fascinating for me is how dependent this Web 2.0 powerhouse is on outside innovation. For a company which just announced a $100m (all figures US) round of funding, bringing the total raised to $150m and valuing the company at a cool $1bn, I am surprised how reliant Twitter is on the ecosystem which it has spawned. It is almost like its business plan is to add features through acquisition rather than an internal product development process and strategic vision. It’s fantastic to be the focal point of all this innovation and creative energy but at what point do you become more like Apple and less like Wikipedia – i.e., when do you start to apply your vision to your company or organisation rather than leave it to others to direct you?
I think that, at the crux of it, is a problem many organizations are facing with social media. How much do you start to crowd source your strategic planning and vision to your users? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Apple could very well let users define its product direction by listening to the community – which is comprised of many (many!) smart, creative, logical people. One of whom works at com.motion. But Apple would not be Apple if it pandered to the legions of fan boys/girls out there. The organization has a clear strategic direction and laser like product focus which precludes engaging the community in the same way that Twitter does.
It is an interesting paradox and the answer for many businesses may be somewhere in between.