Tag Archives: mobile instant messaging

Bots and The Rise of Conversational Commerce

Messaging is the new browser and bots are the websites.
Mike Roberts, Kik Head of Messaging and Bot Experience

Bots have been all the rage last weeks. Whether it has been the NSFW Microsoft bot (not only racist, but also encouraging pot smoking in front of cops) or the ability to build chatbots on top of FB messengers.

Why sudden interest in bots?

They are not really a new phenomenon. Eliza was already created in 60s (test it here) and Siri has also been around for a while (test it in your phone). The main reason for the chatbots to gain importance especially now is because of the changed digital landscape. For majority of users, messenger is their digital starting point. Users don´t want to use messaging over Internet, they want to access their Internet to from their messenger. Therefore ability to help, serve and sell to users within messenger is paramount. Short text message (or emoji) is the default way of communicating, should it be also the way to communicate with the brands?

“Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare.” 
Chris Messina

We are still having long way for the bot economy and below are the core things to fix before chatbots will evolve from novelty to actual user behavior:

1. The bots need to understand normal talk
“They aren’t taking natural language; they are taking menu names,”
Bruce Wilcox,the author of Rose, the winner of the most recent Loebner annual chatbot competition.

Many of the recent Facebook bots are still quite clunky in terms of discussion. People are more casual when they are thinking that they are conversing with real person. The challenge is for the robot to be casual but at the same time providing the transactional value. Current examples have not been particularly promising as they are either pushing you products in unnatural way or trying to be funny but not providing any value:
poncho

2. The bots need to become more predictive and fast
Going back and forth with your bot to order a pizza is tedious process. Getting weather details in an hour is just ridiculous. They need to become way more intuitive to use to really rival Google for getting your fast answers. The novelty factor will wear off quickly. If bots are not able to give you solutions fast, they will not be used.

3. Bots are not a destination but a way to enhance the existing discussion
E.g. instead of going to separate weather bot, you should get the weather details when you are chatting with your friend and need that info. Mark Zuckerberg raved about bots as replacements for apps, but with the current experience, it is actually just easier to go to that weather app and get your answer. Ideal situation would be that your messenger would recognize opportunities for commercial interaction from your discussions, but how to build that experience so that it is not creepy?

We are living in the early days of conversational commerce. Using messenger for repeated purchases (like pizza delivery) seems like a no-brainer, but will people actually start browsing products within messenger and asking help from the chatbot?

That depends on the user experience. If AI behind the chatbot actually would know your taste and it would be effective and enjoyable to chat with, messenger economy could become true game changer. Opportunity and potential demand is there, but building a good recommendation engine alone is difficult not to mention that you have to add enjoyable interaction with a robot on top of that. And the core question is, will people want to interact with bots?

Time will tell.

One thing is for certain. Bots will not kill the web, but they will permanently alter it.

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#sometrendit2016: The Only 2016 Social Media Trends You Should Read

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As the year approaches the end, it has become an annual tradition for me take a look at crystal ball and share my views with Kurio Social Media Agency on the next year´s social media trends.

For those adapt at Finnish, I recommend reading the whole report. If you are not interested in the predictions of 28 other Finnish digital marketers, you can also jump straight to the most important ones (mine) below.

Before I go into my answers, I have to quote myself from the last year:

I have to say that I have not been interested in social media as such for a long time. Do not get me wrong. Social plays crucial role in digital business. But I seldom think digital as a separate entity either: digital is air. Digital, mobile and social should be a part of every business. Sometimes at the core, sometimes playing supporting role and sometimes playing no role at all. Strategy is about deciding what to do, but even more importantly what not to do. If you are thinking social media as a separate unit you are missing the bigger picture. 

The dominance of digital universe goes well beyond our traditional silos.

And here are the bold/boring predictions of 2016:

  1. 1. Biggest Social Media Trend in 2016?

Internet will be build more and more upon instant messaging. We have moved to the latest phase of Internet: the Age of Messaging. What is most interesting, who will be the master of that era? If previous phase was the Age of Social and Facebook was the undisputed king, is it able to keep its lead? Currently it seems with the dual-strategy of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that Facebook will continue to dominate.

2. Social media platforms to look out for 2015?
Last year I was speculating about anonymous messaging and those services were not able to live up the hype. On the same speculative tip, I would keep an eye on live-streaming platforms like Periscope. It is easy to recognize the opportunities Periscope can bring to the brands. Bigger question is will they be truly interesting to actual users?

