Over the weekend, a number of blogs and news sources reported that both Twitter and Facebook both quietly eliminated some of the RSS (Real Simple Syndication). Whether this actually happened or not, it certainly highlights the need to reexamine the use of social networks within your overall business strategy and how that role plays out within your business.
So let’s start with the basics. First, let’s profile the players in the game:
Real Simple Syndication (otherwise known as RSS) is a technology that allows for exactly what it says – the syndication and distribution of content from one source to many sources. The most common use of RSS is bringing in “feeds” from sites (i.e. their new updates) and aggregating them within one central source. The most commonly known RSS reader is Google Reader, which allows you to select and import feeds from any site that has the technology.
Facebook is the world’s largest social network, used by hundreds of millions of people. However, they regularly draw criticism for creating a data “silo” very similar to America Online (AOL) in the mid 90s. Put simply, most of the data that goes into Facebook is then locked within Facebook’s proprietary system. Facebook tightly controls the flow of that data and has far more avenues for data to come in (like Facebook Connect) than it does for data to go out. By closing off RSS, this would further solidify their desire to control the data, information, and capitalize on it internally.
Twitter is the scrappy, young prize fighter of social networks, but it has recently undergone a change in business culture with the purpose of actually creating some value in the business (similar to Facebook). This has created large ripples within their developer community, as Twitter has already started to shut down outside applications that do not “add” enough features to the core service.
So, now that the players are introduced, it’s time to look at the bigger game. Who actually owns and controls the data that goes into your social networking sites?
As demonstrated pretty clearly, the social networks actively base their business models on the information provided to them by their users. Facebook advertising, in particular, is completely hedged on this bet.
Should your reaction to this article be paranoia or fear of what these networks might do next?
As a participant in the Live Out Loud Community, the answer should be a resounding “no.” In fact, you’ll notice we profiled why you should participate on Twitter only a few days ago.
The core lesson of all of this returns to your internal business systems. In the end, if you do not have the solid foundation of necessary systems to not just operate but OWN your process, you are essentially playing at the mercy of larger forces.
In all of our courses, we highlight the importance of understanding your business process prior to making technology selections. This especially holds true when engaging in any external networks whether they be the social spaces, YouTube, or anything else.
Furthermore, if you’ve been utilizing RSS to publish your social data elsewhere, how big of an impact could this change have on your business?
As William Shakespeare (never) said, “Tis better to control your data flow than never to have created flow at all.”
It still breaks down to the question of: What do you want to accomplish and what tools do you have in your arsenal to really make it sizzle? Furthermore, how much control do you need over that system to keep it as robust as possible?
As always, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for the latest on this going forward…