Email wasn’t first social phenomenon the internet brought to the world, but it was the first to break through to the masses. It is behind the curtains; you have to be invited into a conversation. Maybe the person on the other end is a parent, maybe it’s a coworker, maybe it’s a friend. Email is a less urgent telephone call.
Then, Facebook arrived. It’s a safe way for long-lost lovers, could-have-beens, and just-missed-the-moments to reconnect and say all the things they wish they said years ago, when they were in their prime. It’s a time machine.
Facebook is also a way for college kids to get to know each other without really getting to know each other. Facebook is an avenue for you to spit out tiny bits of trivia about yourself: you like this movie, these are your favorite quotes. Here are a few pictures you’ve hand-selected that define you. It is you, but always the best side of you.
Before you know it, a few pokes back and forth with that girl you may or may not have met on Facebook turns into a wall conversation, which turns into going out together, and so on. Facebook is the most socially acceptable form of online dating we have. It is your past, present and future all rolled-up into one package.
Status updates brought Twitter to the party, where someone (or anyone) can get a quick snapshot of what you are thinking or feeling right now. It’s a way to share what you find interesting. It is a reassurance that you can shout out to the vast emptiness of the internet and know that someone, somewhere, is probably listening.
Twitter is an avenue for serendipitous social connections. It is far better than Facebook at cultivating a spontaneous, sometimes meaningful relationship with another person, regardless of where that person is physically located. It is the movie “Crash,” translated into ones and zeros and available to anyone with an internet connection.
Then came Foursquare. If people care what you had for lunch and what you’re thinking right now, then they’ll probably care about where you are right now, right? Foursquare rewards movement, going new places, and traveling in large crowds. Through Foursquare, the internet turns your world into the Oregon Trail.
And then there’s Instagram, one of the newer portals we have. If everyone cares what you’re doing right now and where you’re doing it, then surely they’ll want to see it through your eyes. Instagram is as close as an outsider can presently get to feeling what you feel . Instagram lets you easily and wordlessly show the world things you have created that you judge to be interesting and beautiful.
The one pattern I can pull from this timeline is how much more personal everything is getting. If you started out with email, you were having one-on-one conversations with a previously established connection. Facebook allowed you to share tiny, trivial bits of yourself with others and has since turned into a five, ten, or fifty year reunion. Twitter and Foursquare convinced you that the world cares about where you are right now and what you’re thinking. Instagram invites others to see the uniqueness and beauty of the world like you do.
The social web is getting more personal, more intimate. Piece by piece, you are shedding your protection. You are standing naked in front of millions of people, so to speak. I think that’s interesting, and it makes me intrigued by what the future brings.
There aren’t many people I idolize, but Conan O’Brien is definitely one of them. He’s a Massachusetts-bred, Harvard-educated comedy genius. He wrote for my favorite show, The Simpsons, when it was easily the best show on TV. After his stint at The Simpsons, he somehow edged his way into late-night comedy as a host of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and eventually made it to “the big chair” when he became the host of the coveted “Tonight Show.”
Conan’s zany characters (who can forget the Masturbating Bear or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog?) just didn’t play well in the earlier timeslot because they didn’t connect with older, Jay Leno-loving audience. So in early 2010, when we all learned that Conan would be leaving NBC, the internet erupted and Conan O’Brien became a folk hero. Since then, he’s learned to harness the power of social media to create buzz for his new show, and he’s done it well enough to be crowned King of Social Media by Fast Company, which is no easy feat in the “Year of Old Spice.” Everyone can learn a thing or two about marketing from Conan O’Brien.
Listen to your fans
I remember when Conan quit amidst the rumors of Jay Leno reclaiming his old timeslot. #TeamConan was trending on Twitter for days, and #TeamJay was nowhere to be found. The groundswell of support happened on Facebook too. Conan had the support of the entire internet; the “cause” went viral. It was almost as if Conan was a stand-in for the American worker; he was a very talented, very qualified man who had been fired from his job in a recession. We related to him, and we supported him.
