Turntable.fm Gets Social Network Building Right

I’ve written about the challenges of social network building and the pitfalls of beta-testing recently, but I also want to highlight a site that I think is doing a lot of things right, and ultimately has the chance to carve out a really strong place in the social media universe. Turntable.fm has put together a really strong offering that hits on several elements of personal behavior and psychology. They definitely are getting the buzz going, with Kanye West coming on board as an investor. I’ve identified seven areas where the platform is hitting the right notes from a user perspective:


1. Tapping into a activity that people are genuinely passionate about

Music transcends all barriers. Age, sex, income, political leaning, religion, nationality – all those get thrown out the window with music. I really think this is a key element to why some sites thrive and others fail. The successful site taps into a passion that you have offline, and gives value to you around that passion. This blog post from Sysomos echoes this sentiment, noting the importance of emotional connections in social media success.


2. Let’s you share your passion

In various ways, Spotify, Pandora and Turntable.fm all let your share with your social graph. This is critical as music is (or at least can be) such a social activity. One aspect of Turntable.fm I really like is the email alerts letting you know when a DJ you have become a fan of is now playing. That’s a great prompt to get people on the site in a meaningful way. You’ve probably become a fan of one of your friends, so it’s natural that you’d want to jump on when they are on.


Last night a DJ saved my online music experience.

3. Great user interface

Where Turntable.fm really excels is in the user interface. Where Spotify, Pandora, iTunes and Google Music all act as a sort of radio, Turntable.fm is a club. Five DJs are set up at the back of the room with the rest of the people in the “room” acting as the audience. At any one time there are dozens of these rooms, playing different types of music. Setting of the look of Turntable.fm this way would be fine even without the DJs, but that’s really the secret sauce of the site…

4. Appealing to the inner-music snob in all of us

Let’s face it, you have great taste in music. Better than all your friends. You’ve always known you could be a DJ, traveling to France, New York, Ibiza, all the places where the cool kids hang out. But unless your last name is Ronson, Turntable.fm is as close as you’re probably going to get. The brilliant part is that you do get that nervous feeling right before your song is played. Will the crowd like it? Will I get kicked off the stage? There is a very simply plus/minus type meter that let’s you know how the crowd feels. If it starts drifting towards the negative, you can feel the sweat trickling down your back.

5. Music selection

Turntable.fm, rather than counting on you to have a massive library of club bangers, allows you to search for titles, artists or albums in the cloud. Just search and add to your playlist and you are ready to go. A great feature that let’s you grab your all-time favorites, or poach the latest from Lady Gaga with just a couple of mouse clicks.

6. Purchase, transfer and other business opportunities.

Like a song the DJ is playing? Turntable.fm connects you to Amazon, iTunes, Last.fm, Spotify and rdio. This recent Ad Age article talks about online social music platform business models,and the New York Egotist also hits on the brands (and agencies) that have rushed to Turntable.fm.

Earn a harder, better, faster, stronger avatar.

7. Good use of game mechanics

Of course, what online experience today would be complete without game mechanics? But rather than going badge-crazy, Turntable.fm has kept it low key and relevant. Yes, you can earn points, but not through random, mindless clicking. You have to play music (engage with the platform) that people like (engage with other users).  Right now those points allow you to earn access to increasingly sophisticated avatars.  Can you enjoy Turntable.fm without using the game mechanics at all? Sure, just enjoy the tunes. But for those with egos or a competitive streak, your itch gets scratched as well.


That’s a lot of things being done right.  All in all I think it bodes well for Turntable.fm to create a viable business model for the platform in the future.

Empire Avenue: Suggested Reading Before You Jump In

Blue Horseshoe loves RICKL

Empire Avenue, the Social Media Stock Exchange Network blew up over the last few days, driven buy engagement from several social media players and the involvement of brands like Intel and Ford. I joined back in August of 2010, but hadn’t done much with my account recently. Maybe you’ve seen the #EAve hashtag on Twitter, or tweets like this and weren’t sure what’s going on:



So, yeah, another Social Network for you to spend time on. But before you roll your eyes, let me say this: They’ve done a very nice job incorporating social rewards and other game mechanics into Empire Avenue. It really is worth your time, even if you’re just checking it out for fun. So, go ahead and jump in, but first, take a look at these posts:


1. Rober Scoble talks to Empire Avenue founder Duleepa “Dups” Wijayawardhana (with video!)

2. Scott Monty breaks it all down in this terrific post.

3. The Influencier (@DougUpdates) has a primer on Empire Avenue chat etiquette.

4. Empire Avenue beta-tester Adriel Hampton has worked out the kinks and shares his findings.

5. Jeremiah Owyang looks at the opportunities and challenges for brands on Empire Avenue.

6. Another great interview with Dups, this time talking Game Layer with Esteban Contreras.

7. Here’s a breakdown from General Zod, one of the serious EA players.

Empire Avenue: The Latest Rush To Social Media Judgement

Remember Emily’s Reasons Why Not? It starred Heather Graham and ran on ABC.  You probably don’t remember it because only one episode aired! In fact there’s a pretty big list of TV shows that were cancelled after just one episode made it to the screen. We live in a world where instant success is often demanded.  Where ultimate success is gauged very early in the process. I was reminded of this when I saw this Tweet from David Armano:

