Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Power of the Lookback

Out of the blue, the biggest thing over the last day or so may well be Facebook's Lookback videos. It's those auto-generated videos providing a 1 minute highlight reel of your time on facebook.

If you've somehow missed it, you can find your own here:

And you can just scroll through your facebook newsfeed to see the versions that your friends have shared.

It's in celebration of Facebook's 10th anniversary, but it's just as much a celebration of our memories & moments. And that's the real power here. I think people forget how meaningful it can be to just stop for a moment and remember. No seriously, just remember.

I think we've become accustomed to these sorts of photo slideshows at wedding receptions and when they're done well, they're bring smiles and tears to everyone watching. But we tend to not do anything like this for our own lives.

Facebook's done that for us, but there are a ton of other ways to do this. There are services like Memoir, Heyday, and Timehop. They're doing really interesting things turning your social sharing into something more meta (and I'll write about that at another time) but this is not something that's limited to services that do this for you.

For a number of years, we have made annual photobooks. Sometime in November, we review the photos we've taken over the year and make a simple book out of our favorite photos and moments. We started making them for our parents has Christmas gifts, but we quickly realized these are gifts to ourselves too. We make three copies so that each set of grandparents get one and we keep one in our coffee table. It's not just us grown-ups that look through them, but now our kids will look through them and have conversations amongst themselves, looking back on their short lives.

Anyways, the point here is not the method you use to look back. It can be a photobook, highlight video, or app. They all rely on us documenting our own moments though. It could be a facebook status, tweet, journal entry, photo or video. It could be birthday parties, births, or vacations. But it could also just be every duckface selfie you've taken over the years.

Stop for a moment. Take a photo. Write down what you're thinking.

You're going to appreciate those moments later this year, next year, or twenty years from now.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Living IN the moment, but not living THE moment

As you've likely heard, "Selfie" is the word of the year according to Oxford dictionary. Even Darth Vader got in on it. Let's set aside whether you think Selfie really is the word of the year and think for a moment what the idea tells us about ourselves.

Above all, the popularity of the selfie tells me that people want to take a moment from what they're doing and take a photo to remember the occassion. Well, ideally, that's what it means. But more and more, it seems like it's done just to step outside of whatever is going on at the moment to show other people who awesome it is.

My friend Damon Brown has actually written a Ted Book on the idea that documenting everything moment like this actually prevents you from living the moment. And, to a certain degree, I think many people do exactly this. His book is called Our Virtual Shadow, you should certainly check it out.

Earlier this year, I read a popular book called The Circle, by Dave Eggers which takes the idea of sharing everything to the nth degree. You should NOT check it out since I think it's a pretty ridiculous book as my review on Goodreads pretty well summarizes :)

So let me get to the another point in the spectrum where I think many people are, and I try as much to be. It's the place where you enjoy the moment you're in, but also try to record something for future remembrance. In "Note to Selfie", there's an honest take about stepping outside of the moment to capture something which actually let's you re-live the moment in the future. The author, John Dickerson, shares a photo of his kids looking at fireworks and how this photo actually helps them recall the surprise they had while watching them. I've actually got a similar photo of my daughter pointing at Juky 4th fireworks while my father is holding her. I'm sure we've all got lots of photos like that. Moments we look back on that allow us to re-live the emotions. We can appreciate those times even more with simple photos like that.

But as we shift to a world where everything we need can be done with a little device in our pocket, we're seeing a whole spectrum of usage. From the obsessed selfie queen, to the person who can barely take a clear photo with their phone. I tend to agree with Dickerson...That person who's obsessed with checking in every where they go, taking a selfie at every turn, and posting mundane statuses on Facebook? That same person would probably do similarly self-centered and annoying things without a smartphone.

The thing is though that our phones enable us to do all this sort of stuff with such little effort that unless we check ourselves, we'll go overboard. And that's exactly what Brown is getting at. There's definitely a happy medium. I try to stay the middle ground, but I sway too far to the over-usage category many times.

Since it's nearing year-end, now's as good a time as any to look back on what moments you've captured through the year. Every service seems to have a way to loo back on your year so check them out. How many of those statuses would you remove? Take a look at the photos you took on your phone. How many are really moments you care about? If you feel like you way over-shared on facebook, twitter, etc, then chill out next year. If you can hardly find memorable photos on your phone, then take fewer next year.