Without trying, Conan’s team crowdsourced promotional material from the mob of angry-but-supportive fans. Team Coco absorbed fan-made support into its promotional strategy. “Team Coco” became more than just a hashtag; it became a movement, and later an official blog. Sometimes, it’s okay to ride the wave of support. Often, customers and fans can be used to help determine your brand’s strategy…isn’t that what market research is all about?
Get creative with social media
Conan created his own Twitter account. He has a strong following on Facebook and Tumblr, where his team tells jokes and promotes Conan. He has a Youtube channel where he answers questions from fans (brands have learned some tricks from Old Spice). He also has a blimp (oh, the humanity!). The Conan Blimp is floating around the East Coast, and if you’re lucky enough to check-in on Foursqure at a venue where the blimp is checked-in at, you get a special badge.
Conan is using nearly every popular social networking platform to spread his Goofy Gospel. It’s a good example of how any brand can use social media to its benefit if it gets creative enough. If your brand’s audience is active on social media, then you should be attempting to interact with them.
Combine paid and earned media
Conan has been famous since before the internet became popular. He didn’t start out “internet-famous.” He put in a lot of work, cultivated his fan base on TV, and it all paid off for him when he needed it. His team also used many television ads, an in-person road show (aptly titled the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour”), and print ads to promote the new show. This is a very good lesson to remember: the best campaigns usually have a mix of paid and earned media to get their message to the consumer. Don’t forget that the Old Spice Guy first started out on a TV commercial before he blew up over the internet. It’s easy to have 15 minutes of fame on the internet; it’s much more difficult to turn those 15 minutes into a lasting benefit for the brand.
As I write this, Conan’s team just ended a 24-hour live webcam. They did some very strange, very wonderful things in those 24 hours: Bearobics, a dancing taco, a zombie attack, and intern twister, all while taking some direction from fans. It was another great use of social media and the internet by Team Coco. I watched a ton of it because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. I definitely won’t be missing out on Conan’s return to the small screen on November 8th. Welcome back, Coco!
Are you as happy as I am that Conan is returning? What other celebrities have used social media well?
Over the summer, my friends and I loved using Foursquare. When we started checking-in, it was so fun to unlock badges and claim mayorships. It was a game that we played against each other. On very rare occasions, we actually received special treatment for being mayors and using the location-based service. It was super fun. But it’s not so fun anymore.
There’s a plateau. If you’re in a city like Madison, Wisconsin, there are only so many rewards you can get and so many things to do. Once you unlock these 10 or so badges, you can’t go any further. Location-based social media needs to evolve past mayorships to fight off Foursquare fatigue.
It’ time for Foursquare to become more localized. They’re heading in the right direction with Foursquare for Universities, which was just launched last week. Essentially, Foursquare is selecting ambassadors to create a more personal, local connection with the college towns. This could be used in so many cool ways. It’s already being used for university tours, which helps smartphone clutching freshmen navigate a new campus (kids these days….).
Schools are able to create specialized badges for different campus hot-spots. I bet that students will love this. Anyone from Madison would appreciate getting a “Badger Badge” for attending a certain amount of UW sporting events, for example. Increasing the relevancy of badges for each University would keep college kids (and the adults that hang out on campus) more interested.
Even in the suburbs, there are interesting, badge-worthy things to do. I currently live within biking distance of the Minnesota Zoo, for example….it’s easy enough to make an “In the Wild” badge. The point is this: the more personal and specialized Foursquare feels to the user, the more a person is likely to use it.
It’s time to look beyond specials for just the mayor. Foursquare 2.0 for the iPhone was released this week, and it emphasizes the “Tips” and “To-Do” sections of the app. On the old interface, the hope was that people would leave friendly tips and comments about the place. Foursquare 2.0 also allows you to find to-do’s on the internet and add them to your Foursquare account as a reminder to go to that place or accomplish that to-do. Here, the possibilities for use are endless.