Quora: Will Empire Ave take off or is it a fad? Answer: http://qr.ae/qg3P
David Armano


Steve Woodruff had a funny response:

When @ asks (on Quora) if Empire Avenue is a fad, we have reached a Critical Craze Convergence Crossing (C4). Run!
Steve Woodruff

Here’s the full question on Quora:

Empire Ave is a social network/game that acts like a virtual stock market allowing you to “buy” stock in both friends and brands. The tech elite have recently jumped on it. Is it the next rising star or crashing meteor?

Last month Color was the flavor of the month, before that it was Quora. Now the heat surrounds Empire Avenue and the immediate question is “What’s the potential for this site, will it be a major player?” The answer of course is, “Who the heck knows?” Was anybody certain Facebook would explode like it did? Is anybody certain it won’t fade out in three years?

I think Empire Avenue is fun, and has some interesting potential, but who knows what sort of staying power it has. Maybe they tie-in with LinkedIn, that could be interesting, or they get bought by Facebook. Perhaps it becomes the authority that people are trying to make Klout out to be (unless PeerIndex supplants them first).

But my point isn’t that we can’t know for sure what’s going to be a hit, it’s that we shouldn’t be trying. Trying to pick winners is a fool’s game.  Instead we should be judging value by how well the site or app or tool helps us achieve our goals. If Empire Avenue tops out a 10,000 users, but you can develop a thriving community around those people, well that’s all that matters. But there’s no way you’re going to know if that is possible today. You have to put in the time.

I’ve written about a Slow Social Movement in the past and this is another great example of the need to not rush to judgement. Giving up on Empire Avenue now may be premature, while loading up heavily on the platform is probably premature too. The best thing you can do right now is check it out and have some fun with it.  Don’t try to monetize it or leverage it to target key demos or other nonsense, just play with it. Is it fun? Do you like spending time on the site for no other reason than it makes you happy? If so, they may be on to something.

Bandwidth Management: Social Media, Time and ROI

We’ve all read plenty of stories about how to convince your boss or client that they should be putting support behind Social Media. And by now there’s a good chance that they’ve said yes. And there’s probably a good chance they’ve put you in charge of it.  Congratulations.

If you read a recent report (and a very good one) from the Altimeter Group called the Engagement db you know that having a strong presence across multiple Social Networks is a key to success. But I want to throw a word of caution out there.  Don’t fall into the trap of over-extending yourself.

It’s very easy to get excited about Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, podcasting and blogging. You may even have a strong understanding of your goals and believe that all those things can be leveraged to the benefit of the brand. But it’s important to make sure you (or your team) have the bandwidth to really leverage those platforms.

Having a presence and engaging with consumers is a lot more than just tweeting three times a week, or blogging five times a month. There’s a tremendous amount of effort – both thinking and executing – that go into it. In my recent interview with Colin Burns, Chipotle’s Facebook Community manager, he mentioned spending two hours a day, seven days a week, on the site. That’s just one platform. Could he do it in half that time? Sure. Would it still be an excellent example of doing it right? Maybe not.

If your time allows you to engage with four platforms and you try to work against six, here’s what happens: You don’t do four well and then do a mediocre job on the other two, you do a mediocre job on all six. Here’s an analogy:

A teacher can do a great job teaching 20 students. Her classroom includes 24 kids. Does she do a great job with 20 and let four suffer? Of course not, she loses a little bit of time with all 24 students. No one child suffers noticeably, but they all receive suboptimal teaching. That’s how it is with Social Media. When you over-extend, all your efforts suffer.

So, for you, four is the maximum number of Social Media platforms you can comfortably support. Great, then only do three. Why? Why not maximize your efforts? Because if you are running at full capacity you’ll really only be treading water. You’ll be producing as much content as you can, and as a result you’ll be spending no time thinking about the bigger picture. You’ll spend 90 minutes pushing out tweets, but never stop to think if you could be using Twitter differently. You’ll spend 2 hours writing a blog post, but never take the time to read other blogs that you could/should be linking to. And you’ll certainly never have the time to decide if Foursquare or Posterous should be added to your mix, and what it should replace.

If you’re running at a breakneck pace just trying to maximize your presence, you’re going to miss a lot of great opportunities. Social Media is Commitment Marketing, you need to take your time and really analyze the landscape. That only happens if you pull back a little bit on the content creation.