Just because your phone's in your pocket doesn't mean you've gotta take it out every time you're heading out the door, sitting down to eat, or watching a killer sunset.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Breaking the business - Beyoncé style

If you're on the internet, then you must have heard by now that Beyoncé released a new album on iTunes last night without any prior notice or inklings that she's even working on an album. Yeah, the internets were shooken last night so much that even BuzzFeed had to put together a list:
The Best Of The Internet’s Reaction To Beyoncé’s New Album
This article actually does a good job at explaining how this surprise album drop changes things from a cultural & business perspective:
Beyonce Broke the Music Business
However, I don't exactly agree that this destroys the music industry. Afterall, this album is still relased by a major label and there's tons of production that went into the music, video, etc. If anything, I think it validates what major labels can do in terms of production, packaging, etc. However, this does totally break the music marketing business. The article above describes some of what goes into marketing an album and judging by the fact that nobody knew this was coming, including radio stations, etc, the traditional marketing channels used to hype up a new release were definitely thrown to the side.

I think what this means, as the article alludes to, is that other major artists can really break the mold and get away from all of the steps usually taken before an album is released. This takes the idea of artists (and brands) directly connecting with their fans and takes it one step further...not only are they directly broadcasting their personal photos and activities on social media, they're directly delivering their product (music) to fans. They get to listen to it on their own and select the songs they like. They're not getting the biased takes of music marketing which selects the single and pushes it through Top 40 radio.

What Beyoncé is not as extreme as what some other artists like Coldplay and Nine Inch Nails have done since you can't just decide what to've gotta pay $15.99. It's also not as direct as what Louis CK and Aziz Ansari did when they released their stand-up acts for purchase directly from their own've still gotta go through iTunes for Beyoncé's release. However, I think this may be an appropriate channel. It definitely cuts out a lot of the middle-men, but artists can still rely on their labels for production work and the actual sales. None of it will ever come with the sort of surprise that Beyoncé hit the internet with last night, but artists will definitely be changing their business tunes very soon.

Monday, December 09, 2013

More on Brand Engagement

Just quick post about a topic I've written about quite a few times.

Instagram is the ‘best platform for brands’ in 2013, beating out Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
When Instagram announced sponsored posts, I suggested that it might work out really well as long as the brands fit well into the overall esthetic of Instagram.

This report shows, that even if it's not an ad, there's a lot to be said about how people interact with brands on Instagram. I don't know that it's strictly because instagram forces more simple, visual messages, but I do think photos have a much bigger impact than words especially when they take up 80% of your mobile phone screen. I believe twitter sees this with them recent changes to auto-display photos in the stream. Facebook has long seen this with utilizing bigger photos. Heck, even Medium just announced changes including a much more visual interface. It'll be interesting to see how the various social media sites adjust their visual impressions and how brands will leverage these abilities to connect to and engagement with their customers and fans.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ads, ads, everywhere...but do you care...or even notice them?

Every time a web service decides to include advertisements on their screens, people seem to get up in arms. It happened to Facebook with Sponsored Posts, it happened to Google with Shared Endorsements. It also happened with Instagram when they indicated that ads would start appearing in the stream of photos.

Typically, the way this goes is that people scream and holler about how free services are getting overly commercial and messy with all of this marketing content. After a week or two things die down. After a little bit longer, people even stop noticing the ads.

Which, I guess, is a good thing for users if they can easily just ignore the marketing on a given page.

But from a marketing standpoint, the easy ability for someone to ignore ads is a bad thing. So much time and effort is spent to get a marketing campaign noticed. So much work goes into finding ways to place ads in the "right" spot on a webpage.

Well, there are a few ways to help avoid this pattern of users simply ignoring ads:

  1. Make the ads relevant and/or useful. I've written about that a number of times so I won't belabor that point.
  2. Make the ads really interesting. There are some TV ads that you just want to watch. You'll even pause/rewind your DVR to watch them. Believe it or not, those types of ads can even exist online.
And Point #2 is where I think & hope Instagram marketing is going. Take a look at some ads that Instagram hopes will pique its users interest and draw attention (and taps) to the sponsors:
This Is What Instagram Ads Look Like 

Skimming through the featured images, I think they fit well with what Instagram users are used to seeing. I mean they fit REALLY well. They look great in the square composition. They're thematically similar to what people tend to post on Instagram anyways (eg, vacations, food, fashion, selfies, or just cool lines/angles). Granted these are just initial examples and not every ad is going to fit so well, but I'd say that if Instagram works with marketers to help ensure this fit for the service, then users WILL notice them and they WILL care about them.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Twitter fight!

