Tag Archives: twitter

Much Ado About Meerkat

“Those sorts of consumer shifts used to take years or decades, but now they can happen in months or weeks or days, and we’re becoming accustomed to that idea”
Ian Bogost, game designer

Have you heard about Meerkat?

Don´t worry, you might not even need to.

The hype cycle of new apps gets faster at every moment. I heard about Meerkat couple of weeks ago, this week it has been all the talk of the SXSW town and now it has already been declared dead.

Meerkat is essentially live-streaming app, which used heavily the social graph of Twitter and allowed you to connect to your Twitter connetions in Meerkat. Twitter has already blocked this fun, in conjuction of buying similar app called Periscope. Hence, Meerkat suffered a blow and in the world of tech news hyper babble that blow is naturally deadly.

I was not excited about Meerkat, when I heard about it. I didn´t and don´t recognize the novelty or appeal in the app. Opportunity to livestream is nothing new. When I was working in MySpace, we collaborated with Bambuser, which pretty much was Meerkat with MySpace-era user experience. There are currently many streaming apps available, like the one Twitter just acquired.

So nothing new under the sun, been there done that.

After that comment I can declare that I have officially become an old fart. A person who thinks he has seen anything in his life and can´t just wait to tell that “we tried it already in 2008 and it didn´t work then”. Old farts are the biggest obstacles of any innovation, because the old farts have seen it all. They have also innovated it all. Unfortunately, those innovations have happened only in their heads.

That horrible vision made me think Meerkat again.

The idea can fail for many reasons, but always the reason is not that the idea is bad. iPad was not the first tablet. Facebook was not the first social network. Idea can fail in so many phases, that you cannot really judge the initial idea. Ideas are not unique, executed ideas can be. Technology improves so fast, that the ability to do user-friendly and enticing live-streaming app is totally different than couple of years ago. Maybe 2015 is just the right time to launch live-streaming app. Executing idea is also just one thing, how do you market it and make it sexy is the other thing. Meerkat has been at least way more effective with their PR and hype machine than their competitors.

My opposition against Meerkat is that I do not see live streaming behavior taking off. To be honest, I did not see that Snapchat would evolve to be a legit app beyond teens sending their nude photos to strangers. I can also admit that I was wrong. Although it is easier to latch onto existing behavior, technology can also create new behavior. That we are glued into our smartphones is quite new behavior in history of human race. I don´t think that no one predicted exactly that to happen.

We are obsessed with new.

Meerkat has had disproportionate amount of hype, because media wants a new social media phenomenon. Old farts criticize it, because it is not new enough. Somewhere between the overhype of media (and tech hipsters in SXSW) and underhype of old farts is the truth. Which is: essentially no one really knows what will happen with Meerkat. But it is interesting to see.

You cannot ever evaluate the success of technology when it is hyped and brand new. The true stress test is when technology has become old and boring. That is when they start to make business sense.

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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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#AmazonCart: Innovation in Advertising (not in eCommerce)

I am somewhat skeptical about utility marketing.
Yes, brands should be useful.
But as far as the advertising goes, most of the brands are fighting with the lack of attention. They need to first crack the indifference barrier amongst consumers. For that you have to first entertain and then deliver.
To underline this point, brand apps are generally destined to fail. Over 80% of them struggle to get even 1000 downloads.
That being said this is useful marketing at its finest:

Why this approach rocks?

1. #Amazoncart taps to real behavior
People already use Amazon as a “shopping list” for their future purchases. This just makes it couple of clicks more easier. At its core, this is not really educating new behavior just a minor tweak to existing pattern. I think tapping to the shopping list behavior is the core thing and also something that many of the commentators have not fully grasped. #Amazoncart is not innovation in eCommerce it is an advertising innovation:

2. #Amazoncart is free advertising with every tweet
Besides being rooted to real behavior, every time someone tweets #AmazonCart it will be visible to followers of that person. Making #AmazonCart hashtag famous is one thing, but actually what is the most brilliant part that the amazon product link gets double exposure as you add to Amazon cart by replying. This creates more opportunities for people to see it and go buying in Amazon.
Currently it seems that the amount of #Amazoncart seems already promising (from Hashtags.org):

#Amazoncart

Naturally these are small drops in the ocean for Goliath brand like Amazon but every purchase counts. If Amazon is able to get bursts of over 8k tweets for #AmazonCart in hour constantly it definitely shows great potential for Amazon. Also after the initial development, there is not that much cost for the program (expect for the promoting it).