Want to spread an idea? Don’t tell your friends

If you’ve been following Social Media for the last couple of years you’ve heard a lot of talk about two concepts:

  1. Develop a strong network of friends & followers
  2. Create content that will be shared*

*Note how I avoided using the word ‘viral’

It followed that by doing the first, you would increase your chances of having the second happen. As a result, building a networks of friends became a goal, and people starting friending everyone they could on Facebook, and then friending the friends of their new friends. Here’s what my Facebook ‘Friendwheel’ looks like:


Here’s a similar one for Twitter:



With a thick, rich, dense network of friends like this, I should be able to push out an idea and have it bounce around like a pinball, hitting hundreds of people. But, before we get too excited, let’s examine our premise, that a strong network will help spread our ideas.  

So, how would this work in practice? Let’s take a look at my network and see how this may work.

DJ Francis

DJ Francis

This is DJ Francis. He’s a blogger and works at Critical Mass in Chicago. We’re friends, and yet by some weird anomaly, we have just one mutual friend on Facebook. Between the two of us we know 1181 people (I have 847 friends, he has 334), with just one mutual friend for a total of 1180. I know just .003% of his friends. Or, expressed another way, we have a unique distribution of 99.91% of our combined friends. 

I’ll get maximum efficiency if I send a link to DJ, because the overlap is virtually non-existent. It further stands to reason that many of his friends’ friends will be unknown to me as well.

Here’s another example:

Kenneth Courtney

Kenneth Courtney

Meet Kenneth Courtney, he runs the super hot trend website, This Hearts On Fire. He’s on the cutting edge of music, art and fashion. Between us we have 1653 Facebook friends, but just one mutual friend! An incredible 99.94% unique distribution. Between myself and Kenneth, just two people, I can reach 1652 individuals.

Now, imagine I’ve got a story about an underground record label in NYC that is using Social Media. I can hit DJ and Kenneth and really hit a wide swath. Again, the chances that Kenneth and DJ have mutual friends, but those mutual friends don’t know me is unlikely.

DJ and I; and Kenneth and I have what is termed weak ties. Without a strong friendship support network, it would be very easy for us to drift apart. Only one friend could possibly invite both me and DJ (or me and Kenneth) to the same party. But in truth, it is these weak ties that have incredible potential. It’s critical that I mantain some sort of relationship with these guys. In fact, it’s probably more important for me to keep these guys as friends than some of my other “Facebook friends.”

Now, let’s flip this coin and look at it from the other side…

Meet Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications. Todd is a well-known blogger

Todd Defren

Todd Defren

and PR professional with just about the same number of Facebook friends as I have. But we share 116 mutual friends – roughly one out of every eight. Now the chances that those 116 people also have mutual friends of mine is pretty high as well. Case in point, Todd and I are both friends with his SHIFT colleague, Doug Haslam. Doug and I share 142 friends. so, sure, I can share things with Todd, but the chances that it will travel beyond my own social graph is fairly unlikely.

Look how strong the bond is between me and Todd. One hundred-sixteen people can bring us together. And while this may seem a bit counter-intuitive, for spreading an idea DJ and Kenneth are actually more valuable.

Let’s call in an expert here. Mark Granovetter, in a piece called The Strength of Weak Ties, wrote the following:

“If one tells a rumour to all his close friends, and they do likewise, many will hear the rumour a second and third time, since those linked by strong ties tend to share friends. If the motivation to spread the rumour is dampened a bit on each wave of retelling, then the rumour moving through strong ties is much more likely to be limited to a few cliques than that going via weak ones; bridges will not be crossed.”

Granovetter wrote this in 1973! I strongly recommend you give this a read (warning, it is very academic). He also speaks about the phenomenon of Six Degrees of Separation, before it was even called that.

So, taking this back to the present, as a marketer or marketing communications professional, how should you be trying to leverage your social network to spread your blog post/website/YouTube video? Here are some tips:

A solar system, not a web

You want your network of friends to look like the Solar System. A planet of sports friends, a planet of music friends, a planet of science fiction friends. You’ll also have moons or asteroids of smaller groups. You’re the rocket ship that goes from one celestial body to the next, spreading the information.

Understand not only your friends, but their friends as well

All things being equal, if you have to choose between two people, choose the one with fewer mutual friends.  On Twitter, cross-reference who is following them with who is following you; on Facebook, check for mutual friends.

Identify different audiences for your content and target accordingly

In addition to cultivating a wide variety of friends (see planet analogy above), plan of targeting your pitches based on your friends’ interests. Don’t send the same email to your techno music buddy and your friend who lives in Detroit. Tell the Detroit guy that your content will be of interest to him, and his Detroit friends, and tell your techno pal that all his techno buddies will love it too.


I hope you enjoyed this post, now go share it with someone you don’t have any ties with.