mobile app

The Secret Life Of Social Media

Shhhh, don’t tell anybody anything (even though I just posted this secret online for anyone to see).

It has been brewing for some time, and it’s a difficult trend for businesses not to understand and embrace. As much as our social lives are now made public in everything from 140-characters of text on Twitter to long-form videos that we post of ourselves on YouTube, there is a growing mass audience (and developers behind them) that are creating an entirely new (and private) layers to social media. And, if all goes according to their plan, it could very well be the proverbial needle to pop the balloon of how brands have attempted to market to consumers using modern technology.

What’s the hottest thing happening right now?

It’s Snapchat, of course. Isn’t it? Lauded by the younger generation because they can send each other photographs/mini videos via smartphones and tablets that are incinerated once viewed (leaving no trace for parents, etc…). The app has become so formidable, that Facebook offered to buy them late last year for a reported $3 billion, which Snapchat turned down. Turning down $3 billion dollars buys a lot of attention and street cred. The private online social network continues to grow, as brands like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Acura and others have been jumping on board to figure out if Snapchat’s community of 30 million-plus users (and growing) cares to get this type of micro-disposable content from brands. Maybe, it’s not Snapchat that is the hottest thing anymore. One could argue that the hottest thing happening right now, is the fact that Facebook bounced back from this rejection and managed to acquire the cross-platform mobile messaging platform WhatsApp for an astonishing $19 billion two weeks ago. With close to 500 million users and growing, WhatsApp is, in its purest form, BlackBerry Messenger (which, of course, is now available for Android and Apple users as well) that works on any mobile device and any mobile carrier. In fact, the deal was so massive that it completely over-shadowed the fact that a similar messaging platform, Viber, was also recently acquired for $900 million by Rakuten (a Japanese online commerce platform).

Think about it: private pictures, videos, messages and more. That doesn’t sound very social, does it?

While companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter monopolize the growing areas of online social networking, what we’re beginning to see is continued growth and interest in private online social networking. The types of content, conversation and sharing that is done outside of the public limelight. Sometimes anonymously. Sometimes between two friends. It just doesn’t feel like the place that brands can insert themselves to monetize a growing user base, does it?

I have a secret to tell.

While they have not been acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars (yet), the San Francisco based startup Secret (that was founded by two former Google and Square employees) is getting tons of attention, followers and fans. In short, you can write anything that’s on your mind, add photos or colors to the background and customize this content while being able to share it – free of judgment – and without attaching any of your personal information or profile to it. It feels like a more modern, mobile and more social version of Post Secret (where individuals physically mail their anonymous secrets on the back of a postcard to a group that then scans and shares the most creative ones online). While Secret isn’t the first or only app like this, it is currently getting the lion’s share of media and consumer attention. Do you really want brands to share secrets with you? Does that even make sense? Secret follows in a long line of increasingly popular platforms that are moving towards more private, restricted and personal interactions. Path (which launched back in 2010) seemed like a more mobile version of Facebook with one major distinction:Path only allowed a maximum of 150 connections (which followed Dunbar’s number theory that human beings can only maintain a total of 150 true relationships). Small stuff, right?

What matters most to you: Public life? Professional life? Social life? Personal life?

What we’re now seeing is motion away from all of this publicness that we have been experiencing at the hands of social media for the past decade, or we’re simply seeing the mass development of a completely different type of private online social networking. In fact, if you look at where the venture capital dollars and user growth is currently happening, we could well arrive at a juncture which finds consumers much less interested in the public chest beating of their semi-consequential day-to-day accomplishments on social media, and a much more focused desire to use technology as a communications platform to add more personal meaning. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp could substantiate this (why wouldn’t they want to own both the public and private online social networks of consumers?). So, while Ellen may have broken Twitter with her a-list selfie stunt from the Oscar’s, we may be at the nascent stages of seeing a brand new type of social media play that is small, intimate and, seemingly, impermeable to brands, advertisers and media companies. A place where twerking could well find it’s perfect home… behind closed doors and not out in public.

Are private online social networks the future of social media? More interesting will be how brands will react and engage with this new reality. 

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

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26 Ways Social Media Marketers Use Smartphone Apps

Do you use your smartphone to carry out your social media marketing while you’re away from your desk? Are you looking for apps to make you more productive? Finding apps to help us perform our day-to-day tasks has become more important than ever. In this post, I’ll give you 26 tips, an A-Z guide for [...]

This post 26 Ways Social Media Marketers Use Smartphone Apps first appeared on Social Media Examiner. Social Media Examiner – Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

Social Media Week Teams Up with Prezi

Social Media Week NYC starts one week from today, and the folks at SMW have teamed up with Prezi to create a guide for this year’s conference. The presentation brings you some of the programming highlights, behind-the-scenes footage and notable techies discussing this year’s theme: The Future of Now.