3. #Amazoncart is super simple
After you have connected your Twitter account to Amazon, you can reply with #AmazonCart to any tweet containing an amazon product link. This puts the item to your shopping cart and you can finish the shopping later. The beauty of this concept is that it keeps it simple enough and does not add too many steps to the progress.

Hopefully in the future we are able reply #AmazonCart to every kind of tweet beyond the Amazon links. Buying products straight from YouTube or Instagram –links anyone?

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How To Approach Your Social Media Strategy in 2014?

Year 2014 will be turbulent for both brands and agencies working with social media channels. Because of the recent IPO´s (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), the previous rebels have started to resemble more established media houses. It is a double-edged sword. Many agencies are not as stressed out as the social media ecosystem is more predictable (and none of the innovation labs is making money anyway). On the other hand, the activities have been and increasingly will be quite dull and unimaginative.

Beginning of the year is the time to think your social media strategy. For majority of the brands, year 2014 should be year of revolution instead of just evolution:

1.Facebook is the channel for reach.
Majority of your social media paid media investments should happen in Facebook to maximize the reach. In terms of sheer amount of users, it is dominant. However, the recent developments have been really worrying for brand (and other) pages as well. Certain pages have seen dips as low as 88% in organic reach. Even Facebook itself is not talking anymore about free organic reach, but instead brand pages as a way to increase the reach of the paid media. This is natural advancement and should not surprise everyone familiar with market economy. So I believe that Facebook will get bigger media share in 2014, but actually less focus in terms of engagement. I would invest more in those terms with Twitter (customer service, real-time marketing) and to visual platforms (content creation).

2.Use Twitter as the channel for real-time and customer service.
I am not saying that every brand should necessarily be in Twitter, but if you want to jump on the real-time marketing bandwagon, Twitter is the place to be. I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter throughout the years, but despite all the shortcomings the service has proven its worth. It does certain things really well (like customer service), and provides more natural ways to engage with audience than Facebook. Here is example of random interaction with Warby Parker, after I shared their innovative annual report:
Warby Parker Tweet

3.Invest heavily on visual social media channels.
Whereas online media money is going to Facebook, I would concentrate majority of the production and engagement investments to visual social platforms. No one has time to read text anymore, unless you are able to condense it to 140 characters or say it in photo.
Online video has been the fastest growing online ad format for couple of years. Naturally the pre-roll is the TVC of the new generation, but creation of good content provides great reach & engagement opportunities for brands. Video is a great tool for customer service as well:

Besides video, the photos are naturally huge and I expect the short-form video content to rise rapidly (Instagram video, Vine). Especially tutorials are naturally fit to for shorter video content (Check: #lowesfixinsix).
Many companies should actually rethink their community manager talent pool. In 2014 if you cannot take great photo or shoot a great video, you should not probably be community manager.  Social media used to be more verbal, but now it is increasingly more visual.

4. Embrace the renaissance of anonymous randomness.
Contrary to what Facebook says, many people want to remain anonymous while online. 6% of all adults on Internet use Reddit. People engage way more on Tumblr blogs nowadays than on Facebook brand pages. One reason is that not all the people want to attach their Internet personality to real-life. In Internet you can be that backpacker hiphop-dude you really are and do not need even remotely to try to sound smart. It actually reminds me of the original promise of MySpace. You did not need to use it with your real name. You could make a site for your cat if you fancied. Anonymity can naturally bring some problems, such as hate-speech, crime and stuff but it also enables refreshing randomness that is currently missing from Facebook. Many people are more interesting talking about things they are interested and not about themselves (assuming they are not completely narcissistic). So do not underestimate the power of “anonymous” social media channels. Maybe Yahoo was on to something when it bought Tumblr.