Businesses can create Tips/To-Dos that entice a patron to do something in exchange for a deal. Think about how word-of-mouth would spread if someone had to do a dance in the middle of a restaurant for a free meal, or you received a free appetizer if you brought in a crowd of 10. It will be cool to read a positive restaurant review online and then be able to “tag” that place, so you know where to go. Or, a business could put the “Add this to Foursquare” button on their website and create quick, mobile coupons. The “Add to Foursquare” button could be a really great tool for businesses to increase new visits and return customers.
There are a ton of other things Foursquare can do to make sure its service stays fun and relevant to users. Here’s a quick list of ideas I’m stealing from other LBS services that would heighten the Foursquare experience:
- Like Facebook Places, integrate other information about the venue. Link directly to the place’s webpage, put reviews up, and tie in the venue’s social media, if applicable.
- Like SCVNGR, integrate “games” and “tasks.” Create scavenger hunts and other fun things to do. Give the user an incentive (even if it is just “fun”) to continue to use the service.
- Allow users to pin photographs to the places.
- Continue to partner with businesses, and work with group-buying companies like Groupon.
- Foursquare is beginning to recommend places to go to. This one is a little touchy because people don’t like being told what to do, but imagine how useful this could be to travelers or people moving to new cities.
So, what does the future look like?
Like I said in a previous post, the possibilities for Foursquare are really endless. What we’re continuing to see in today’s world is a shift to a cross-platform experience; something you do or look at on the internet can be transferred seamlessly to your mobile phone. This is what Foursquare 2.0 is doing with its “Add this to Foursquare” buttons. It will be really cool to see how technology like this continues to grow in the future to create a better experience for consumers.
As location-based social media continues to become more mainstream and the options for which service to use become more numerous, Foursquare is going to have to continue to evolve in order to cater to the users’ needs. Hopefully, Foursquare and other services like it keep listening to what the consumers want so that location-based social media is still fun and relevant. I’ll keep checking-in as long as it remains fun and I get something out of it.
Tired of Foursquare too? How else could they keep it fun?
Life is increasingly mobile. My entire life is connected to a tiny rectangle in my pocket. I’m always “on” and connected to Twitter, Facebook, email, and a slew of other useful apps. Smartphones are projected to account for over half of the US cell phone market in 2011. The number of tablets and iPads is steadily increasing too. For the first time ever, e-books are outselling hardcover versions. This trend has incredible implications for the future of, well, everything. This post is an awesome wake-up call to everyone who is stuck talking about social media when mobile is truly the future. Mobile technology is going to change how we think about the world and interact with it. In short, the future is mobile.
We’ll soon be getting ads sent directly to our mobile devices based on our location. Recently, this article highlighted the partnership between two companies that allows brands to send you SMS (text) ads, as long as you opt in. This means that even if you don’t have a smartphone yet, you can still join in on the fun. You only get the ads when you are around certain “geo-fences” that the stores set up (hence the location aspect). This sounds horrendously intrusive, but fear not: these ads are opt-in. You have to choose to receive the ads. Mobile advertising is going to be a hit because it allows for targeted messages that are more relevant to the consumer than the giant blasts sent out over the TV or radio.
Foursquare and other location-based services also provide you with special promotions based upon where you visit. I’ve talked about that before, so go ahead and check that out. While I’m not too hot on Facebook Places right yet, I will admit that it is a very powerful tool for businesses. Imagine having Foursquare, Yelp, and Facebook Fan pages all integrated together. Businesses will be able to have reviews, pictures, coupons, check-in information, and its own information all on one page that is accessible on-the-go.
You control when and where you want to access content
Technology is increasingly able to fit content around your schedule instead of content dictating it. “Timeshifting now” is a phrase I heard Faris Yakob use, and it’s an interesting concept. Timeshifting already has changed how we watch TV, and over half of the US has timeshifted a TV show. Now extend this idea to your phone or other mobile device; you can choose to watch content (on Hulu, on Youtube, etc) on your phone whenever you want. I can’t explain it as well as him, and I might have misinterpreted the idea, but the concept led me to another conclusion: You’re able to control when and where you want to access media because your mobile device is stuck in a constant present tense defined as your “now.” When something is being broadcast and where you are during this broadcast no longer matters (save for some events like the Superbowl, awards shows, that sort of stuff). Mobile devices allow you to timeshift content to your “now” instead of dictating when your “now” is. Watch the video on the link. You’ll be smarter because of it.