SMW has also released its mobile app for attendees. Its features include:

  • Network with other SMW attendees – chat in real time to build meaningful relationships with like-minded attendees.
  • Favorite Events & Speakers – Track and add to your profile the events and speakers that matter most to you.
  • Register for Events – Log-in to your SMW account to register for events and access your personal schedule.
  • Connect to Content – Monitor trending tweets, images and stats from SMW events across the globe.
  • Live video feeds – View live SMW events videos from across the globe.

The app is available for Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

If you haven’t registered yet and want to attend — you’re in luck. Right now, you can get 30 percent off a Campus Pass.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

Mobile Businesses need to be More Social

As a business owner in 2014, what are some of your major challenges and/or concerns?
For some it i…

What Is The Point Of A Website In 2014?

It’s not all about what the mobile experience will be about.

The one screen world. It’s a concept often written about in these posts and it’s an ideology that was created to force brands to start thinking about true customer-centricity instead of business and brand-driven silos (also check out my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete). We live in a world where the only screen that matters is the screen that is in front of me. We live in a world where screens are here, there and everywhere. They are in the palms of our hands, on our wrists, on our glasses, on our computers, and push out many forms of information and entertainment to us in a myriad of ways. Consumers don’t think about it any more. Screens are everywhere (and, if they aren’t there yet, they will be soon). Billions upon billions of connected people and connected devices. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on what this all means, and how it changes the dynamics of our lives, of business and the brands that need to stay afloat.

Still, don’t forget about your website.

It may sound cliché, but we live in a world where brands are increasingly leaving the information, data capture and power of building the direct relationship to chance or to someone else. We are seeing an increase in brands leaving their true engagement to social media (be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube or beyond). They are letting these online social networks do the heavy lifting of nurturing the brand narrative, while they focus on building mobile apps and other ways to connect. What we’re beginning to see (in a post-PC and post-Web browser world) is a knowing abandonment of the website, instead of re-imagining it to become the powerful engine of business that it truly can be.

What is the point of a website in 2014?

That is the question. If you go back in time (and we’re talking within this past decade), most companies used their websites in two way:

  1. To provide a level of information.
  2. To sell their wares.

Breaking that down a little bit more, brands used the Internet as a way to create more interactive brochures of their wares, or as a way to sell directly to their consumers. Nobody is going to argue that these still act as important functions in the business world, but there is something more. If advertising is a vertical function within the marketing department and the marketing department acts as its own vertical within the organization, we’re missing the bigger business opportunity and, with it, the biggest opportunity in developing a stronger brand.

Advertising is a vertical, but marketing becomes horizontal.

If you think about marketing in its purest form (the engines of developing and optimizing the product, it’s pricing models, how it is distributed – in both physical and virtual formats – and how it is promoted), we can’t deny that the role of marketing must adapt to meet the inter-connectedness of the world. In short, marketing has to move from a vertical within the organization into a horizontal functional that goes across the organization. Marketing, clearly, needs to touch everything. If the websites can think, act and demonstrate this variance, what we have is a new model of Web efficiency. It’s also the type of function that can’t be done efficiently on mobile (yet, but that could be changing).

What a Web of efficiency can look like.

Instead of letting the website wither on the vine, as the brand focuses on social media, content marketing, mobile apps and beyond, re-focus the website as the digital embodiment of the brand. In a world of micro-content and real-time marketing, this seems like the logical step for brands to take (but most are not). What is the first true brand impression that people receive? Even in a world where word of mouth has digitized with global reach, most people looking for anything will still default to some form of search prior to purchase (and, we’re even seeing layers of data to support that this is happening with “impulse buy” products as well). Whether it’s a Google search box or a post on Facebook, consumers turn to digital channels to better understand a product and/or service. This is nothing new. It’s been happening for close to twenty years, at this point. The difference is that brands can now use their websites as an engine to change the sales funnel and build better marketing interactions. It’s hard work, but it can be done. My close friend and colleague, Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and the author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) best defines this by understanding what a true conversion is. Most brands define “success” or a “conversion” if a customer buys from them or calls for an appointment. This zero-sum race to a conversion is not the actual path to purchase for consumers (we know this, and it’s basic). Still, we build these massive websites, with hefty investments with that being the sole focus. What Avinash says is that we need to break this up. We need to think about all of the things consumers want on their way to make the purchase, and to quantify each of these steps as micro-conversions. This is when things start getting exciting. Maybe a consumer watches a video, signs up for an e-newsletter, likes your brand on Facebook, etc… each one of the touch points can (and should) be assigned a micro-conversion, with a scoring system attached to it (you can use points, dollar amounts, whatever). Using simple (and free) analytics, this information can easily be tracked, and then turned into a more realistic sales funnel that depicts both a path to purchase, and can validate just how good your creative and content is (or how poorly it is performing). This is all about efficiency and cutting the fat. It’s not about adding more stuff.