5.Experiment with the new upcoming channels.
I have written before about how you should approach your social media strategy like investor. The landscape in terms of the hot newcomers changes really rapidly. Global brands should nowadays be more tuned into what is happening on local level. Experimenting with various social media channels goes hand in hand with that. For example if you had done tests with Path, it would be easier to utilize the learnings in Indonesia (which is the third-biggest Path user country). The innovation in social media sphere is also not limited only to Silicon Valley anymore so cutting-edge firms should empower their local teams to experiment with local social media channels as well. For example WeChat is way more advanced than WhatsApp. Competitive advantage can come from everywhere. The trick is to identify it, experiment with it and scale it.

There will interesting year ahead. In 2014 companies need to dramatically update and revamp the social media strategies. Which is great. Whenever there is turmoil and crisis, there is always an opportunity.

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How Teens Abandoned Facebook and Other Lies You Can Find From Research

First of all, I recommend everyone to read “Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us”, a brilliant book by David H. Freedman. It showcases that painstakingly big portion of scientific research is completely faulty. The book did not address the subject of marketing research, but as the situation was quite bad with scientific research, I would say that nearly all of the marketing research is somewhat inferior. That does not mean it is not useful, but you should always take it with grain of salt.

I was reminded of this when there were lots of shares in social media about research on how Facebook is not the most important social network for teens. The news coverage it got made me sad and angry because of three things. First of all, that study was conducted to 802 teens (there are 20+ million teens in US). Second, it was focus group, not assessing the real behavior online. Third, it was mainly a study about privacy, which might also skew the answers to certain direction (like the previous study about social media effect on teen purchasing patterns). If you look at cold facts, not feelings coming out from the focus groups, the truth is different:

Numbers trump feelings
The so-called popular network Twitter has 24% penetration in teen audience, while Facebook has 94%. That gives a clear signal about reality: Facebook is “only” over 3.5 times bigger than the “most-liked” social network. You rather have actual reach than likes. When you are crafting your next campaign for teens, I would still concentrate on Facebook to get that actual reach. Instagram (owned by Facebook, which is good to remember) or Twitter might be good for more engagement, but by the time of writing, something new is probably surpassing them as the social network of choice for teens.

Do not replace your common sense with research
Main takeaway from the research was that teens do not find Facebook cool anymore. That is hardly surprising and you do not really need research to get that insight. Why would teens even find it cool? Their parents are using Facebook, for god´s sake. There will be always a demand for that “new thing” amongst teens (whether SnapChat or twerking). That “new thing” enables teens to differentiate from adults and hopefully shock parents as well. When Twitter becomes popular enough, teens will “abandon” it as well. That “abandonment” does not mean that Twitter would be irrelevant. On the contrary, that might mean it is just big enough to make business sense for the target audience.

This rant is not really about the teens fleeing away from Facebook (which they actually do, to some extent). It is about that I am totally sick and tired of sloppily executed research and lazy misinterpretation of that research. You run into these bullshit stats taken out of their context everyday, whether you are reading blogs, industry press or just browsing the latest deck from the research agency. When these stats get passed on in social media without any deeper thought, I sincerely hope that people are just too lazy to check details of the research. Other alternative is that marketing people are just too stupid. Hopefully not.

Especially we, as planners, should take a stand and always dig deeper to the research and be the devil´s advocate when it comes to research. Find the occasional nuggets and gems between the lines and rip the other pieces of the research apart.

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6 Seconds of Fame: Idiot´s Guide to Vine

I heard it through the grapevine, that Vine has been all the rage in the social media circles last couple of weeks.