We're all too familiar with people picking fights online. The latest iteration of that is twitter fights with people trading short jabs with each other.

A couple of weeks ago, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade traded barbs over the Top 10 players in the NBA right now:

This was barely a feud, but it did cause some waves. Personally, I thought it might be related to some Gatorade marketing campain since both Durant and Wade were in a Gatorade commercial last year.

The whole idea of twitter marketing campaigns is really interesting since, well, it's happening! I've listed a few great examples of online marketing, but the idea of using twitter to create a more interactive campaign seems to be gain hold.

The latest has to do with the latest Honda Odyssey minivan which features a built-in vacuum that's meant to pick up all those crumbs that kids leave behind after eating their snacks. Their TV ads have been kind of lame actually:

But the twitter fights have been much more fun! Honda's twitter account tweeted at other snack or food brands...the types of brands that are commonly eaten in the car. Here's a nice summary:
Honda picks Twitter fights with snack brands to promote new in-car vacuum

The best thing about this is the replies from the other brands. That's what makes twitter a very different environment. It's easy to create an open dialog. And especially when smart brands are doing it, it turns out to be a fun thing which can create a little buzz in a very different way than can happen through TV ads.

Have you seen other good examples of this type of online marketing? I'd love to see more of it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

At the right time, in the right place

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about different ways that touch screens are being introduced to and used by kids. Along the same line, I see new and interesting ways that people in general are using their smartphones. One of the key trends is about having the right information presented to you without having to hunt for it or even explicitly ask for it.

Google Now was one of the first big things that came to my attention where a person doesn't have to ask things, but is presented information that will likely be helpful. It has been available on Android for a while and it'll automatically pop up notifications about traffic, meetings, flight status, etc based on context of time and place. It's more than just neat, it turns your phone into a really helpful tool without having to dig around in different apps. The iOS version of this just added notifications so it should become similarly useful for iPhones.

With the recent launch of iOS7, there are some similar features built in which will automatically add in useful info about traffic, weather, etc. I see similarities with what Google Now is providing, but perhaps not as useful. It was definitely nice to see traffic info pop up on my lock screen over the weekend telling me how long it would take to get home.

The area where I think we'll start to get a little creeped out with "Right time, right place" info is when "factual" info is mixed in with customized marketing. The movie Minority Report was famous for taking the idea of "predictive info" and presenting it in a jarring way. We all remember when Tom Cruise was confronted with dozens of customized ads as he walked down the street. While marketers may not be planning to confront us with such over-the-top ads, the day is not far off where we can quickly get customized real-time marketing without having to check for it. Groupon, Yelp, and Foursquare have all implemented some sort of notifications alerting users of deals nearby, but you frequently hear about how those notifications are more annoying and mis-guided.

So I think the charm in this is going to finding the right balance of presenting this info when people are more likely to want to see it or find it useful. Just like search ads on google or paid ads on facebook, if the ads are relevant to what the person might already be interested in, then the marketing message will go over a lot better.

Now all that being said, here's a really interesting piece about where this might all be headed:
MLB’s iBeacon Experiment May Signal A Whole New Ball Game For Location Tracking
This piece really talks about the smarts and planning that needs to go into location based info. In this case, Major League Baseball is taking a hardware and software based approach and it seems like it could be a real winner. It relies not just on people who are likely interested in the info...everyone at a ballpark is likely interesting in baseball, obviously. It relies on figuring out what the person might actually want and turn that potential desire into a transaction. It's a marketers dream in that sense. Find people who might want to buy a team sweatshirt, and get them to actually buy it by giving them a small discount. Or get them to buy an extra hot dog or soda when they might not really want it.

This isn't just about building an app. It requires connecting a lot of dots between the marketing department, the app builder, as well as the network and other hardware.

I'm really interested to see how this plays out. If this is done well, I fully expect to see this implemented at shopping malls throughout the country. There are already apps which different mall owners have, but I've never seen a reason to download them. If these apps turn into shopping services which can not only help guide shoppers around the mall, but point them to great deals, it can be a win-win. Again, the charm here is going to be in finding the right balance between the marketing message and the non-marketing, but useful information that shoppers may need. And that balance will be different for each shopper young, old, window-shopping, or ready to buy.

