Last Friday I was honored to receive an invite to participate in Seesmic’s Private Beta. For those of you who don’t know, Seesmic is the hottest invite in Silicon Valley. That’s due, in part to French Founder Loic Le Meur‘s charisma plus a lot of blogger outreach. It also doesn’t hurt that TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington is an investor.
So What Is It?
On its most basic level, Seesmic is a social network for people engaged in video conversations. Because of its use of video, people are apt to draw comparisons with YouTube. The design of Seesmic, however, is much more intimate than YouTube. Instead of being overwhelmed with content, when you login to Seesmic you can either watch the most recent videos uploaded (the public timeline) or record your own. Even Seesmic’s tagline, “Join the video conversation,” contrasts YouTube’s “Broadcast Yourself,” highlighting the underlying difference: YouTube is more for those wanting to create or share video content while Seesmic, on the other hand, is intended for short video messages woven together to create conversations. YouTube is about You. Seesmic is about the community.
Speaking of community, it has grown very quickly over the last month. On November 20th, Michael Arrington reported that there were 300 users. In a Twitter interview Sunday night, Loic said the site has about a thousand users. With almost half posting daily, Seesmic’s community is very active. Loic also stated that there are still around 7000 people on the waiting list for an invite. [See this video explanation of why they can’t expand any faster]
Seesmic is very easy to use. My MacBook’s built in camera allowed me to just hit the record button on Seesmic and start talking for up to five minute. If you don’t have a webcam, you can also upload videos that you record with a digital camera. Because the site is powered by flash and Ajax, some users might experience a drain on their CPU.
Many people have called Seesmic a video Twitter. Since Twitter is text, you can easily read, re-read and edit before you hit send. Video feels much more spontaneous.
I have to admit, when the camera started rolling, I didn’t know what to say; it really felt like the first time I’d ever left a voice message: “Um, Hi, this is Chris and I, um, just wanted to say…” Thank goodness Seesmic allows you to playback your video before posting and discard if you aren’t satisfied. After typing a subject and a brief description, hit save to post the video. Voila, you message has been sent out to the community and, if you’ve registered your Twitter account, a Tweet is automatically sent informing your Twitter friends that you have posted on Seesmic. Now others can watch your video and instantly reply. And then the conversation starts…or continues.
[Loic does a fun 3-minute video tutorial of how to use Seesmic here.]
First off, I have to give mad props to the Seesmic team for creating such a beautiful platform. Scrolling through the Seesmic stream, I watched conversations discussing everything from light-hearted music trivia to more esoteric topics like the psychology behind Seesmic. Loic’s team makes it easy for the lurkers–or those not always on the site–to catch up on the day’s major meme’s by offering a daily review, appropriately titled “Seesmix.”
As a newbie, it was hard to figure out what to say. Twitter asks “What are you doing,” but Seesmic leaves you hanging. Since Twitter’s purpose has evolved as the site has grown, I’m not sure if this is really a big deal. Also as a newbie, I don’t have any friends to converse with. This, however, wasn’t intimidating; all of the Seesmic users seem very open. It’s also just a matter of finding people I know.
In the upcoming months, members will soon be able to send direct messages to each other. Users will also soon have more options like message recording through Skype and distribution through email, Facebook and YouTube. When Seesmic launches in February, tagging and video grouping capabilities will make it easier to follow conversations. This feature will prove invaluable as the site grows. I also see RSS capabilities as something very useful.
Due to the visual nature of the media, video has a stronger impact that text communication could ever allow. For that reason, I would love to see Seesmic incorporated into company websites. I see it as a place where customers can leave video questions to the company moderated by the Community Manager with conversation threads left for future visitors to see. I can also see Community Managers interacting with customers through polls, quizes or direct relations with the press. It might also be used for internal communications like a video IM.
As I play around with it, I’m sure more ideas will come up. Like any community, it’s going to take some time and energy to fully understand how it works. As I learn and experience, I will pass it on to you. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to pass out a few invites. In the meantime, check out my first Seesmic post.
Are there any quesitons you would like me to ask the Seesmic community?
[Above image used under Creative Commons License by domake.saythink on flickr]