Posts Tagged social media
This post is, I guess, about the intersection of an article I recently read in the Globe and Mail and a video I saw on how we have developed a culture that loves the remix. In the article, which is about generating killer ideas, many great strategies stick out, but ‘borrow an idea’ is in there, and that’s one of my favourite. As the author rightly points out, there is very little need to create totally original things. A lot of the beauty of creation comes from combining two things that already exist in an interesting way. Now, I’ll let the video I mentioned pick up where I left off:
Great examples are all around us. What is amazing to me is two particular features that stand out about our culture of remix. The first is just is how quickly these things take shape. For example, it was probably a month ago that the Double Rainbow Guy took us by storm (video here). A day later, I was in Starbucks ordering a double-tall latte, and the guy behind the counter gave me a chuckle when he said, ‘whoa, a double latte all the way’, and two days after that, there was the Double Rainbow remix song (video here), which I heard on the radio a day later.
I mean, it’s obvious that when you give people the tools and you connect everyone and everything, this is where you’ll end up (given hindsight at least), but to think about what this means for the future is perhaps more interesting. Which brings me to the second interesting thing, and that is the fact that no one is generally getting paid to create these remixes. People do it because they can and because they want to create, or share, or are passionate about something. Clay Shirky gives us a term which allows us to quantify the ability of our culture to create further remixes (or other things, for that matter) – cognitive surplus. The video below is well worth the time.
Social media will likely follow this same cycle. First it is everything, then it is nothing and it was all a big waste of time, and then we’ll find out it really is necessary and relevant and important. So after all that, we’ll end up with the equivalent of websites everywhere, of needing a website, but of course I’m talking in terms of tweets or whatever they will be known by then. You will need your check-ins, your facebook fans, your contests, your mentions, your online referrals and reviews, or whatever all of that is known as by then.
So assuming all this is correct, that still leaves us with what to do with that information. I’m not advocating you go and try and invest in social media companies (not that it’s even possible given that they are all generally privately held), but rather that you think about how this changes the way people will interact with each other, and with companies. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll think about what it would take to build a product that will be needed then. For example, consider the intersection of social media, augmented reality (AR), and online booking applications. If we’re connected to each other through smart phones and geolocation, it would not surprise me to have ads or referrals pushed to me when walking past shops in the future (indeed, I’m told this already happens in many places such as Asia). But what if I could then take my phone and point it at a shop – an AR overlay appears and I see that there are a few open spaces for a haircut or maybe a massage in the next 30 minutes and, lo and behold, the reviews are there too – my friend has gone here and gave it 5 stars. Because the time slots are perishable, booking now means I’ll save some money, and that’s great, because not only do I like discounts, but I also like not sitting and waiting for things. Instead, I would love to be able to book that massage instantly and then go grab a coffee or do some quick shopping instead of sitting and waiting for it.
And you know what, I’m sure that product or experience will one day exist. So it’s up to us to go make it, because that’s a better world, and that’s where the tools are telling us we can go.
Here’s another vision of a possible future:
Well, here’s what I do. I read stories, listen to the news, see what people around me are doing, and then I choose a specific area to consider. So let’s go with social media, and run it through the check-list. Is it super-hyped right now? Check. Is everyone talking about how it will change the world forever and none of us will ever be the same? Check. Has it done anything particularly disruptive so far? Not really. So what does that mean in 10 years? It means that at that time everything will have changed noticeably and we should be figuring out what that will look like right now.
So don’t restrict yourself to thinking about what the technology is right now and how we use it. You need to think in more generic terms than that. First, what is different between twitter and its closest look-alikes – text messages, blogs, and email. Well, the difference is you can only send short messages (or posts), they go to anyone who is potentially listening (generally – there are of course DMs as well), and they tell the public who you are or what you are doing or thinking about. But those aren’t the only things twitter is similar to. It is also similar to google-searching, but instead of asking an indexed set of pages something about what you are looking for, you instead are asking anyone who is listening a certain question in the total set of active and indexed brains at that moment. So, in many ways, twitter is a communication tool, but it is also a specialized recommendation engine. It is like hunch but instead of asking a cluster analyzed data-set you are literally publicly asking everyone you know socially (and people you don’t know) for advice, or a product, or help of some kind.
