Did the Like button just kill Digg?

Last week at the Facebook Developers Conference (termed f8) they released a simple yet powerful feature called the Like button. In a single line of code any website can become part of the massive Facebook matrix instantly. Sites such as the Wall Street Journal are already serving up Like buttons and it adds a whole new dimension. Now when you see an article on cnn.com and notice some of friends Like an article, you can judge the social context of the article. Is the article “liked” by your business friends, family friends or friends that like tabloid trash.

The Like button concept is not new. It’s been around for years, digg.com was one of the early social news aggregators. Digg over the past few years has been sputtering around and it’s CEO Jay Adelson was shown the door early this month. Kevin Rose, the founder, is back at the helm and was the internet poster child in 2006 when he was on the cover of BusinessWeek. As for digg, I see more and more sites adding the Like button and will most likely have it along side the digg button and other similar buttons. But honestly, who is going to sit there and press 2 or 3 buttons. I see someone pressing one button if they like an article and that button will be the Facebook Like one. I also see Facebook working with big content providers and “suggesting” they have only one button – theirs.

It’s a brilliant strategy too extend Facebook’s reach beyond the facebook.com domain. An example of someone executing this concept one step further is the site http://likebutton.me. It aggregates all your friends that have “Liked” stories and overlays it onto an easy to view grid.

Social Media Madness

Over the past several months I’ve been trying to crystalize my thoughts over the current rage of social media. It all came together when I saw the following quote (via Lifehacker):

Don’t Mistake Activity for Achievement

– John Wooden, legendary basketball coach

Lately, I’ve noticed many people asking me if I’ve joined their Facebook Page or followed them on Twitter.  Social media is another marketing medium for a product/service. With no upfront cost people are creating Facebook Pages and using Twitter, for the first month they are posting and updating on a daily basis…then most likely it dies.

First, you have to decide if social media is really going to help you.  If you are selling industrial products probably not. Just like I would not advise someone to blow money on a print/tv campaign if they are trying to sell an email marketing service such as Constant Contact or MailChimp…know your target audience.

Actually, it goes further back is your product/service awesome.  If you believe it’s awesome that’s the first step…you have to be fully engaged and eat, sleep and breath it.  Without a great product or need, social media will just help you publicize what a pathetic product/service you have.

Sahil sums it up – Content is still king. (his blog)

If you were to ask me 6 months ago about social media consultants (SMC), I would have said pour yourself a tall glass of STFU and go sit quietly in the corner.  But, SMC’s are like an advertising firm who can help you generate ideas and implement them…but can’t commit to success. I’m sure Porsche does not go to their advertising agency and say we want to implement the new Porsche Panamera campaign and you have to guarantee 1,000 units are sold…not going to happen.

It brings me back to the original point of the quote, people that are spending time tweaking their social media strategy should really be focusing on how they the can improve their existing product/serice. Just because you are updating your fan page or tweeting about some article on TechCrunch ain’t gonna cut it.

Financial Reforms?

The SEC strikes again as it issues a Wells notice to Goldman Sachs (GS) for selling CDO’s that were allegedly created to fail. A major hedge fund (Paulson & Co.) was on the short side of the trades and apparently he selected what securities would go into the CDO. I’m just calling it “shady shit.”

A couple of points. First, I’m sure other investment banks did the same thing and it’s not just a “Goldman thing.” Second, GS will pay a fine and sweep it under the rug. Coincidently, talk of financial reforms are doing the rounds on Capital Hill, some say the timing of the Wells notice and government financial reforms was coordinated. Might be.

Personally, I think 2 things would make a difference and a lasting impression.  First, instead of targeting specific instruments such as derivatives, a macro view might be a better approach. It would be similar to someone committing a crime with a knife will get XYZ punishment, or if you committed the crime with a gun then its something else.  When really you should be targeting the crime itself.  Since, Wall Street is really driven by money I think that’s where they should start.  Instead of basing a fine on the profit someone made, it should be based on the value of the security. In the Goldman case they should not target the USD 30 million or so that GS made. Instead, they should base the fine on the initial value or ending value of the security (whichever is higher) – USD 1 billion. That changes the dynamics of the risk management team, then everyone is watching everyones back and some dumb ass VP won’t be misrepresenting a USD 1 billion transaction.