… And there is so much…

Multivariate testing, landing pages, leveraging targeted keywords to see what drives people where, and how engaged they become are just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even begun to think about eCRM, creating a testing and learning environment, getting smarter about where things go and how they persuade the path to purchase… and beyond. It’s enough to make your head spin. And, that’s the point. It’s 2014, and most websites still want you to read and/or buy, instead of being that true digital embodiment of the brand. So, if all your website does is sell or inform, it seems easy enough to leave it behind and let the online social networks do this work (because that is where people are congregated and connected), or to do this on a mobile app (because that is where people are, increasingly, grabbing or doing this type of stuff). What happens is that a massive chasm of business opportunity gets lost because brands live in dogma. Their old ways of doing things. The thing about these web engines of efficiency is that it’s not easy to do. You can’t just hire an agency to build you something. It’s a collaborative  process that is hard and requires a different way of operating (both internally and externally). It requires a brand to re-think how they get new customers and keep old ones. And, while this may sound scary, it also provides one of the biggest opportunities to truly grow a business. It’s (sadly) something that most brands are dismissing because of the classic shiny, bright objects that are out there or their belief that this new way of thinking is risky. This is isn’t about risk. It’s about efficiency. It’s about actually looking at how people buy and making everything (from you advertising to your content) work for you, instead of giving you more work to do.

Your website is – and could well be – the true heart of the soul of your brand, it just takes the courage to accept it and the hard work to do it.   

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It’s All Just Dumb Luck

Selling a lot of books is very hard. Making a video go viral is very hard. Creating a billion dollar company is very hard.

It’s a story that I will never forget. Back in 2008, I was prepping the release of my first business book (Six Pixels of Separation). I was very excited because the book was going to be the lead business title for Grand Central Publishing – which is a part of the largest book publishing company in the world (Hachette Book Group) – and the senior-most executive at the publishing house wanted to meet with me. I was excited. I was nervous. If you could close your eyes and imagine what the head editor of the largest book publisher in the world might look like, you would have the right visual of this powerful, smart and compelling individual. A beautiful corner office with a view, that is decorated with awards, celebrity author paraphernalia, photos of this individual with Presidents, royalty and more. As we sat down on the couch for a coffee, they leaned in and quietly said, “Mitch… I love your book. We all love your book. It’s a fascinating space and you have captured it perfectly. We are thrilled that we’re publishing it and look forward to its success…” and then there was a long pause. They finished the sentence with: “now, all we need is lightning in a bottle.”

Wait. What?  

Write a book that one of the world’s most esteemed editors loves, get signed to a global deal by one of the largest book publishers in the world, get to be the lead title for their back to school season, and it’s all going to be dependant on how lucky we get? It’s a situation that I have known and dealt with for decades. Back in my music industry days, I would face this story on a weekly basis. A band would release an amazing album on one of the major record labels, that was supported with a ton of marketing, featured a great producer, with an amazing tour to come, and it would be crickets and tumbleweeds in terms of record sales, seats sold and general media interest. I could rattle off hundreds of bands who should have been huge from the eighties and nineties while others (some might even argue less-qualified) got the accolades, attention, fame, sex, drugs and well, you know.

In the end, is it all about luck?

I am thinking about luck a lot lately. I’m not the only one. Just yesterday, I saw two really interesting articles on Mashable about Facebook (titled: ‘It Was Just the Dumbest Luck’ — Facebook’s First Employees Look Back) and the meteoric rise of the most frustrating game, Flappy Bird (titled: How ‘Flappy Bird’ Went From Obscurity to No. 1 App).

Check out these quotes…

  1. Ezra Callahan was Facebook’s sixth employee. Here’s what he says about it: “It’s humbling to know I was part of something that became such a phenomenon around the world. Every day, I recognize how it was just the dumbest luck in the world to have been in the right place at the right time.” 
  2. Doug Nguyen is the indie developer who created Flappy Bird. He never did any type of marketing or advertising for the game and simply said, “The Popularity could be my luck.”

Is it just all dumb luck?