So, long term, what does that mean? It means that more than ever we will be connected to a greater web of people. But right now you also have to ask why are people helping each other so much through twitter? Is it because we are fundamentally helpful? I think the answer is no. I think the answer actually lies in the fact that we are fundamentally selfish, and currently, because no one knows for sure how this all will play out, you get people being as helpful as possible because they gain status by doing so (whether in the form of followers, or a higher klout score, or any other measure you can think of that exists currently). Moreover, they can get wealth – because everyone is talking about social media and why your company needs it, companies are going out and looking to hire people who can show them how to do exactly that.
Remind you of anything? Seems a lot like the late 90’s when every company needed a website and would pay practically anything to get some skin in the game. And of course we had a bubble and a crash and, lo and behold, 10 years later, you really do need a website and some skin in the game. Remember, we tend to think the world changes forever very quickly, but in truth, it takes some time for the world to become fundamentally different.
Here is one of my favourite activities: think about the future in regards to technology, and then think about where we are going, and what people will want, and why, and what they will pay for that. You can’t do this aimlessly (not productively anyway); you must have a specific area in mind.
For example, let’s consider how Apple got to its decision about pushing AppleTV more aggressively. Did they wait to see if people wanted pay-as-you-go programming? Not really, because if you wait for something like that to show up you’re usually too late to the party. They probably looked around the world 10 years ago and started thinking about what the world look like 10 years forward. How would we watch TV? What would we watch? Why? What if p2p sharing goes bigger? In 2000, it clearly appeared that the genie was out of the bottle and would not get put back in. So, barring a p2p blocking technology, the future then was always going to be in finding and stealing entertainment online. Some people would continue to pay cable operators of course, but increasingly (and young folk especially) would be questioning why they would pay $50-100/month when they only watch a few shows a month and having all-you-can-eat cable means you end up watching more shows than you want to anyway. But maybe pay-as-you-go, a model we had been seeing with some cell phone users, might do the trick. You pay only for the stuff you want and none of the crap you don’t want. And the price had to be very low or otherwise you’d be tempted to steal. So, in the future you will pay for each show and it will be streamed live to your television for $0.99. That, my friends, is the future (which is here!)
So consider all that for a moment. Consider that all of these things were set in motion at least 10 years ago. You need to also remember that we as humans tend to overstate the short-term implications of a new technology and understate the long-term ramifications of said technology. It wasn’t long ago when p2p sharing started gaining traction and many pointed to the imminent demise of all commercial recordings. Did that happen? Of course not. But certainly p2p sharing has changed the commercial music landscape dramatically and altered the way we digest music digitally, how artists share it, how they promote their work, all (in my opinion) for the better. But let’s bring it back to today’s world. Yes, all these things were set in motion a long time ago. Yes, there are disruptive technologies being shaped and created every day. Which ones will greatly affect the world in 10 years? How will they change the world? And how can you ride the wave that gets you there?
I recently came across Nexus, an application that can map out the connections in and amongst all of your collected friends on Facebook. The result is, I think, pretty neat.
As you can see, my friends form some interesting smaller networks, through which they are all connected to each other (at the very least) through me. It is possible there are other connections which have not been ‘formalized’ through facebook, but at present this is how it stands.
The lower right collection of nodes are mostly representative of my life in Regina before I moved to Vancouver. They are friends from elementary and high school, earlier university days and from my year there after I returned from travelling but before I moved out here.
The lower left area (two diagonal lines) consists mainly of my family – or at least, those of whom are on facebook – and (strangely) all of the friends I remain in contact with from Terra Breads, where I worked for two years upon arriving in Vancouver.
The nodes which are relatively connection free (mostly on the right side) are people who I met while travelling and working in Australia and Europe, from 2001-2003. Not surprisingly, they know few of my friends from either my past or present.
The middle node is, to me at least, the most interesting. It has in it my girlfriend, my friends who I lived with, and all of my closest friends here in Vancouver. That entire network grew out of a chance encounter I had when I was looking for a second place to live after not really liking my first place or my roommates after arriving here. In a sense, it is the reason I stayed put, and I am very glad of that because out of it came all of the happiness that I have today.