It is worthwhile to keep an eye on WeChat, because what it does today in China, Facebook will do in western world tomorrow with its Facebook messenger.

3. Biggest challenges in doing social media marketing in 2015?

The huge portion (probably somewhere around 3/4) of sharing in social media is so-called “dark social”. This means that social media listening gives one-sided and even totally faulty picture about what people are really talking about. People share where the brands play no role.

This is great for consumers, because brands are not ruining your conversation or begging you to like them. It makes our work way more difficult. Established channels like FB and YouTube are 100% paid media. To some IM services you cannot get even when you are paying. There is no such thing as earned media anymore.

4. Social Media Buzzword, which hopefully disappears in 2015?

Content marketing.

Despite all the hoopla about native advertising and new content agencies, the division of labor is simple. In Internet there is only good (or bad) content or good (mostly bad) ads. Ad agencies have shown that they cannot truly create content and content marketers have not been good at creating ads (which essentially move products of the shelves). There is role for both counterparts, but it is utter stupidity to think that you could replace one with another. Or that one agency could be great at creating both of them.

To see what I have been predicting in previous years, see the following links:

Social Media trends 2013

Social Media trends 2014

Social Media trends 2015

 

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Yo.

Simplicity is beautiful. With messaging apps and especially through stickers our communication has become more effective and simpler. Is there a limit to how simple you can get?

Apparently not.

This week app called “Yo” launched from beta. It is the simplest form of communication I have yet seen. It works in iOs and Android. You select username. Then you add friends. Then you can send your friend “Yo” as a push notification and audio. So essentially you can only communicate through one phrase:

Yo

You got to be kidding?

No I am not. The company behind “Yo” has raised $1 million in venture capital. Currently there is over 50k users sending around 4 million Yos. They are also currently hiring.

For life-long hiphop-enthusiast I can see the merit of the app. Maybe in the future iterations you can have personalized “Yo” or an “Yo” from a famous rapper. Yo is simple, positive and universal.

Unlike many start-ups, the app creators have also thought about potential use cases for companies:

  1. A blog can Yo the readers whenever a new post is published. Imagine getting a Yo From PRODUCTHUNT.
  2. An online store can Yo its customers whenever a new product is offered. Imagine getting a Yo From JENNASHOPIFY.
  3. A football club can Yo the fans whenever the team scores a touchdown. Imagine getting a Yo From THE49ERS.
  4. An ice-cream truck can Yo the kids when it’s around the corner.… Imagine getting a Yo From THEICECREAMTRUCK.

The feedback for the app is hilarious as well. The current users have definitely taken supportive although somewhat ironic stance to it. Here are some of the highlights of App Store comments:

Yo is all I need
When the wife texts me to go get some stuff from the store, all I do is shoot her back a “Yo”. When the kids text for money or a ride, I get on the app and hit them a “Yo”. Yo is a way of life. Live simply, live beautifully. Yo”

This app changed my life
I am a professional scientist who has been scouring the earth for 7 years in search of a program or application so revolutionary, so outside of the box, so groundbreaking, that it could actually reverse the effects of clinical depression and bipolar disorder. “Yo” seems to be a fit. I have tested the effects of yo on several samples of depressed and bipolar tigers. Tigers were a natural choice for testing due to the little known fact that their anatomy is nearly identical to that of a humans. In a sample of depressed tigers, 8 out of 10 became happier due to the app yo and in an all male sample, 9 out of 10 experienced increased libido. I have taken my findings to Pfizer in hopes of negotiating some sort of three way contract between the creators of yo, Pfizer, and myself, Chisley Winsett M.D. So my message is this, creators of yo, this app that you have so sweetly crafted is not just an app, nay, but a highly scientific piece of medical innovation. We could do great things together. Please respond. Regards, Chisley Winsett M.D.”
 
“A life changing app
Yo is the best way to communicate. We no longer need intellectual discussion. We no longer need language. This is the next stage of human evolution!”

This feels more like postmodern commentary of the current app infrastructure or as an art project gone viral. On the other hand, it is hard to predict what eventually becomes hit. I would regard Yo only as a novelty app, but I do not use stickers either. It just might be that Yo will revolutionize messaging. Or it will be remembered as the tipping point when app bubble really started to burst.