What do you think about this stuff? Is it heading too fast to that Minority Report marketing hell? Is it something you'd find useful?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Getting flattened under the iOS7 bus

Unless you're living under a rock in the middle of Mongolia, you've probably heard that the iPhone has a new look. Oh, of course, it comes in a rainbow of colors and probably has the NSA drooling with the spying possibilities.

But I'm not talking about the new hardware, I'm talking about the software. iOS7 is famously flat. Very FLAT. I've been using it for a week and I've become accustomed to many of the new visual elements. Moreover, I've come to really like many of the features and user-experience changes.

Many people has said that iOS7 is just a visual change and it's really just about copying Windows Phone. Or that it's just putting lipstick on a pig and that iOS needs more fundamental changes to keep up with the flexibility and additional features that Android provides. Well, some of that may well be true, but after using iOS7 for a week, I can say that the OS level changes and the changes to the default Apple apps like Mail, Calendar, Safari, & Weather are really well thought out. There were flaws in the old Calendar app that I didn't even realize until I started using the new version and then it's like "WOW, I can't believe I lived that old version!"

Updates to apps certainly don't require a revamped OS, but I must say that the changes are really aligned well so that the way you use the OS is similar to the way you use apps. Gestures has become more important and more useful. And since visually, many of these apps have been cleaned up quite a bit, it becomes all the more important to provide the right cues so that these new gestures or features are easy to use and make sense. Overall, I think Apple has done a good job with that and it becomes more clear that the job they did wasn't just about changing the look of apps or the OS, they worked on usability and making it easier and better to use things throughout the phone.

The question now comes about the other apps. The ones that people may spend a heck of a lot more time in. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram. What will those apps look like once they update for iOS7? Well, for Facebook and Twitter, we already know since they released new versions yesterday. Facebook has changed the layout of its screen to include a bottom button bar and the ability to swipe between screens. In some ways it feels more confusing to me, but I've only used it a couple of times since the refresh, so I can't lay judgement until I've tapped around more. Twitter's app is mainly a visual refresh, but there are a number of OS level changes and connections to Twitter elsewhere which are interesting such as the ability to search Twitter via Siri and the link list available via Safari. A number of other apps updated yesterday to ensure they work with iOS7, but they don't all have usability changes or even visual changes. The bus is clearly picking up steam and it's going to be an interesting few months as more apps are updated.

TechCrunch has a rundown of some of the first movers in the iOS7 space.
Before & After iOS 7: How Your Favorite Apps Are Changing
It's going to be really interesting to see where apps go from here. I agree wholeheartedly that new icons and flatter design isn't the most important thing. But the usability changes that Apple is heading towards are what app designers need to keep in mind as they develop new versions of their apps. It's not to say these designers need to follow the same mindset that Apple may have. But it's clear that the simplification of on-screen elements is important and well-thought-out integration of gestures, menus, and navigation are at the heart of the changes we should expect. As the TechCruch article points out, some app designers started from the ground-up and others have made simpler changes.

As we see more of these changes, it's quite clear that it's not just time for a re-vamp of the mobile OS, but of the mobile app as well. This is not just about becoming flatter or more colorful, it's about re-imaging how users should interact with a mobile app. And while developers for Android or Windows Phone could certainly take up the same challenges, it seems that the real momentum for these changes is due to the release of iOS7. I'd love to hear your first impressions of iOS7 as well as your favorite apps. What do you think so far? What do you think is still needed?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New and creative ways to use touch screens with kids

Since reading an article about the "touch screen generation" nearly a month ago, I've been allowing my two older kids more time on the iPad. I'm not worrying about whether they're using learning apps or if they're just coloring. Here's the article on The Atlantic if you haven't seen it:

The Touch-Screen GenerationYoung children—even toddlers—are spending more and more time with digital technology. What will it mean for their development?
Just because I've been letting them play on the iPad more doesn't mean I'm not watching them. In fact, I've been watching them more closely. I'm mainly curious to see what they end up doing. My 5 year old tends to doodle a lot, play a bunch of Toca Boca games, and watch some PBS Kids shows. However, she often pulls up educational apps on her own. My 2 y year old tends to cycle between apps at warp speed, but he recently found the PBS Kids app and basically watches the same videos on the iPad that he gets to watch on the TV. But watching them on the iPad is special since he gets to choose the app and the video. All-in-all, it's pretty interesting to see what they choose to do on there. Some of it (coloring & watching shows) are things they do away from the iPad in almost exactly the same way. Some  of it (like math and spelling) are similar but rather different). Some of it (like the Toca Boca games) are completely different. Typically, every thing they do on the iPad involves quite a bit of interactivity even if they're just selecting short videos to watch.