You can imagine how many articles, blog posts and book have been written on the subject of luck. I’ve often referred to this “secret sauce” that seems to have no known recipe in the success of things of other stuff. We would like to think that true success happens when someone can match passion, intellect, dedication and effort against a cause. We would like to think that if you just put your nose against the grindstone, something is going to give. We don’t want to believe in something “other” (and no, I’m not talking about any religious figures here). Still, when you speak to those we would consider the best of the best, they often default to some type of comment about just how lucky they got. Sure, go ahead and dump all of the catchy quotes below about how a lot of hard work makes people lucky, I still find it fascinating how there are always these random forces at play. The things that make one video go viral and another, equally compelling piece, be a dud. It feels like luck usually does have something to do with it, regardless of what the data jocks tell us and the puritan hard workers. 

So, do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?

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Facebook Is Looking Smarter Than Ever

Facebook is looking smarter than ever. It happens in a flash.

It seems like only yesterday, when everybody was complaining about Facebook’s lack of a mobile presence. Their initial strikes at a mobile app were simply lesser versions of their Web-based…

Great Content Is The Least Of Your Worries

If a brand is looking to do something more than traditional advertising, what would be your recommendation?

The natural answer is: create content. And, to leverage that content through digital (re: social media) channels, so that consumers will see it, share it, talk about it, etc… Even that is not a simple and easy thing to do. We’ve seen – on a constant and consistent basis – just how hard brands struggle to get the right type of content into the right channels to see any type of movement happen. It’s still few and far between for most, as they grapple with defining what success (or ROI) looks like in comparison with their traditional advertising measurement models. With that, too many brands dismiss the myriad of other reasons why consumers like what they see. In the end, having great content or great advertising is a fraction of the work that defines success for a brand. 

What else are consumers looking for in a brand?

  1. Utility. As you know, utilitarianism marketing, is a huge part of my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, and still remains a vastly untapped opportunity for brands. Consumers want to have a tool (or utility) that adds value to their already cluttered lives. Newsfeeds are filled with links and how-to articles. This is just more clutter for them to sort through. It’s not just about valuable content, but how that content is cased for them to actually derive a true benefit from it. The content that goes into this case is critical, but until a brand knows how much of a utility their apps, websites or wearable technologies are adding to their consumer’s lives, it will be hard to break through the clutter.
  2. Functionality. This can best be described as the opposite of “death by a thousand paper cuts.” Functionality is all of the small, smart and simple ways that your marketing creates value to the consumer by removing layers of friction and adding in thousands (hundreds?) or little things that make the experience of the utility that much easier and fluid than anything else they had used previously. Think about the “slide to unlock” functionality of smartphones versus the old days of multiple button combinations to get your device into working mode. The easier it is to navigate and use coupled with the valuable content will build more loyal consumers.
  3. Design. In two words: design matters. I’ve watched consumers – on countless occasions – attempt to navigate a website on a mobile device or try to work through a “mobile-friendly” version of a brand’s digital experience only to quit or calmly state, “this sucks.” Consumers don’t care about your IT roadmap or your marketing department’s apprehension to spend budget on a native mobile experience, they simple find it to be a brand weakness. Period. This isn’t just about mobile either. So few brands spend any semblance of time designing better experiences, that we wind up having two instances occur: One, a general homogeny, where it’s hard to tell the difference between one brand from another. Two, a brand that believes design is at the core and is able to create such a chasm between themselves and their competitors. Content surrounded by poor design is poor content.
  4. Integration. It’s a digital world. This pushes content well beyond the realm of simple text. We live in a world of text, images, audio and video. Consumers have an expectation to have that entire experience fully-integrated. They want access to the content as apart of the experience. Push this to think about ways to build a proper integrated player or embedding the right tools, so that the consumer can best benefit from a holistic experience. 
  5. Apps. This may be contentious to some, but apps are the new reality. Consumers are looking for new and interesting things on their smartphones and tablets. There is no reason why brands should not play an important role in this space. Sadly, most of the branded apps don’t follow the notions being put forward here and relegate themselves to narcissistic tendencies. They’re looking to pimp and shill over utility, functionality, design and integration. Consumers love and want more apps. Apps are the new websites. Brands need to get used to this.
  6. Alerts and notifications. If consumers love what you’re doing and creating, they want to know when more of that good stuff is coming. There is a balance here and subtlety that is hard to master, but the brands that consumers know, love and trust are also the ones that they want to be most connected to. Consumers do like alerts and notifications that are valuable. Don’t forget about that. And don’t be annoying. Remember, this is a very sensitive issue. Brands are trying to add value with alerts and notifications, not bulk up on impressions.
  7. Interaction. Arianna Huffington quite beautifully stated that “self-expression in the new entertainment.” Consumers love access. They love commenting, sharing, complaining and more. Do you know what they love more than that? Doing it in public. People love to share and tell stories and add to those stories. Great content is no different. In the early days of blogging, I used to say that the biggest difference between traditional media and blogging is that in the tradition world, the last period at the end of the last sentence is the end of the piece. In digital media, the last period at the end of the last sentence is where the story begins. Having great content without building in the hooks for people to have interaction, social play and commentary renders the content neutered.
  8. Distribution. This is something that I have blogged about on countless occasions. Content without an even stronger content distribution strategy is useless. This is a hard one for brands to understand. They want to control the content on their own platforms. Great content wants to be free. Brands can help with this. It means breaking down the walled gardens and finding new and interesting places where customers (and prospective customers) play and connect, and to get your content into those channels of distributions. Think about your industry trade publications or other, more adventurous, places for your content to live and breathe.