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Psst… Can I Whisper you A Secret? Anonymous Mobile Messaging Apps Are The Next Big Thing in Digital

Mobile instant messaging is all the rage at the moment. WhatsApp got bought by Facebook for over 19 billionWhopping 73% of China´s online population uses WeChat. The amount of Snapchat users has increased over 67% in the last six months.

Next big thing will be anonymous mobile chatting:

1. There is a demand for anonynomous interest-based social networks
Have you ever wondered why discussion forums still thrive in 2014?
Why I was so amped up about Internet was that I could be able to talk about things I was interested (hiphop, basketball and record collecting) with people all around the world. With my friends I can communicate with every possible method, but finding likeminded people around passion points that new Internet start-ups have not tapped into in a while. Since the demise of MySpace, tech industry has been over-obsessed with friend-based networks and neglected the interest-based connections.

2. Content in anonymous mobile apps is more interesting 
Majority of Facebook content bores the hell out of people. I know that I am not the only one, who could live without a single photo update about “meat trophies” (baby photos), weddings, travel photos and sport achievements (I am guilty of the latter two). Everyone has a role to play in this world and Facebook is the center of humblebrag. It is filled with people trying to give polished side about themselves. Perfection is not really interesting, but the faults are (something marketers should also realize).
At a brief glance my Secret app is filled with dirty stories (both sexual and scatological) and controversial opinions from people who would not post anything of that sort in Facebook. One glance to FB or Twitter puts me to sleep. Posting with your own name puts automatic self-censorship on and usually people overdo it and they just come up with boring stuff.

Anonymity unleashes the real side of the people. In good and bad ways.

But don´t just take my word for it though, advertisers see potential with these applications as well. Combination of mining of the message content and GPS data could provide interesting advertising possibilities. Traditional media has also taken a heed and they are monitoring these apps to get some juicy secrets (usually false ones).

So how you can get started to post your toilet secrets?
Below I have broken down the four most interesting anonymous messaging apps:

Secret
secret-path
Secret is finally available in Android and that might be the tipping point which will propel it to mainstream success.
Basic promise: Share your secrets freely and anonymously. You can upload short posts and images.
Level of anonymity: You will be given an avatar and you can connect Secret with your contact list or find secrets based on the location. This puts interesting twist to usage of Secret as you automatically start to guess whom of your friends is posting the secrets.
Addictiveness: Content is not as explicit as in Whisper but way more interesting than your average FB and Twitter feeds. There seems to be also a steady stream of meaningful discussions in Secret going on. Usage is intuitive and it is the most advanced of the new generation messaging apps.

Whisper
dj
Another anonymous social network gaining popularity at the moment, it is more closer to media company as it has editorial staff headed by former Gawker editor Neetzan Zimmerman.
Basic promise: You can post your secrets in the meme-like format where your text is superimposed on a picture. Whisper also allows sending private messages to users and following topics that interest you most.
Level of anonymity: This app is completely anonymous and does not connect with your contact list.
Addictiveness: The app is messy both from content and functions. The complete anonymity unleashes probably the expressiveness of the users. Because of the private messaging function Whisper is used more to hooking up than other its competitors. Because of the editorial aspects of the app, Whisper is more enjoyable for the passive users as posts can get “viral” based on their algorithm.
 
Yik Yak
yikyak
Yik Yak is taking some cues from other social sites (Reddit) as it is incorporating timeline that consists of purely text updates.
Basic promise: Getting a live feed of what people are saying around you. You can upvote and downvote what is good and what is not. It is mostly targeted to college students.
Level of anonymity: It does not connect to your contact list but connects to your location (everyone in 1.5 mile radius can see the posts)
Addictiveness: Totally related to where you are posting. Being in too crowded area makes content too general but using app where they are no other users feels like having your private party. The look & feel is nicer than Whisper, but not as polished as Secret.

Chance
chance
Chance pretty much brings Chatroulette to mobile.
Basic promise: You can chat with random strangers.
Level of anonymity: Your selfie is taken every time you start a new chat and that acts as an avatar.
Addictiveness: As majority of the users are horny single dudes, expect short conversations if you are not hot girl and plenty of x-rated suggestions.

Naturally being anonymous does not necessarily only result to funny light-hearted frivolous chat. Especially Yik Yak has been getting flak as it has been connected to cyberbullying in High Schools.
It is too early to say are these apps just a passing fad or a sign of something bigger. I believe that there is definitely longer-lasting market for these applications. The founder of 4Chan Christopher  “moot” Poole put it nicely:

“The industry has spent ten years rushing to capitalize on real identity and friendship based networks and now it´s getting turned on to its head.
Now they are rushing to understand the opposite”

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Mastering the MIM: Marketer´s Guide to Mobile Instant Messaging

SMS is dead.
Long live MIM.