Secondly, the Glass-Steagall Act has to come back.  It originally stated that commercial banks and investment banks were seperate.  In 1999 that act was repealed and the effects of that are pretty obvious – it was like putting Wall Street on a cocaine, alcohol and steroid fueled binge. In addition, they should take it a step further, you cannot trade on behalf of the company (aka prop books). Prop books would have to be spun-off and their P&L managed individually. If anybody thinks that front running does not occur is fooling themselves. Talk of a Chinese Wall is pure garbage, it’s more like Swiss Cheese.

In summary, fines based on the initial or ending value of the security (whichever is higher), bring back the Glass-Steagall Act and ALL prop books have to be standalone units.

32,000 feet and Rs. 17,000 Crore in debt

What is the national carrier of India – Air India. Compared to other carriers around the world Rs. 17,000 CR (USD 3.5 billion) in debt is not so bad but when you realize their fleet size is small it starts to add up.

Air India recently announced 4 new member to their Board of Directors, most notable is Anand Mahindra who runs Mahindra and Mahindra. In addition, over the past 4 months there have been numerous articles printed about how Air India is going to move forward and change – bullsh@$#.  I think Air India is too unionized and stuck in the government worker mentality. It needs to streamline their organization but no one has the political will to do that. I would love to know how many of the seats are given to political people and their families…again another line item that no one wants to touch.

The merger of Indian Airlines and Air India was another disaster in the making. Indian Airlines handled all the domestic flights while Air-India was the international arm. Many say the merger was done to hide the loses of Indian Airlines and bury them into the books of the newly merged entity which is officially called The National Aviation Company of India (NACIL).

So what needs to get done?  The first step is to start privatizing the carrier just like Lufthansa (article on Lufthansa privatization) and British Airways (BA article) did. This would force the carrier to shed some employees and start to be more competitive. But, I’m sure NACIL will hire a consultant like McKinsey or Accenture and then put the blame of the decisions on the consulting company – business as usual for Air India.

P.S. The 32,000 feet in the blog title does not refer to the cruising altitude but the number of employees – 16,000 😉

Planning vs. Executing

Should you plan your business with a 25+ slide deck and 30 page business plan or just get out there and start?

Part of me thinks you should plan your business strategy but more then not I tell people just do it and get started. There is no way in hell you can predict what is going to happen in 6 months much less talk about customer acquisition numbers in month 26 of your start-up.

My advice to start-ups has always been the same, spend a couple days and create a 10 slide pitch deck.  Even if you are not looking for funding the process allows you to simplify and clarify what your goals are.  After that fun exercise get back to work and focus on executing and creating the product or service.  The first version of the product/service will not be perfect and that is okay.  Get it out to your intended audience and wait for the feedback. If there is no feedback, then it’s back to the drawing board.

By know you are wondering what is with the image in the upper left corner of this post. It’s the icon for a Mac Twitter client called Tweetie. Tweetie was created by Loren Brichter, who claims he was never a programmer when he created Tweetie.  Recently, Tweetie was bought by Twitter and Loren will now be working for the mobile platform team at Twitter.  Loren is a great example of someone who got out there and did something. He left Apple and ended up creating Tweetie because all the Twitter clients at the time were not that great. It’s safe to say he didn’t create a 30 page business plan. You can watch the full 30 minute presentation he gave at Stanford talking about Tweetie – iTunes link.

Excellent quote from John Morgridge, former CEO of Cisco Systems. I heard the following quote from him during one of my trips to San Jose where he was speaking.

Business plans are like peeing down your leg, it gives you a warm feeling but it doesn’t do anything for you.

Update: Many people have emailed me for a template of the 10 slides.  Download a great presentation that talks about how to pitch and also the 10 slide template.