The secondary node just above it is why I started writing this post today as I reflected on a book I recently read – Linked (How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and what it means for Business, Science and Everyday Life) by Albert-László Barabási. That book would probably describe that network as being fairly strongly connected internally but with a lot of weak ties radiating away from it – and it is because of that fact, and specifically that secondary node, that I: a) became a teacher/tutor for two years, whereby I; b) re-ignited my passion for learning and the world, which led me to; c) apply for grad school whereby I; d) became a part of the very tightly connected upper network, which is a physical representation of all of my friends/aquaintances from the UBC MBA program. Many of these people are now close friends who I will almost certainly know for most of the rest of my life. The important thing to note is that each node (a person) is connected pretty well to every other node within the network.
Strangely (on the surface at least), it will probably be that central network, with its many weak branching ties to other networks, that gets me my next job and not the very tightly knit MBA network. This is due in part to concept of The Strength of Weak Ties – a research paper written by sociologist Mark Grannovetter that was published in 1973 – which of course was described in Linked and which resulted in a, b, c and d in my own life. In other words, when you’re looking for a job, as I and many of my fellow MBAs are these days, it is best to look amongst large networks with many weak, branching ties; in that way, you are more likely to come across information that is not already mutually known, for example, the job board we all look at called COOL, which stands for Career Options On Line (I call weak sauce on the name, by the way; looking for jobs is not ‘cool’ – looking for jobs sucks, and takes time, and is generally demoralizaing. But anyway, I digress.) Which is not to say that this MBA network is not worth something – in fact, I think the opposite is true – it will be extremely valuable in the future (to each of us) as we all branch out in the different directions our lives take us and remain, importantly, weakly connected to one another.
In any case, I encourage you to have a look at the nexus friend application and examine how all of your friends and aquaintances are connected to you and each other. You can find it all here.
What we learned: How a few companies are successfully using the Groundswell Framework, and what exactly it is that they are doing.
Listening – companies must listen to what customers are saying to gain better understanding
- Starbucks: My Starbucks Idea (www.mystarbucksidea.com) – a place where registered users can provide ideas, feedback, and talk to each other about the drinks, the food, whatever; Starbucks also monitors twitter feeds and responds directly to customer complaints or questions.
- Sprint: monitors twitter feeds about the company.
- New York Times: The TimesPeople application (http://timespeople.nytimes.com/home/about/) allows users to share and recommend articles more easily than e-mail (which it also supports, though requires some fields have input).
- (Eventually listening) Comcast: Comcast began listening to and acting upon customer complaints at the customer blog Comcast Must Die (http://comcastmustdie.com/). Eventually won that user over by changing service levels and becoming a more customer friendly organization.
Talking – Through social interactive tools (blogs, forums, communities), begin spreading messages to customers
- Starbucks: gives feedback on ideas at its idea site (above), and responds to concerns via twitter.
Example: Anon. twitters: “wtf – i thought starbucks had free internets now… gotta love random open network connections.” 09:02 AM September 26, 2008. Starbucks replies: @anon a registered Starbucks card will get you 2 hours of free at&t wifi … at: http://www.starbucks.com/ca… 10:28 AM September 26, 2008.
- Sprint – responds to twitter concerns directly – see blog post from www.brandflakesforbreakfast.com attached at end of document.
- New York Times: Over 60 blogs with content updated at least daily – many with world class authors such as Steven Dubner. Also uses twitter to send out headlines to followers (subscribers.)
Energizing – Determine who the most energetic users are and leverage their enthusiasm for the brand; essentially making them brand evangelists
- Starbucks: uses a leaderboard at the idea site to recognize significant contributors of ideas; contributors and members can vote for the best ideas which are then sometimes product tested
- Lego: the LUGNET group, which meets online as well as in person, consists of 25 ambassadors for the product and these positions are highly sought after – the title is, in essence, a reward that further incentivizes positive word-of-mouth.