WhatsApp has been a major contributor of 25% decline of SMS in Spain
. Chinese WeChat has over 300 million users. Over 90% of Korean smartphone users use Kakaotalk. These are just a few examples of the rising trend of the mobile instant messaging (MIM).

Instant messaging as such is not a new thing (remember ICQ?), but there are certain reasons why it has had its resurrection now:

1. Phones are increasingly more about data than talking
In developed countries nearly every new phone sold is smartphone. Smartphones are increasingly more about being smart than phone. There is app for that, now also for the basic phone features (talking and texting).

2. That data is getting faster

New 4G LTE (Long term evolution) phones will enable high-speed data for mobile phones. This opens new opportunities for what kind of content we can exchange in MIM platforms.

3. Facebook is so huge that it is already mass broadcasting

If you are average Facebook user sending your status update, the odds are that the message will be seen by your family, friends and colleagues plus countless of people you do not even know about. This is great, but serves more of people´s need for vanity and instant recognition. The most meaningful conversations happen with the people you know. Same phenomenon has been also reason for the success of Path.

4. There is always need for 1-to-1 communication

Some might argue that Facebook message does the trick. However the challenge is that Facebook is already flooded with so many messages, it is not that reliable way to catch people (at least not all of them). Phone has been relevant for so long because you can be quite certain that your message is received. Although Facebook has increased the number of “friends”, it has not really increase the number of “real friends”. The amount of those real friends is limited and many of interactions with those people we want to keep private.

5. World is getting smaller

Majority of MIM applications work internationally. The bread and butter of Telcos profit margins has been charging for international calls and roaming. MIM applications do not have those international boundaries. You want to communicate with your friends no matter where they geographically are.

6. World is getting more visual

Although SMS-messages have been relatively cheap, telcos are still taking quite big premium with multimedia messages. With MIM applications you can send whatever data possible and the because of the point 2 the alternatives are actually increasing all the time. Basic SMS- type of messaging is just the beginning for MIM applications and there will be probably lots of innovations in what kind of communication there will be.

What are opportunities for marketers?

Many MIM applications are still quite in infancy regarding their business model. Opportunities for marketers also vary greatly between different platforms. For example paid application WhatsApp is totally ad-free and there has not really been marketers using it (expect for personal use). On the other end of the spectrum is the WeChat, which is currently almost like Wild West with Chinese brands flooding there.

MIM applications are interesting part of mobile strategy for marketers. They provide straight access to consumer´s main screen: smartphone. As the smartphone is always within you, that is the straight pathway to consumer connecting digital to retail. That is the connection which every marketer wants to master. It might be that clever way to utilize MIM is the key for cracking that task.

But why anyone would want to have 1-to-1 connection with brand?

Compared to Facebook where your brand page reaches only fraction of your fans, MIM application has almost the hit-rate of 100%. This is creates a big responsibility for brands. You cannot flood your fans with messages such as “Like if you are ready for the spring!” or “Tell us in one word: (Our Brand) make me ______”. You are truly invading personal space with your message so it needs to add some real value for the consumer. In Facebook you are more likely to get away with stupid brand messages, although they are definitely not recommended in there either.

Here potential routes for marketers to utilize MIM:

1. Daily Deals & Promotions
Deals and promotions are always appreciated by the consumers. With MIM you can connect it phones and also create the sense of urgency to redeem those deals. Of course, provided that these deals are good.
2. Daily tips
MIM provides opportunities also for content marketing. It could be daily practice tips for sport brand. It could be song of the day for music service. Of recent campaigns Oreo Daily Twist could work in Whatsapp. The most important thing whether deals or content, is the expectation management. You have to be really candid about what kind of messages you send and how often. You have one change to lose trust and none chances to get it back.
3. Extension of loyalty card
Having own MIM circle for the valued customers could be great idea for rewarding your best customers with VIP treatment.
4. Rapid Market research
Combined with promotions or deals, MIM also provides vehicle for doing rapid market research and gather intelligence for your loyal customers.

It is too early to tell whether MIM will be the secret weapon that connects digital and retail. One thing is certain though: MIM cannot be left out of consideration for your mobile strategy.

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