The strangest thing about the evolution in business, communication and media is that we are acting as though the social element is some kind of anomaly. As though it is a new form of human behaviour. When in truth the past 100 years was the anomaly. This great quote from Douglas Adams is the best reminder of all:
“…this century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport – the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for….”
This comes from a terrific article that was written more than 10 years ago by Adams on the then emerging internet. It is worth reading so we can remind ourselves that the revolution is essentially a reinstatement of how humans have always behaved.
It’s easy to think that our target audience is the same people it has always been.
18-24 year old influencers
Main grocery Buyers
Primary School kids
But sometimes, that target market evolves. Some times it is the exact same people it was 20 years ago – except they are actually 20 years older. Case in point is Ice Magic. Yes, that chocolate coating dessert that is scrumptious when spread all over ice cream. These guys who run the brand found out that a whole bunch of big kids (35 year olds) were reliving their child hood and sharing photos on line. They even invented ‘ice Magic Day’ an annual event where pics of the choccy treat are shared on twitter and flickr.
Rather than fight it, they embraced this underground brand community and where it is going. And the end result is this uber cool graffiti piece.Which I am really digging because I am one of the members of the community. Enjoy
A few days ago I blogged about the serious advantages of embracing an open API. And just recently I’ve come across another great example of an startup using it to full advantage. The tiny idea, yet mobile app phenomenon Instagram has been mashup up by the uber rad Statigram. And I love it.
What Statigram does:
- It provides statistics on your instagram feed (hmm obvious)
- It shows who we interact with the most
- Timelines on our usage patterns and filters
- Churns your stats into really cool infographics ‘about us’
- Allows us to send private messages to followers
- Details on our tag patterns
- It even has photo printing capaibilities
… in fact, here’s a little photo essay of some of the cool stuff it does from my @sammartino instagram feed so you can get a good feel for it. There is no doubt in my mind that Statigram will end up being acquired by the API forefather assuming it continues its rapid growth trajectory.
Without even realising it, the average web surfer or smart phone addict has become an expert in usability. This doesn’t mean we could ask them what a sight should look like, how it should work or to advice us of any design imperatives. it’s a little different than that. But have no doubt, they are the experts. And their expertise is different. it is more like this – they know what sucks. They will not tolerate a site that sucks for more than a few seconds.
We have entered an age of mass usability expertise – and this has been driven by social media. As entrepreneurs and aspiring startup geeks we have to remember the training our users are getting. They are being trained on what is ‘best practice’ by the worlds best – brands like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Foursquare. Brands with the greatest UI’s ever seen are training the everyday person on what good looks like. Even if it is occurring at a subconscious level. It is happening.
The impact of this is significant. For me it puts flow first, and features second. The flow of the site and intuitive nature must be put above all other technology and feature desires we have. If we fail with our usability, there wont be a second chance to win back the experts who’ve already decided we don’t cut it.
Lately I’ve found myself checking my instagram feed more often than my twitter feed. I didn’t realise it at first. But I noticed it only when a few of my twitter friends commented on my lack of tweeting. Clearly I’m still using both, but increasingly instagram is what I give my small doses of available attention to. I remember the time when this happened to facebook, the time when I slowly started coming back to facebook less often, and starting giving my attention to twitter. And it is happening all over again for me.
It really does feel like there are only a few channels I can invest in at one time. Maybe it is Dunbar’s number is at work again?
If I had to understand why this is happening I’d just put it down to noise. When there are a lot of voices shouting at once, it is very difficult to hear what anyone is saying – the conversation is replaced with a hum of city noise, interspersed with the occasional siren or loud car horn. Instagram feels more intimate at the moment. It feels like twitter did when I first got there. I have so few people in my feed I can see everything. A few crew who have organically organised themselves to share some of their life. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, and it feels like I have a greater sense of control that my other feeds. Sure, I have to take a photo of all my thoughts – but most thoughts we have can be augmented with a pic quite easily. In addition, this need for a picture reduces the amount of banal posts I see in my feed.