Content is going to become more and more interactive
Here’s where everything gets really interesting. Imagine what a school armed with iPads would be like. All content would be up-to-date, textbooks would be interactive, and kids wouldn’t have to lug around 30-lb backpacks. Kids would want to learn if they could click on a video and watch it, or if they could learn a subject through an interactive game right on their iPad. They would also learn to interact with the digital world at an early age, something that will be enormously beneficial in the future. If colleges embraced digital textbooks, the books would be a LOT less expensive than purchasing hardcovers; anyone who went to college knows how expensive books are. (this iPad-as-textbook idea came from a brief Twitter conversation with Olivier Blanchard. He has a lot of great ideas).
Imagine what a hospital would be like with the interactive capabilities of new mobile technology. Doctors wouldn’t have to worry about losing papers and every patient’s information could be transferred instantly between doctors and hospitals. Mobile technology will bring forth a revolution in nearly every industry, from education to healthcare to media and everywhere in between.
Mobile will change how we talk to each other and how we pay for things
I’m not going to touch on this very much, because we all know about mobile social interaction. We text a lot. Teens 12-17 use texting as their main mode of communication; they text more than they send email, call on the phone, or have face-to-face conversations. We have been able to connect with our online social networks via mobile device for a few years now. This isn’t really new, but this mobile social interaction will certainly grow with the number of smartphones being used. Mobile technology is definitely changing the way we interact with our social networks.
Mobile technology is going to change the way we pay for things too. PayPal has an app out that allows you to “bump” phones to complete a transaction. Soon, we could be paying with our phones like we do with credit cards and cash. This idea, while still in its infancy, could turn smartphones into wallets. Obviously, there are many issues that need to be worked out, but I definitely see this concept becoming a reality in the future.
So here we are, in the brave new world of mobile. It’s a technology that will cause a permanent shift in the way we interact with the rest of the world. Mobile is a technological advance that is probably the most important thing since the internet, and I can’t wait to see what happens with it in the future.
What do you think? Is mobile really as important as I think? What other mobile technology is going to freak the world out? Leave your ideas in the comments.
Realtors have a mantra: Location, location, location. That might as well be 2010’s official slogan, because every social network is getting on the LBS-train. Now, Facebook has entered the ring with its “Facebook Places” application. At the moment, it’s sort of like Foursquare with a few more bells and whistles.
Look, Zuckerberg, I get it. You want to play with the other cool kids in the location arena. It’s new, it’s fun, and it’s eventually going to be lucrative. But I’m not sold on Facebook’s foray into location-based services yet. Here are a few reasons why:
Foursquare was opt-in
I have 356 friends on Facebook. I maybe care where 10% of them are at any given moment. I don’t need to know where that-girl-I-met-once-in-college is eating lunch and I don’t care where anyone from my high-school is partying. They don’t care where I am, either. I joined Foursquare and chose my friends on that platform because I do care where they are. I chose them specifically because their location might interest me. I joined Facebook and friended people for different reasons.
I think Facebook would have been better off if they had created Places as an opt-in service within someone’s existing Facebook profile. In this service, you would have to choose to join Places, and then you would have to invite people from your existing pool of Facebook friends to accept your “Places Friend Request.” This way, users would have the decision to share their location and they would be able to share their whereabouts with a limited number of people. I imagine Facebook didn’t go this route because they wanted location-based services to become more mainstream; by creating an opt-in service, less people would be interested, and they’d essentially just be creating a Foursquare clone.
Caveat: I’m sure Facebook will allow me to fiddle with the privacy settings of this application so I only see the location of people I choose, but I already did that on Foursquare. It seems a little redundant.
Remember when Farmville became popular and everyone’s newsfeed was clogged-up with annoying notifications? Remember how angry everyone was because they didn’t want to see every update about lonely cows and awesome crops? It’ll happen again with Facebook Places, and it won’t be pretty.
