Facebook became the third most popular venue for watching online video in October, signaling the end of content portals. In our age of a million channels where making choices is difficult, the recommendations of our peers are becoming the new TV Guide.
What do we mean? There are three ways that content is distributed: First, producers can push — say, NBC’s old Seinfeld appointment television viewing on Thursday nights in the 1990s. Second, users can search — Google’s rise in the early part of this decade, and more recently the popular YouTube engine that allows you to find funny cat videos. But the third wave is when people you trust do the finding for you.
Here’s a test: Think of all the content your business puts out that you want people to see — your web site, your press releases, videos, ads and marketing communications. Now, add up all the ways you enable others to share your content with their networks of people. Is the sum more than zero?
Homophily at prime time
Human networks amplify the dynamic of “homophily,” the tendency of people you like to enjoy the same things you do. This is why people in cliques tend to wear the same clothes, watch the same movies, discuss the same politics, and now … share the same content. We trust our friends and loved ones. When they share something, we want to watch.
The strategic lesson for marketers is if you want your message to go viral, you have to find ways to entice networks of users to share it with others. For example, Facebook is no Hulu or YouTube yet, but the numbers for video access there are rising. In October 31.5 million unique users watched videos posted inside the social network, vs. 13.4 million on Hulu (the leading site for professional video content) and 105 million in YouTube (top site for user-generated video).
The “sticky” portal strategy of the 1990s is dying a deserved egocentric death. The center will not hold because you are no longer the center. You have to find ways to pass it along.