So, are you still just worried about the content side of things?

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Snapchat for Business: How Your Marketing Can Benefit From Photo Messaging

Are you looking for new ways to add mobile to your marketing mix? Do you want to deliver time-sensitive offers to your customers? Wondering how SnapChat could help your business? It’s no secret that mobile is the new black: most people rely on their phone or tablet to access information. In this article, you’ll discover 5 [...]

This post Snapchat for Business: How Your Marketing Can Benefit From Photo Messaging first appeared on Social Media Examiner. Social Media Examiner – Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

5 Ways to Blog From Your Mobile Device

Do you need to blog while on the go? Would you like to have the ability to blog from your mobile device? In this article, I’ll show you what you need to run your blog from your mobile device. Why Blog From a Mobile Device? OK, so you’re not going to build a robust blog entirely [...]

This post 5 Ways to Blog From Your Mobile Device first appeared on Social Media Examiner. Social Media Examiner – Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

This Blog Is Dead

Let’s admit it. Blogging (as we knew it) is dead.

Is your blood boiling? Are you priming your fingers to lambast this thought in the comment section of this post? Go back in time. Not even all that ago and think about the early days of blogging. What we had was place for online journaling. Posts were seen in chronological order and could be commented on and shared. It was a technological and publishing breakthrough. Suddenly, the cost of publishing plummeted to zero and publishing to the world was almost as easy as it was to print up a document from your word processor. Suddenly, anyone with connectivity could have a thought and publish it in text for the world to see. It’s obvious why the popularity of blogs took hold. It’s equally obvious why the traditional mass media also took a liking to the platform. Newspapers could use blogging as a farm team for their printed publications. They could allow journalists not getting enough ink on paper to explore their ideas on a blog. They could test different types of stories and writers to see if there was a market for their writing, and more. For a person like me, publishing a regular blog enabled me to build an audience, to have a direct relationship with people who liked the same sorts of things that were turning my crank. If an editor didn’t like a story pitch, I could just copy and paste that same text into WordPress, hit “publish” and see if the story had legs. Blogging provided me with a powerful platform that has created awareness for Twist Image, got me on the radar of speaking bureaus, major publishers, a literary agent, book publisher and so much more.

What happened?

Yesterday, Nieman Journalism Lab published an article titled, The blog is dead, long live the blog, by Jason Kottke (who publishes one of the longest continuously running blogs on the Web). Let’s forgo the irony that this piece was published on a blog and read this: “Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium. In 1997, wired teens created online diaries, and in 2004 the blog was king. Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids. Instead of launching blogs, companies are building mobile apps, Newsstand magazines on iOS, and things like The Verge. The Verge or Gawker or Talking Points Memo or BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post are no more blogs than The New York Times or Fox News, and they are increasingly not referring to themselves as such.”

The comfort of publishing and sharing.

Blogs aren’t dead, there are just many more ways to take an idea, to publish it and to share it. Blogs were as popular as they were over the past fifteen years not because everybody wanted to write and publish, but because that’s primarily the only way they could share things. Once better, faster and more technologically advance ways came about, consumers navigated to whatever areas were easiest or more congruous to their styles and preferences. The death of blogging is – as they say – greatly exaggerated. With more choices (shall I publish text? Images? Audio? Video?), places to publish (Pinterest? Tumblr? Snapchat? Facebook? YouTube?) and styles (short-like Twitter? Middle of the road for Medium? Long-like a piece for HuffPo? ), we simply have people who are finally able to match their publishing capabilities with their actual areas of interest. This doesn’t mean that blogs are dying, it simply means that people who like more personal/in-depth pieces would trend to a blog while others might like the rapid and real-time fire of Twitter.

It’s less about blogging.

