Oneupweb Reviews: Socialthing for Websites

AOL purchased FriendFeed competitor Socialthing last year. In that time, this social profile management company has helped AOL’s social network Bebo integrate AIM and other social features which have led to a 148 percent increase in users.

At the end of April, Socialthing announced it would remain active but unsupported until a new social aggregation site is built. Efforts are now focused on adding increased functionality to a new product called Socialthing for Websites. AOL’s country music site The Boot is the first to get this new social tool, which takes the form of a toolbar at the bottom of the page. MediaGlow will enable Socialthing for Websites on more than 70 properties, including Cinematical, over the next few weeks.

Socialthing for Websites keeps users actively engaged by allowing them to chat with friends, share pages and stream content from various social sites such as Twitter, Blogger, YouTube, Delicious.com, Flickr and many others, wherever they are online.

How It Works
Visitors sign in using their existing AOL or AIM screen name and password. A “Buddy List” appears organizing AIM contacts in the following categories: AIM Bots, Buddies, Families, Coworkers, Offline. Users are prompted to use AIM Buddy Updates to “add services,” which are status updates from a person’s existing accounts with social sites such as Twitter, MySpace Blog, Flickr, etc. Usernames or IDs are required for each feed a person requests.

With account setup out of the way, users can receive and broadcast updates from friends, as well as receive updates from the website owner. In the Boot example, “Site Updates” are comments posted about the blog from general AIM users. Socialthing says Boot, or any other website owner with this toolbar, could download any RSS feed.

“Buddy Updates” are status updates from AIM and other social networks. People using AOL’s desktop Instant Messaging system with the toolbar will see their messages in Buddy Updates and on their desktop.
Users can decide what activities they want to publish. That means if users view a YouTube video, this tool requires a person’s consent to publish that action to their “Buddy Updates,” or to a specific AIM client, Bebo or other social site. Users can also IM their friends interesting links from the site or use the “I LikeThis” button to broadcast that information.

Benefits & Potential Pitfalls of This New Tool
Socialthing sounds as though they’ll be willing to work with website owners to create a flexible, design-friendly tool. Big features such as authenticating users from Facebook and other social networks and implementing advertising are still in the planning stages, so it’s difficult to envision exactly what Socialthing’s capabilities will be.

Existing features/benefits include the following:

  • PEOPLE LIKE AIM— ComScore reported that AIM was one of the top 25 social networking applications downloaded by Apple users in February. Facebook and MySpace ranked slightly higher on that list, but not by much.
  • SYNCRONIZED COMMUNICATION IN ONE SPOT—Given the growth of social sites like Twitter and Facebook, it’s fairly safe to say that people want access to what their friends are doing. The Socialthing tool allows users to communicate across multiple channels, while remaining connected to a favorite website that is also able to provide updates.
  • ANALYTICS—Tracking is available, which means participating website owners can see how many times articles were shared and how many comments were posted.
  • SOCIAL BOOKMARKING—Websites can get relevant content bookmarked right away.

Check out Socialthing for Websites’ Frequently Asked Questions to decide whether this is right for your business. Overall, I see real potential, but only time will tell how these features play out.

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