Increasingly I am convinced of one thing – as soon as ‘everyone’ arrives at a party, it’s time to find somewhere more interesting. And what this means for entrepreneurs, is that if your party is cool enough, people will eventually seek you out.
Every now and again a brand crosses the chasm. A brand goes from being a thing, to being an emotional ingredient. These moments are usually personal, they are hard to capture and share. But occasionally it is captured, and it takes us to an entire new understanding of what is possible when we create things with the end user in mind. In this instance, the car was first created with driver in mind. And then, the acquisition was created with a dad in mind.
Another example of great narrative that would not be possible in the limited media of yesteryear. What a beautiful brand story to share – Kudos to all involved.
Mark Zuckerberg has promoted the idea of the Social Graph for sometime. And it is true that Social Networking has changed the way we use the web. The only problem for me is that sometimes the people in my social life are there not by choice:
people I work with
Neighbours in my my street
People who drink coffee where I do
People I went to school with
Friends of friends
You get the picture. These people are in my life by geographic default. Whether or not we are interested in the same things is another question. In fact our values and interests may be entirely juxtaposed. This is starting to make me think much more about finding people who are interested in the same things as me. The social space is such a deluge of opinions and data, it is hard to sift through the noise to find what I care about. I am not necessarily interested in people just because they are in my close geographic space. It needs to be much more. We must share an an interest as well - we must intersect on the ‘Interests Graph‘, not just the social or geographic one.
In fact, my circle of acquaintances has never changed as quickly in my entire life as it has in the past 3 years. People are coming and going at a rapid pace. Sure, close friends and family are bonded by forces much deeper than digital technology, but we need another layer added to the social graph to make more meaningful connections.
It’s already happened on a business and career level already – coders, entrepreneurs, advertisers, bloggers, lawyers, artists, photographers etc all have connection potential in existing digital forums. But what about the marathon runners, surfers, cyclists, and basket weavers? (Insert personal passion here) They need to be able to find each other too.
I really feel like this is a massive opportunity space for startup entrepreneurs. Connecting interests, socially and geographically to using temporal mobile devices to create deeper meaning. The question for all of us, is how can we do it in the things we are involved in which don’t yet have a commercial context?
The web has changed a lot since the early 1990′s. if we think back to the dominant behaviour in 10 year blocks it tells us a clear story about how the web is being ‘organised around the people’. Which means that the people are certainly not organising themselves around the technology. It sounds obvious, but it’s worth remembering as we embark on any business project.
the 1990′s – the web was all about browsing. Finding places to go. Websites – the WWW era.
the 2000′s – the web was all about search. The Google god, SEO and ensuring we had page 1.
the 2010′s – the web (so far) is becoming more human. Social interaction & guidance. It is segmenting, grouping & geolocating.
And we can see this in the evidence we find in how the web is being trafficked. According Hitwise web traffic to portals is down -21%, traffic for web search is flat and traffic to social forums is 52% up. Just like life, people don’t want to leave their stream if they can help it. We’d rather stay with the ‘life juice’ that our human relationships provide. Another simple example is what is happening to brands in social forums. Most brands have 10 times the the Facebook fans than they have in monthly visits to the home portal. The best example is Coke, which currently has 33.8 million fans versus 270k visits to its home page per month.
I guess one thing has never changed in business, and that is the best place to take our brand, is where the people already are.
This start up is 84 years in the making….
Ok – So I’ve happened upon this half way through – but it is still worth sharing here. Angelo an Italian immigrant who is 84 is telling his life story just like the title of this post. It’s just another reason our connected world is making stuff, well better.
A couple of the videos they are posting on Youtube are hilarious. Especially the one Angelo and his wife erupt into a classic italian style argument – below.
If you want to follow it – the twitter stream is here: @angeloin140
A great piece from the Cannes Advertising Festival which is a great summary of key trends in business, more than advertising or marketing. Enjoy!