Here is brief summary what it is all about:

What is Vine?
It is basically Instagram for short videos. Twitter mastered the microblogging with 140 characters and now it is aiming to do the same with microvlogging and six seconds. Vine currently works only in iPhone and best in conjunction with Twitter. Vine was launched on the end of January.

What it supposed to be?
“Posts on Vine are about abbreviation — the shortened form of something larger. They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special.”
Dom Hoffman, co-founder & GM, Vine

How it works?
Go to Apple app store and download the Vine app. Then you (preferably) log on with your Twitter handle to the app. After that start shooting. The process is super simple: press what you want to film with your thumb. Then edit what you filmed to 6 second video. Share it on Twitter.
To use Vine is really intuitive and simple, but to make something worthwhile takes probably more than just six seconds.

How does it look like?

More examples can be found here.

What Twitter has to do with it?
In a way Twitter missed the Instagram bandwagon, so Vine is natural leap from photo sharing. It tries to benefit from the overall rise of visual storytelling in our current digital culture. It´s a little bit Instagram, little bit YouTube, little bit funny GIFs and working solely on your mobile. Twitter wants to strengthen it dominance in the short-form messaging and Vine is at least some sort of answer.

What brands already use it?
General Electric, Taco Bell, McDonald´s, Marriott Hotel, Urban Outfitters to name a few. Also porn industry has found it, like all the technological breakthroughs.

Give me some examples!
Not showing you the porn ones, but here are three Brand vines:

What brands should use it?
If your brand is already strong on Twitter, Vine is quite natural extension to your Twitter presence. If your company is not that active in Twitter, Vine probably is not the first social media channel you should invest in.

Where it can be used?
There are couple of good listings about potential use cases of Vine for brands, but currently I think the most prominent ones are the following six:

1. Flashing your brand´s digital cojones: Like with all new applications, there is currently the short timeframe when your brand can appear to be on top of the curve. Half-baked Vine executions will probably fill Twitter in the following weeks.
2. Improving your customer service: Short how-to guides about the products.
3. Spicing up the internal marketing: Employee presentations made more interesting and faster.
4. Even faster way to convince investors: Quick elevator pitch for your company.
5. Enhancing your rapid social media responses: Wheat Thins message to Questlove above is a good example of that.
6. Making your product catalogue come alive: New ways to showcase products (like Urban Outfitters has done below)

Hot or not?
Some might argue that Vine is a novelty app, but so is Instagram. That novelty had $715 million price tag. It remains to be seen will the 6 seconds be as revolutionary as 140 characters were. Vine has potential though. It is certainly something new. With its strong social, local and mobile dimensions it might just be the new killer app.

Now I am just waiting for Harlem Shake Vine edition.

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Anatomy of An Insight: #firstworldproblems

And somewhere around the world
Someone would love to have my first world problems
Kill the moon and turn out the sun
Lock your door and load your gun
Free at last now the time has come to choose

-Matthew Good Band: Omissions of Omen

I am not huge fan of advertising for charity organizations. The work tends to be either scam or too preachy for its own good. What is usually lacking in creative idea, is compensated in shock value. That is why it was refreshing to see this:

Insight: In developed countries, our (first world) problems are quite trivial compared to (real) problems in developing countries.
#firstworldproblems

Behavior: Although the insight in the campaign is quite simple truism, it is the behavior of the brand what makes it stand out. #firstworldproblems was popular meme and DDB found a great way to hi-jack that meme to benefit WaterIsLife. Tweets about #firstworldproblems are ironic and at least meant to be tongue-in-cheek. With this campaign, you are forced to think at least for a while about real world problems while you are cracking jokes about your iPhone´s lousy battery. Of course it induces guilt, but isn´t that the main emotion you actually want to raise when doing advertising for charity organization?

It is tricky for brand to take advantage of existing memes. You have to know the meme upside down and then also bring new meaning to it. What was parody was turned to something serious. With this campaign, that was done perfectly. Zigging when everyone else is zagging.

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