What we’re seeing is an evolution of something I called, Instant Personal Publishing (almost a decade ago). Blogging is a legacy system within that framework. Instagram is as much of a blog post as this is. Consumers interest in sharing and creating content continues to evolve and grow. Blogging is starting to leave the “everyone” stream and finding it’s place in the “blogging” stream. It’s for those interested in more depth, more insight, with a personal slant/opinion, and a regular text-based publishing pace from those who have something to write. Writing isn’t easy. Blogging is a lot harder. Less people are starting blogs because not everyone is going to have the desire or aptitude to write. People are going to read less blogs, simply because they have more options. Bloggers have to do more within other social media and traditional media channels to get their voices heard. No, blogging isn’t dead. Blogging is just starting to find its more relevant audience with people who have a true passion for writing. That’s a good thing, but we can’t be fooled into thinking that blog-type writing will somehow become more popular than creating and sharing pictures and videos and tweets. When given the choice, humans tend to like the speed of looking and snacking.

That’s nothing new.

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Should you Develop a Mobile App for your Brand?

The mobile app question is becoming an all too frequent one with brands these days. A better ques…

What Facebook Knows About Innovation (That Every Brand Should Pay Attention To)

Blogs posts, articles and books have been written about Facebook and their ability to grow.

When people think about the company and their state of innovation, they will often align them with a myriad of Silicon Valley types. They’ll look to things like collaborative environments, the way meetings are held, how they attract clients and their head-down obsession with everything “hacker culture.” There’s no doubt that it takes a certain type of individual to work at Facebook, and it takes a certain type of online social network to have broken through like they have. It’s easy to argue that they simply had a strong product, but it met with a certain zeitgeist and luck that others (Friendster, MySpace, etc…) just couldn’t capture, retain and innovate on top of. Connecting people of the world seems to have worked out pretty well for Facebook, by all accounts.

It wasn’t always belly rubs and lollipops, was it?

We can pinpoint moments (many moments) when it looked like Facebook was going to stumble or crumble. From early attempts at monetization through advertising to privacy and policy changes. Still, the company persisted and pushed on. Sometimes they listened intently to their audience, and in other instances they chose the Steve Jobs method of motion (i.e. consumers don’t know what they want, it’s up to the brand to show it to them). For good or for bad, Facebook happened to become the shining light and beacon (no pun intended) of all things social media and online social networking. They are building a deep chasm between themselves and any would-be competitors, and they’ve made an interesting investment (a billion dollars worth) in Instagram to own the ability to leverage social photographs in the mobile state. That wasn’t a big innovation. That was a big bet. Now, as Instagram begins the journey of introducing ads, we’re about to see just how engaged their users are. If history is any indicator, consumers will continue to snap and share photos knowing that the ads are the cost of a free admission to such a powerful, fun and friendly photo sharing experience.

Speaking of mobile.

If you look at Facebook’s current stock price and how pervasive the social network is for every connected consumer, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t that long ago when Facebook almost stumbled over the entire mobile thing. Their mobile app wasn’t even really a native app, it was more of a mobile website. It was slow, with very limited functionality. Users complained, but Facebook wasn’t focusing on it. People were still getting acquainted with the newsfeed (something Mark Zuckerberg pushed on the audience that was pushed back on, until users realized how awesome it truly was). Most brands were in the same position as Facebook was. Mobile was becoming increasingly more ubiquitous, but it was hard to tell when would be the ideal time to deep-dive into mobile, suck it up and make the significant investment. Facebook pulled the trigger. It wasn’t a two-year IT roadmap with complex inter-departmental politics. A company of that size with a product that was built for the Web browser pulled a one-eighty and had something very powerful in market within a handful of months.

That is true innovation.

When marketing professionals talk about innovation, they’re quick to look at something new instead of this moment in Facebook’s short history. This company changed their core product and even adapted all of their monetization schemes to match it. If I were to ask you if you think that Facebook is a mobile-first company today, how would you answer that? Because, it is exactly that… without question. We tend to our Facebook experiences primarily on our smartphones and tablets. The Web browser version has become something other. Don’t believe me? Just look at the mobile usage, growth and time spent on their recent earnings call. The media is focused on the non-growth in the teen segment and not spending enough attention on the massive reality that Facebook is not the same Facebook that it was. Instead of admiring the company for embracing, what I call in CTRL ALT Delete, the “one screen” world, media pundits tend to look at things like new ad formats or functionality on brand pages as some kind of indicator as to the company’s propensity for innovation.   

The bigger picture of innovation.

Take a look at your own brand (or the brands that you represent) and stop looking at the little/newer introductions of features and whizz-bangs as innovation, but at the grander shifting of consumer behavior. Are you truly at the vanguard of that moment in time? Facebook was smart, quick and adaptive to the environment. They didn’t let the shift from mobile be a force of resistance, but rather surfed the wave at all costs. Currently, it’s clear to see how many brands are stuck in a major conundrum. Their mobile experiences are terrible at worst or a tempered derivative of the website at best. They’re busy optimizing their websites, thinking about e-commerce (or online ordering) and worried about social media, while the IT departments tend to the mobile version or the app development (brands made this, exact, same mistake back in the early days of the Internet’s commercialization). Brands are struggling with IT and budgets to figure out how to adapt to a world that has already changed. In short, they’re making the same mistakes that they have previously made, while admonishing or dismissing the value of what Facebook has to offer. It’s a shame. Facebook is one of the most innovative companies out there. It’s a model that all brands should study. Facebook is big. Facebook was very different. Facebook innovated and changed their physical self in a matter of months. Facebook deserves more applause than they’re already receiving.