- Apple: uses a reputation function to identify high quality posters among the many thousands who frequent their support and help forums
Supporting – Help customers support each other; an example is Dell’s user generated support forums – people have a natural affinity to help
- BestBuy: BB took this in an inward-facing direction – they set up Blue Shirt Network – a site where employees can connect, share their concerns, and get support from one another
- Apple: has user forums where users help each other
Embracing – After companies have succeeded in the first four steps, engage customers in product development through active feedback principles
- Starbucks: At My Starbucks Idea customer ideas sometimes become reality, as with their new smoother, richer hot chocolate that was obviously in high demand; also reversed their removal of the breakfast sandwiches due to customer feedback – customers have, in turn, responded positively and feel more like part of a community.
- Dell: the Dell IdeaStorm site has promoted user ideas and embraced changes – a site admin provides updates and personally welcomes new users that become solid contributors – many user generated ideas become reality, thus providing more impetus for fans to contribute again and again.
Easy Lesson 1: Know why you are doing it and how it will enhance the user experience.
Companies and brands use a wide variety of social media and networking tools such as twitter, facebook, and blogs; not all companies should do this. A Seth Godin witticism elaborates: sundae toppings are great, so long as they go on top of ice cream. If you’re taking a product or service like detergent, adding all kinds of ‘treats’ like twitter and corporate blogs is like putting gummy bears on a meatball – at best they add nothing, at worst they clash. To most people, detergent is detergent and talking about stains online does not build brand nor enhance the experience of using Tide (Tide Facebook Fan page has 429 members – the affect on P&G’s last year sales of $76.4 billion is indeterminate.)
Easy Lesson 2: You need to have support and resources.
If you are going to turn detergent into a community, make sure you have support and resources. A quick and dirty perusal of the Tide forum boards shows a relative ghost town. For Example: a Tide Team Member responds 40 days later to a complaint about the lack of scent in a product and offers a coupon – not sure if this is exactly the way you build support for any community, large or small.
Easy Lesson 3: Make participation so simple that anyone can do it.
Web 2.0 is one of the few places where the pareto 80/20 rule does not hold – in its place is the 1/9/90 rule, where one percent of users contribute 99% of all user-generated-content (UGC), nine percent contribute the other 1%, and 90% lurk in the background surfing and reading and thinking about what the information means to them. If it takes more than one minute or requires too much personal data, you can forget about reasonable participation rates.
The folks over at Plaid have provided our tradeshow topic, Using Social Media to Create Brand Evangelists, the best anecdote to date. They were feeling justifiably upset over a gigantic roaming bill ($1000 per card) for 24 hours of mobile internet service while passing through Vancouver on their recent roadtrip. They prepared for a word-of-mouth war against Sprint after being given the runaround, but what followed was truly remarkable. It turns out that the guy in charge of running Sprint’s social networking community had his ear to the ground for tweets about Sprint and heard the shots on the horizon. He asked about the trouble and got an executive from the regulatory services department to call Darryl (he who runs one of Plaid’s blogs, the excellently titled Brand Flakes for Breakfast) – the matter was quickly resolved and Darryl was happy.
So what happened there exactly? A huge company, Sprint, the kind that we generally think of as being able to railroad whoever it pleases, had given its employees the ability to correct rule-driven mistakes by using social media and thus avoid the kind of customer pain that results in signs like these (from the blog Church of the Customer):
Moreover, instead of getting bad press in the blogosphere Sprint is getting promotion for free – first from Brand Flakes itself, and now here, and if I’m blogging about it, who knows who else is – it is just such a powerful example of how easy it can be to turn an ‘incident’ into an exercise in brand building.
Ironic, is it not, that technology which allows us to be more distant is actually connecting companies and employees in a more meaningful way. Of course, none of this would be possible without first recognizing that people are going to talk about your brand/company/service online whether you like it or not – but it is up to you how you go about learning from what they say, and really, finding ways like this to turn potential enemies into (in effect) promoters of your brand.
My name is Darren Negraeff - I'm the Marketing Director for Zafin Labs - we create pricing and billing innovations for banks and financial institutions. When I'm not at work you can find me throwing a disc for my dog Sally or staring in wonder at my tomato plants. Or poring over a book - I love to read. These days I read mostly non-fiction, but I have an extensive library of fiction as well.
I'm interested in theory of the mind and cognitive science, how ideas spread through society, behavioural economics, advertising, internet marketing, and the rise of microcredit. I will try to keep to these topics, though wandering is inevitable.
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