Monday, October 22, 2007

Social Email Graph (SEG) Yahoo's low hanging fruit

This is part 3 on my Social Email Graph(SEG) series. (part 1 SEG industry analysis here, part 2 SEG = facebook here)

Yahoo! You own the web email world with 250Mil of 500Mil web email users. Stay the king of email by strengthening it with SEG!!!

I think Yahoo has an advantage here over gmail, MS and AOL for the same reason that Y! suffered focus earlier because it had spread itself to many verticals solving many segments as a portal play.

Most ideas discussed around "tapping into the social graph" by the large web based providers today is centered on the idea of asking users to add profile information and finding friends from email interaction.

Yahoo can take it forward as a 2-step process:

Step1 : Find the user's social graph in user's emails:

Build metrics and learn the social pattern of a user's network by association, frequency and persistency.
- track user frequency of emailing someone
- association of users by being cced in emails
- association of being part of email groups for a particular user.
- allow user to tag users when they email based on repeated pattern. I prefer tagging over categories because the same person maybe related under different tags.
For example, I email my Mommy friend as "mommy friends" email group, no connection amongst them, but there is a pattern from my relationship to them - I see them all as Mommys (apart from whatever they are in life) so I can send them the next "William Overture for Moms". You cannot ask me to categorize them, they will fall under family, friends, colleague etc which does not do justice to my real social relationship with them using email today.
- people who a user chats with messenger from email get to see their status change and are part of one group, in an inner circle.
- people who a user responds to a chat quickly are again a privileged category of friends.
- spam list of users, stalled list of users whose chats are not responded quickly.

It maybe that I am part of a Y! Group with some of these friends subsets and Y! can track and build upon that to connect with rest of Yahoo - later!

The easiest application of these metrics is friends finder, maybe cool for early adopters to find friends in different categories and tag or categorize them. Wheres the sustainable value to users from this exercise and how can yahoo lockin these users for competitive advantage?

Step 2: Present opportunities to do what user does intuitively in her real social graph.

Travel, Shopping, Finance are all social activities where we exchange emails researching, collaborating, purchasing and finalizing logistics of our plans with different set of friends.

Some friends influence the purchase decisions, some contribute to research data with search from web or sharing pictures, and a select few get to consume the experience with us.

Your travel plans maybe initiated by looking at your friends' Hawaii picture.
When you research, you check in with friends on their best deals for reference to sources.
Your review session with friends are different from review session with family or friend who is traveling with you to make purchase decisions.
On purchase you exchange emails on logistics of travel, not to mention you start the review cycle again to begin your experience of consumption of the travel.

The more I think about it, Autos, Tech, Movies, Music are all similar with some, more intense in
email communication involving reviews, while most are intense in the peer influencing communication, and all involving purchase and consumption with different sets of friends.

Yahoo can bring rest of yahoo network to layer upon email, building upon the SEG.
Add different use cases of user behavior based on the SEG metrics collected and offer new value added products and services.

The trick is to present it as a clean UI, with simple intuitive usability.

Users will adapt the best solution from anyone be it a large or small company, from existing email or social networking company where the user can "simply be themselves", they can bring more and more of their real self to their online world, the most important part of their online world, their email.

1 comment:

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