If that’s not innovation, I don’t know what is.

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The Merits Of Reading A Book

What was the last book that you read?

I buy new books all day. Literally. I read most of my book on my iPhone using the Kindle, iBooks or Kobo app (but, mostly Kindle). I haven’t been reading enough books this year. I used to read – on average – about a book a week. I think I have only read a handful of books this year. Sadly. Still, I find myself reading all of the time. Tweets on Twitter, Facebook status updates, e-newsletters, articles online, blog posts, magazine articles, newspaper articles (remember those) and more. Still an infovore, but my consumption of books has not been at a personal level of satisfaction.

Moving forward.

Recognizing this flaw in my personal development, I’ve made an active push to read more books in the past few months. I even have physical books lying around my offices, by my bed and even in my knapsack. Book reading is an important part of what makes me grow. I know this. Still, this past year I got lost in less meaningful pieces of content. Yes, less meaningful. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but as amazing as an article might be or as enjoyable as it can be to spend a lunch hour scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, I can’t help but feeling like all content (outside of book reading) leaves me as hollow as a meal at a fast food restaurant. It feels like the right thing at the time, but there is nothing but regret and the desire for a more substantive meal shortly thereafter.

Diving deep into a book.

Last week, I finished reading Steven Pressfield‘s latest book, The Authentic Swing. The thing about Pressfield (and his books) is that he forces you to focus and dive deep on the topic of writing and getting the words out of you. For me (and anyone else with a passion for writing), it’s inspiring. Still, that’s first-level on what happens when you read a good book. It’s much more about focus. A book allows you to shut-out the real-time Web, the beeps, the alerts, the distractions and more that continuously drive us away from the things that we really need to focus on. Pressfield calls everything but doing the work that we’re supposed to do “the resistance.” Never has there been a tool to seduce the resistance more than the Internet. Books take you away from that. Writing notes and adding perspective to the books that you’re reading do that too. Sadly, I got away from that.

I once was lost…

I’m not done with Twitter or reading blog posts or articles in The New Yorker, but I am done with those resources being the primary destination. Books first. Everything else flows after that. I don’t know about you, but the more books that I read, the more creative and strategic solutions my brain can come up with. We live in a world where content is short, fast and free. Perhaps this is more a “stop and smell the roses” type of blog post. Regardless, the merits that are derived from spending the time, energy and effort of reading a full book (cover to cover) is something that is easily lost in our fast food content culture.

Interested in fine dining? Try reading more books. I’m going to. Join me.

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Quri raises $10M to give brands in-store intelligence and help consumers earn cash while they shop

San Francisco-based Quri aims to give brands a clearer window into their in-store promotions by turning shoppers into stealth researchers.

Yummly brings its recipe-crunching tools to the grocery store with a new iPhone app

Yummly’s first mobile app doesn’t just port its semantic food search engine over to iOS. Rather, the company has designed its iPhone app to be used in the grocery store rather than the kitchen.

Facebook Launches Redesigned Mobile App for iOS 7

Facebook announced a new version of its iOS app on Wednesday to correspond with the launch of iOS 7. The new version of the Facebook app, which will be available in the App Store later on Wednesday, has been completely redesigned to fit within the ne…

The 1 App Every NFL Fan Needs

The future of marketing (and business) is solving customer problems succinctly and effectively. (tweet this) Actually, that’s always been the point of marketing and business, but evolutions in commerce thinking and consumer technology have made solving problems easier and smarter than ever. This, of course, is the whole point of Youtility, my new book about […]

The 1 App Every NFL Fan Needs is a post from: Convince and Convert: Social Media Strategy and Content Marketing Strategy

3 New Ways To Think About Amazon, YouTube And LinkedIn

Are you experiencing any digital marketing fatigue?

Thinking about what’s coming next? Curious about what is around the corner? Just this week, three interesting news items emerged that demonstrate some big shifts in three of the major online social channels.

