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New Social Order: Why Everything You Learned About Social Media is Wrong?

nwo

“Messaging is the new web browser. Everyone has a phone. Everyone has a favourite messaging app on their phone. If your new thing can message people via those apps, then anyone can engage with you.”

Matt McAlister (Guardian) 

Social media has been good to me. I used to work in MySpace in its heyday. I mostly made my name after that doing many succesful Facebook campaigns. I have exploited all the useful social media channels in promoting my books, parties and whatever else I have been doing. Majority of readers to this blog come from Twitter and LinkedIn.

That being said, social media is not what it used to be. It has become big business. It has become boring. It has become predictable. Essentially social media has reached the adulthood.

Marketers took a while to learn the ropes of social media. Now we have to unlearn everything we knew about social media if we want to succeed in the new marketplace:

  1. Social media listening is becoming meaningless

70% of the social discussions cannot be tracked because they happen in ”dark social” e.g. in messenger platforms and to lesser extend e-mail and SMS (older demographics). All the social media listening tools are focusing heavily on Twitter with some Instagram and Facebook mixed in. That is hardly a representative of almost any audience. Social media listening tools focus on Twitter because it is easy to monitor. That is like only doing biceps at the gym, because it is the most convenient movement to do. The reality is that you don´t know what your audience is talking about in digital and most likely will not be able to know in the near future.

Regard social media listening as a pulse (or weak signal) of what is happening, but not the full accurate picture of your audience and what they are talking about. Unless your audience are ”social media gurus” and celebrities.

  1. Engagement with your audience is a myth

Facebook is not social media; it is paid media. There is no organic reach for the brands anymore. You have to approach Facebook with same tools and methods as TV (expect with slightly better targeting opportunities). The most interesting bit about Facebook is the whole ecosystem with WhatsApp, FB Messenger and Instagram. Referring to previous point, we might not know what people are talking on WhatsApp but soon we can target ads based on what they are talking.

Forget always-on, approach Facebook through campaigns. Do less, but bigger things. For smaller things, automate as much as possible.

  1. Chatbots are the magic bullet to bring utility to social and make brands meaningful

The whole digital experience will start to revolve around messengers. The real value brands can bring is not in human relationships, but in human-machine relationships. Community manager –model is not sustainable as it requires actual people running it. Seeing a social post of pizza will not improve your life, but ability to order pizza from the messenger will (or make it worse depending on how many pizzas you eat a week). Conversational commerce will be the biggest opportunity for the brands in the short run to become meaningful in digital sphere.

Define how you can bring value to your audience through messenger with chatbots. Move fast because your competitors are most likely thinking about the same things as well.

  1. Influencers and partnerships are the key to borrow relevance

Ad-blocking is becoming more and more prevalent. Whether your ad is in Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, the default setting for your audience will be to block it. Only way to overcome ad-blocking is Again brands should not play in human-human relationships, but as an enhancer and enabler of star-human relationship. You have to start working with relevant influencers and start creating native content with the relevant media entitities. The answer to ad-blocking is not making better ads, because once you have blocked your ads you will not unblock them just because quality of interruptions has improved.

Go where your audience is and play with their rules.

  1. Forget social media

Like said earlier, the digital behavior will start (has already started) to revolve around messengers. That will be a melting pot of social, mobile and eCommerce and you have to understand that whole melting pot to succeed in the new marketplace. Our audience is not slicing and dicing their life. Messengers are lifeline of their whole existence and there is no boundaries between real-life and digital.

Your audience does not live in silos. You should not select your vendors to specialize in silos either. 

New social order has been here for already quite a while. Is your company ready for it?

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Asia is Driving Innovation

Unfortunately there is still almost colonial attitude towards emerging markets in the western countries (especially US and Europe). When dealing with people who are not living and working this region, the knowledge of the development and innovation happening in here is still quite modest. Everyone recognizes the business potential, but they think that it is just some void, which can be filled with western products.

They could not be more wrong.

Micromax is biggest phone manufacturer in India.

Xiaomi is the world´s third biggest phone manufacturer and China´s biggest.

Alibaba is worth more than Amazon and Ebay combined.

There are two prevalent myths, which are just wrong. Other is that all the Asian brands are just copying western brands and doing it cheaper. Other is that their whole success is based on the big local markets. These myths are not the whole picture:

1. Asian brands are not just cheap copycats.

Micromax has cheap phones that is true. They also have a solar powered phone. I think that is quite cool. Xiaomi admittedly copies Apple with pride, but it has also totally disrupted the way to sell the phones. Innovation takes different forms in the Asia that is certain, but identifying all the brands as either copycats or cost cutters is dangerous simplification. Price is a big issue in all the markets and many Asian tech innovations have been able to do things more cheaply which is appreciated also by western consumers.

