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Saving Yahoo with a Social Strategy

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The turmoil at Yahoo may be reaching crisis proportions. Stagnant sales growth was one thing, a lack of strategic clarity another, and now senior executives are leaving in droves and there are calls for drastic action. As I discuss at GigaOM Pro, Yahoo could gain back some momentum with social media.

Just about every company online should add some social spice to its site, but in Yahoo’s case, an aggressive dose could help maintain its huge audience and advertising leadership position. It’s too late for the company to build a new social network from the ground up. Rather, Yahoo should try to regain the momentum of its original portal role as the entry point or start page for the Internet by playing an aggressive role in the emerging age of feed-based user interfaces.

  • Integrated interface. Yahoo should accelerate its feed and update its aggregation strategy, taking it beyond surfacing connections on the homepage or near content and email. Once upon a time, Yahoo taught mainstream users how to use directories and search for web navigation. Now it must more aggressively offer a feed to its audience, who may be more familiar with traditional content discovery. Facebook is mainstream, but Twitter is not. Yahoo could help move mainstream audiences back and forth across search, browse and stream consumption styles. A medium-size acquisition, say, TweetDeck or Seesmic, could help.
  • Ads around feeds. Yahoo should then apply its advertising sales force, relationships and targeting capabilities atop or near the resulting UIs and experiences to create unique “advertorial” content around that aggregation. Yahoo’s content farm acquisition, Associated Content, can work here. Yahoo has long worked with creating customized content experiences for brand advertisers.
  • Social ad network. Yahoo’s already in the ad network business (although there’s concern about its publisher efforts) and should rent out its resulting social ad platform to other sites. True, Facebook is already building out an ad platform with social targeting and a home for advertiser content, but it doesn’t have the richer store of seasonal and evergreen professional content that Yahoo has, nor its trusted content brand. And Facebook says it’s not building an ad network. At least, not yet.

Read the full post here.

Image Source: flickr user James Cridland.

7 Responses to “Saving Yahoo with a Social Strategy”

  1. David:

    Yahoo needs to look at what is next after Social. It is already too late for being a player in Social. Facebook/Twitter own that place. Yahoo still has enough money and people to do some research/experiments and invent the next thing “after social”. Thats the only way to win back the glory days.

  2. David Card

    @ronald: Ironically, I expect the best data that Yahoo has access to is social the way you’re using the term, but it probably collects more of the document data (for contextual and behavioral ad targeting). So if it could glue ’em together….

    @Jay I think Yahoo agrees with you. They built such great products not that long ago, but only integrated very lightly.

    @George the only problem with the peanut butter manifesto was that the one thing Yahoo did best was be a portal. And that meant serving up a mix of content, navigation, and communication. That used to be a tasty concoction. I think their social focus should be on nav and discovery, as I tried to illustrate.

    • If they have access to that kind of data, what on earth are they doing.

      Get some good system architects define the base (got the abstracts already, two steps away from fom code), get some Product guys, refine. Get some UI experts, refine. Get the coders going. Refine.

      Come’on this is not brain surgery. We actually know how to do this. IFF they keep on chasing the old Web abstracts, they might as well close shop. Or merge with AOL, which just delays closing shop. Search will be marginalized(lousy way to organize data) and therefor the businesses based on SEO will too.

      But if they do it right, not having sold to MS(just outsource search) might have been a good idea after all.

  3. The infamous “Peanut Butter Manifesto” was Yahoo’s saving grace. Unfortunately, they virtually ignored it. As a result, people can’t point to anything that Yahoo does really well other than providing everything under the sun.

    Until Yahoo decides to start delivering specific content very well, the company is doomed to a slow death as users discover providers that actually do things very well.


  4. Hi David,

    All the services at Yahoo are do poorly integrated that they have their work cut out for them.

    I couldn’t agree more with your observations on the direction they need to head, but they have got to do something about their end user experience.

    I logged into my yahoo account last night and started moving around through their buzz, profile updates, and a few other services I enjoy and had to relogin 4 different times as I moved from service to service.

    Who wants to do over and over? It reminded me of why I don’t use them anymore.

    To add insult to injury, I customized the UI at www dot yahoo but spent most of my time using my dot yahoo which isn’t as customizable…

    I hope they rediscover why they exist. Yahoo used to be awesome but now there is a huge disconnect from the end user there.

    Great post!

    but I

  5. Wouldn’t it be helpful to get an understanding of what social is and how it differentiates itself from the web?

    IMHO, social on a broad abstract base is ‘Data organized around people and their interaction’, the web is mostly ‘Data organized around Documents on Servers’.

    Now from that we can define, the big W’s which will drive future business growth in search(better,more accurate) and display ads(interests). Who,Why,What,When,Where,With Whom …

    The web, with it’s docs on servers delivered What,When, and in conjunction with search a guessed Why and a little Who(cookies). While web1.0 was What,When Google monetized Why (intend).

    To get those W’s FB gives system storage, communication and and a little organization back.
    In other words the next system has to provide something to people so they are willing to give up more of their W’s.

    This can be EasiertoUseWX which can be matched by FB, or
    FastToAccessWX. But to really get user to switch and provide more info I think an easier and faster doesn’t outweigh inconvenience of data transfer or support more W’s.

    I don’t think Yahoo does any of this(except docs on a server,portal). And then there is Google which could provide a protocol and extension to http to compete with FB and any other site without restarting social(internal).

    Question is, would it be better to focus on getting 100% on a few W’s or better to get a lower percentage on all.