  1. Amazon Adds Ability to Buy Goods From Within Mobile Apps. Buying virtual goods in-app is nothing new, but buying physical goods in-app? This is the convergence of a movement I discuss in-depth in my second book, CTRL ALT Delete, about how physical becomes digital and digital becomes physical. Now, developers will be able to create applications that enable consumers to buy physical goods from within the app and receive a commission for these sales from Amazon. From the Bloomberg news item: “Imagine a developer of a nutrition and fitness app can now offer their customers the ability to purchase vitamins, supplements and fitness gear within the app, directly from Amazon.” This a big deal for brands. Brands can create an app of full-on utility, but have the flexibility to sell (and make money) through in-app purchases. This adds a dynamic new layer to e-commerce and the convergence of marketing and commerce.
  2. Forget Amazon. YouTube Is Where Shoppers Do Research. Back in 2008, the big news was that YouTube had become the second largest search engine in the world after its parent company, Google. This data point still surprises many people who see YouTube as a simple online video platform. When considering a purchase or wanting to see a product demo, where do you turn? More often than not, somebody, somewhere has created a video of almost everything. This AdWeek article further substantiates that as YouTube matures and more and more consumers find it increasingly easy to create video content (you can shoot it and upload it directly from your smartphone), that YouTube morphs into a destination for product discovery, review and a massive engine of influence. Who would have thought that YouTube’s commercial value extends to become a heavy influencer in the purchase decision?
  3. Ad Agencies Love LinkedIn but Not SlideShare. What social media tools do marketing agencies use to hustle down new business? It turns out that LinkedIn is the clear winner. From the AdWeek article: “46 percent of 300 agency honchos described LinkedIn as the ‘most important’ social media vehicle for generating new business leads, well above blogging (24 percent), Facebook and Twitter (both at 14 percent) and Google (just 2 percent). The same poll, though, found that only 21 percent use SlideShare to market their agencies to prospective clients. Interestingly, SlideShare has been around nearly as long as LinkedIn–seven years compared to 10. So, both are ancient in the realm of social media, but obviously LinkedIn is a bigger name in b-to-b networking.” The reason LinkedIn is so popular? Apparently it’s this big, because it requires the least amount of effort to maintain effectively. That’s a (somewhat) sobering (and sad) statement, but everybody is looking for shortcuts. What makes this interesting is how our virtual and physical networks are not only blurring, but how multi-million dollar deals are now being brokered through relationships that have been initiated because of the power of social media and online social networking.

Don’t always look at what is coming and what is new.

While reviewing these three disparate news items, it was refreshing to get a new perspective on how these channels are both evolving, and how they are maturing as engines of marketing and commerce. The smart marketers will take these three news items and (hopefully) get creative by thinking about new brand solutions. It feels like some new and exciting opportunities that can be capitalized on as everyone else continues down the same, old path because they’re not paying attention to just how much the audience is evolving over a short period of time.

Fascinating stuff. 

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Voice Media Group Relaunches ‘Best Of’ App

Voice Media Group has updated its BestOf app to help readers navigate the best local entertainment, restaurants, and bars in their cities through the eyes of alternative newspapers including LA Weekly and the Village Voice.

The app includes the most useful elements of mobile discovery: there’s a geo-location tool that finds readers on the map when they’re looking for something to do and a keyword search bar with category filters to help them find it. But, like Foursquare, the app also has an Explore tab for seeing what’s recommended nearby and a bookmarking tool for saving a great find for later.

In this case, the recommended locations are a combination of community reviews (complete with star ratings and “quick tips”) and advice pulled from the local publication’s ”BestOf” winners and finalists or critics picks going back several years.

“If you’re standing on a corner in Queens and you’re looking for fried chicken, we’re still going to serve you the last few years of ‘the best fried chicken’ as well as what other users around you recommend,” explained Voice Media Group CEO Scott Tobias.

Readers can also contribute to upcoming issues by using the app to vote in the readers’ poll, the results of which will ultimately be shared with the website and print versions of the alternative weeklies.

Will professional content play a smaller role now that Voice Media Group’s readers have an alternative to Yelp and Foursquare in their hands? In May, the Voice laid off long-time staffers including gossip columnist Michael Musto and theater critic Michael Feingold.

“These were layoffs that needed to happen for a very long time,” said VMG CEO Scott Tobias. “They will have no impact on content.” Tobias added that the publication has hired back more employees than were recently let go. Earlier this month, Voice Media Group hired Tom Finkel as editor of the Village Voice, along with three other writers. “The company is very healthy,” Tobias said.

The BestOf app is available for iOS on iTunes and Android on Google Play.

It includes data from the following publications: Village Voice (New York), LA Weekly (Los Angeles), Westword (Denver), New Times (Phoenix), Houston Press, Dallas Observer, Riverfront Times (St. Louis), New Times (Miami), City Pages (Minneapolis), New Times (Broward) and OC Weekly (Orange County); and also has data for other cities including Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Nashville, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington, D.C.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.