Caveat: Again, I’m sure they’ve already thought this through and will allow you to block/hide location updates. Still, I’m haunted by memories of homeless animals and crop-growing updates littering my feed.
Here’s the sad but realistic news: Facebook Places will probably be a hit. According to Facebook, “there are more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.” Obviously, not every mobile user will be checking-in, but the number is pretty astounding when you consider that as of today, Foursquare is approaching 3 million users. If even a tiny fraction of Facebook Mobile users begin to check-in , the number of Places users will surpass Foursquare. Having Facebook Places will open up the world of location-based services to many, many people, which is good in the long-run.
Not only that, but it’ll be much easier for businesses to give out coupons and special deals. Since businesses can link their pages to the Places application, it’ll be a nicer integration than Foursquare can currently offer. You will be able to learn a lot more about the place of business when you use Facebook. This means that for businesses, Facebook Places may be more lucrative than Foursquare.
Our new time capsule?
“Cox is really making a higher level argument for Facebook Places and location-based services in general. He’s talking about how Facebook Places will be a collective archive of our memories of what we experienced at a specific location or event, such as Lollapalooza. The company sees it as an evolution of the scrapbook or the photo album — now those stories will get more attention, those stories will be pinned to a physical location.”
As cheesy as it is, I think that’s a pretty cool. Whether we completely understand it or not, everything we put on the internet leaves a mark in time, and eventually they’ll become our society’s cave paintings. Yikes.
Obviously, it’s too early to tell if Facebook Places will be more like Google Wave or, well, Facebook. Right now, I think they have a lot of things to iron-out before I become a gung-ho user. Whether or not Places takes off, having Facebook enter the ring means location-based services have hit the mainstream public, which is think is a great thing for transparency, technology, and innovation.
What do you think? Are you going to join Facebook Places?
Over the summer I’ve been managing the social media accounts of clients in a wide range of industries, from restaurants to spokes-rappers (seriously) to professional organizers. I’ve learned some things along the way, and since I’ve written about using social media as a business before, I think I’ll make some observations about how it works in reality. I’ve been on the frontlines of the social media landscape, and from my trials and tribulations come the following lessons.
By this point, you’d have to be under a very large rock for a very long time to have missed the Old Spice ads. The campaign went viral when it began and continues to garner a lot of attention with each new ad. The campaign managed to get star Isaiah Mustafa a deal with NBC. It also won the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, which is sort of like the Best Picture Oscar. Additionally, the ad was recently nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial, and will most likely win (with their momentum, none of the others can really compare). So, what makes this ad campaign so special? Why does it connect with us, and why did it go viral?
The New York Times ran an article that says we share things that inspire awe. It states that in order for something to inspire awe, “Its scale is large, and it requires ‘mental accommodation’ by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.” Now let’s look at the Old Spice ads. They definitely have that “how did they do it?” quality that many viral ads have. Curiosity piques interest. However, the ads aren’t doctored. They are well-known to be authentic and shot in one sequence. It was all done without CGI or any digital funny-business. This is certainly awe inspiring, because it makes us view the world of commercials (in today’s digital age) in a different way; we’re so used to over-the-top CGI effects (thanks, Michael Bay and James Cameron) that a spectacle like these commercials (without the help of CGI) is certainly interesting. The scale of the commercials is definitely large enough: TV ads reach a huge chunk of the population.
They’re Actually Funny
I don’t know a single person who doesn’t smile every time they see the commercials. I’ve seen most of them many, many times and I still laugh. The commercials are so over-the-top ridiculous that they’re incredibly funny. They take every Fabio-esque stereotype of male masculinity (including an un-ironic love of mustaches and riding on a white horse topless) and throw it in your face. It would be annoying, but Old Spice is aware of the stereotypes and understands the ridiculous nature of them, so it is able to make fun of itself. This sort of humor connects directly with our generation; we love satire, and we love to see big corporations not take themselves so seriously.