2. They are not popular because they are local, but because they understand local consumer.

One of the main push for Line & WeChat for their popularity, was the addition of stickers. As the script language is slower to type with your mobile, the emojis on steroids enable you to communicate faster and convey more emotion. Facebook messenger has definitely taken some cues from WeChat and Line in its position. Flipkart & Alibaba have understood the delivery dynamics on their respective countries better than Amazon and therefore are now kicking Amazon´s ass.

No matter where you are, you should have eye on Asia. Not only because the region is growing, but also because the next big innovation is coming from (around) here.

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Who Will Be The Master of Internet Universe?

Web is dead.

That is the title of one of the greatest articles ever written about digital revolution four years ago to Wired. The main points about that brilliant piece are still valid, although speed of mobile revolution surprised many of the players for a while. The main idea of the story is that web starts to resemble more and more traditional industry with handful of players. Web is oligopoly and certain verticals almost resemble monopolies.

If you simplify the consumer-facing web business (so I am excluding infrastructure and other boring things which is where the real money is), it is about three things: products, commerce & advertising. Products enable you to connect to the Internet: smartphones, computers, watches, television sets, fridges and whatnot. Commerce is about being able to buy things from Internet and advertising is what it is: bombarding you with messages to buy more stuff.

Product category as we know it will eventually be commoditized. If you want to remain premium, you have to innovate constantly. That is the only way to remain luxury brand in this realm. Cheap smartphones will eventually beat the premium ones. In the future you are able to connect to Internet in whatever device and you do not really have to pay that much of that privilege.
Where the growth will come? Wearables can be the future winner product category, although they have not really yet taken off. The changes are rapid though. iPad was launched only four years ago, created totally new category and is currently at risk of vanishing because of the phablets. So is the life.
 
Current champions: Apple, Samsung
Challengers: Xiaomi and other cheap manufacturers
Disrupters: Luxury brands (Would connectivity enhance Rolex? I say not, but I might be wrong as well)

Commerce will become even bigger and you are able to buy pretty much everything online. Will all the physical retail vanish? Not necessarily, but the point is not about that. It is about that you are able to buy everything online, and majority of people will do exactly that, because it is more convenient and affordable.
Commerce is the biggest opportunity and a space I follow most closely. Strong brands will definitely start to create their own online retail experiences, which would enable them to bypass the more traditional retail channels. In the next decade there will be lots of turmoil in this category and many big players will fall and new challengers will arise. Biggest challenges are not that much about technology (lots of payment innovations happening), but about logistics.
Second interesting point is that idea of commerce has changed with shared economy. Both Uber and AirBnB are selling physical service, which would not be possible without digital channel. How far collaborative economy can be stretched remains to be seen. It can potentially be really big disruptor to the way we do business in general.
Last point about commerce is the ecosystem approach. Apple makes money constantly through App Store by enabling others to make money. Facebook is building app ecosystem with the acquisition of Instagram, WhatsApp and Parse. Both Amazon and Alibaba are enabling developers to build things on their platform.
 
Current Champions: Amazon, AliBaba, Ebay
Challengers: Google, Facebook, WeChat, Line, Apple (Apple Pay) 
Disrupters: Brands, FMCG brands, Collaborative economy players (Uber, Airbnb…)

Advertising will be important, because people will keep on buying stuff. Stuff makes us happy. More stuff makes us even happier. How are you able to buy that stuff if you do not know that it exists?
Will advertising become smarter in the future? Yes and no. In last decade or so, we have had one revolutionary advertising idea. That is SEM. You show people ads when they actually want to see ads. Contextual advertising and retargeting have been nice inventions, but mainly advertising is still based on interruption (some of it being more relevant like app install ads). One of the most innovative companies in the world, Facebook, makes most of its money by interrupting its users in various ways.
The advertising business is relatively simple: it is all about reach. All of the most successful advertising platforms are based on firstly to reach and then secondly the quality of those who you are reaching. That is unlikely to change. However, the biggest task is to try to narrow the gap between the interruption (advertising) and purchase (commerce). The monetary exchange is the only tangible KPI we have and less you have to travel to do it, the better.

Current Champions: Google, Facebook
Challengers: WeChat, Line, Twitter (was tempted to leave it out completely, but I give it a shot still), “Traditional media companies”(although I do not really have high hopes for their complete digital transformation, but they will remain influential on this space as well)
Disrupters: Amazon (the closer you are to the actual transaction, the less you have to interrupt), Content owners (although none of them has done any major moves and have mainly milked the status quo)

The lines are naturally blurry. The quote from Eric Schmidt summarizes the whole situation:

Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon.”

That is also the reason why these big companies are testing weird things and buying obscure companies. Internet has made it easier to disrupt a category and also connect categories in new way. Facebook & Google test drones, so it can bring Internet the people who don´t have it yet. Thus increasing the reach. Amazon tests drones, because shipping is the biggest bottleneck of eCommerce. When your business can start to flourish rapidly, it can also vanish rapidly. There is no time to sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death.

What do you think, who will become the master of the Internet universe?

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