Sharable: These ads are inherently sharable. Just from personal experience, it had a TON of morning-after watercooler buzz in real life, and it went viral on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the internet. They’re short enough that anyone (even those of you at the office) can view it without getting into any real trouble. The Old Spice phenomenon got so big that if you didn’t know about it, you felt left out.
They Listen and Respond
Old Spice has a Twitter account (@OldSpice, naturally), and they LISTEN to us. We know this because the account tweets back at individual users. The brand has even started to respond via personalized YouTube videos. The takeaway here is that if you want to get and KEEP our attention, you have to listen to us and respond within a reasonable time. If you do, your brand will seem more personal and authentic. We like that. It also helps that the replies are pretty hilarious.
Of course, as with any cultural phenomenon, the ads have their detractors who say the campaign is good for quick laughs but may hurt the brand in the long-term. Others cite that all the awards and buzz doesn’t always translate into sales. Even if it hasn’t exactly rose sales yet, ask anyone which brand of deodorant first pops into his or her head and I would bet Old Spice is it. Many companies would kill for that top-of-mind brand recall and awareness. Whatever the case, these ads have bored a vuvuzela-sized hole in the zeitgeist and have made advertising a little more fun. Well done, Old Spice.
After the social media blitzkrieg, Old Spice’s sales soared. Mustafa eventually won the Emmy, and everything about this campaign was deemed a success. There have already been a number of copycats, but none have matched up to the original. This campaign is sure to ride off on its white horse (in only a towel, of course) into the annals of advertising history.
(Photo via Urlesque)
Mark Zuckerberg is watching you. Facebook has been getting a lot of negative buzz lately because of its privacy settings and how intrusive they seem. Facebook also added the ability to “Like” things all over the internet, meaning it can see and aggregate all of your likes together and hopefully derive some meaningful insights from them (like the Black Keys? Here’s an Ad!). If this seems a little Orwellian, you’re probably right. Zuckerberg thinks that privacy is dead, that it’s something we no longer really desire. I think there’s a little bit of truth to that.
Think about your life online. You probably have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn account if you’re my age (or at least one of them). You’ve probably shared most of your public contact information (email, phone number, Skype/AIM name) with something on the internet, and you probably also skipped over the legal mumbo jumbo that tells you how they are able to use it. Anytime you send an email, researchers can scour them for keywords and use that data. Here we are, in the age of rabid transparency.
In this strange new world of transparency, how you interact on the internet will be remembered forever. The pages you view, the comments you make on youtube, the tweets you send out. It just makes me happy that I barely missed the age of putting your baby doing stupid stuff on Youtube (I’ll take 5 sets of eyeballs over 13 Million, thank you very much). These things are all being archived (if they aren’t, somebody is missing an opportunity). Eventually, this archive will be a time capsule, a small look into our lives in the new millennium (BEFORE everyone had hover cars and jetpacks and sentient housemaid robots). But now, it can be used for research and meaningful insights, delivering you targeted advertising based upon your internet habits. What we’re seeing now is a rise in accountability. Your 15 minutes of fame have been extended indefinitely (Andy Warhol would have loved the internet). You can’t burn your online diary, shred your emails, or hide the video tapes Watergate-style. Once it’s on the internet, it’s there for good.
So, what do you do to hide from Big Brother Facebook? You could just avoid the internet completely (Brother Jebediah), but that doesn’t seem realistic these days. The key to surviving this new world is to manage your online presence. Make sure that nothing too inflammatory comes out of your keyboard, keep the dirty pictures out, and watch where you visit. Make sure everything you do online is really just an extension of who you are. If everyone’s watching, at least wave your flag.
All this being said, I think this transparency is a good thing; it makes us look more human when some of our failures are up on the internet. It’s also nice to know that most of the time when you’re giving out information, you’re not really your name. You’re just an 18-34 year old male from Wisconsin. None of the personal information is collected; your likes, dislikes, and visits are aggregated to form a larger data set. This data is then used to figure out what advertisements to send you, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just an internet experience catered to you. So, the key to surviving the brave new world of internet transparency is the same advice your mother has been telling you all of your life: be yourself.
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