Now things get interesting when app makers start throwing things out there which pull in multiple aspects from things they know, and then throw in some unique interactivity. Here's a great example of what Disney is planning for screenings of The Little Mermaid:
Disney Wants You To Bring Your iPad To The Little Mermaid Screenings
Let me first state that I'm not yet sure if I'll take my daughter to such a screening, but this really intrigues me. This is the kid/Disney-enthusiast's version of the perfect "second screen app" As it is, my daughter loves singing and dancing so she'd really love this. In fact, this would increase her level of activity and thinking as compared to just watching a movie for 90 mins. The biggest problem with this is the idea of not simply sitting back and immersing oneself in a film. Isn't that the idea of going to a sit back, relax, and enjoy a wonderful immersive story?

It's an interesting trade-off...give up on some of the complete immersion in the story to get a level of interaction with the movie and the audience.

So for parents out there, what would you do in these situations? Does this Disney app intrigue you? Does the idea of more screen time, in general, seem useful? I'd love to hear from you all!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Really Interesting Reads about Mobile

As I'm still having difficulty keeping up with blogging, I'm going to pass this along as really interesting reading about mobile. I've got lots of commentary about specific posts you'll find within these links so I'll try to put some thoughts together. In the meantime, you should definitely go through this list of blogs since I think you'll find a lot of great, insightful, and well-written content.

Here's the list from Semil Shah:
Required Reading Regarding Mobile

Friday, August 02, 2013

Do the inefficient stuff

Following up on my last post about making tough decisions, something that I sort of glossed over was the fact that I was meeting with our customers. This is actually not all that uncommon, but it's usually just sales-facing or business development types of folks who do this. In my role, we usually get the customers through a long-ish set of people and what we hear and see is pretty filtered.

Meeting with customers isn't actually that difficult since all it takes is a few emails or phone calls to get it all setup. But more often than not, customer meetings are seen as things to get done later. Amongst the reasons I've heard for not setting up time to meet directly with customers:
  • We've got people in the field who already tell us what the customer wants
  • It takes a lot of time, and we're pretty busy just with our current workload
  • We can get the same info by sending good surveys
  • The customers are just going to complain/talk BS/tell us stuff we already know/tell us to do things we already know we can't or don't want to do

And here are my simple responses to each of these:

  • Those people in the field? They're there to sell. What those sales or bizdev guys are going to tell you about is whatever helps them hit their commit. It may or not hit on things the customer actually wants
  • Sure it takes a lot of time, but if your workload isn't about building something your customers actually want, then why are you working? I guarantee you can find an hour a day (or a week every quarter) to talk to your customers over the phone or in person
  • Surveys are great at getting standardized metrics and track trends, but they're horrible for getting a wide array of responses. The people who respond in-depth to surveys tend to be on either end of the spectrum: They love what you've produced, or they hate it. Do you really want to build plans on the thinnest part of the bell curve or do you want to build something that a broad swatch of customers are going to love?
  • When's the last time you actually heard from your customers? If it's been more than a year, than whatever they told you may be irrelevant. You may have released 2 point releases or changed some of your strategy or timelines. And if you've simply been relying on people in the field, well, then you haven't actually heard from them at all. And if they all they do is complain about your product, it's still better to hear it directly and figure out how to change your plans. And believe me, that complaining isn't just bitching. They're looking for someone to listen. And just by listening, you're going to build extra trust with your customers. They'll stick around longer, give you an extra chance, and maybe even become evangelists of your company since they see you actually listening.
So take some time and figure out how you can get in touch with your customers. It'll help you design a better product. What's more, it'll build a better relationship with your customers which will contribute to even better product roadmaps. This whole way of going about things may seem really inefficient, but in some ways, this is way more efficient than working on something for months or years only to find out at the end of your journey that nobody wants to use what you've created. Those "inefficiencies" may slow you down in the short term, but sometimes, that's really what you need to do. Listen, plan, and build. Then listen again and again.

Here's a nice article on Pando about this topic. It's more specific to small companies, but hits on many of the same reasons for getting in touch with your customers:
Dial up: Why startups should use the phone

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tough Choices: Make them!

I've been away on customer visits so I've been immersed in a world that's rather different than the usual environment. It's been a really valuable experience, but I haven't been able to step back much and contemplate things let alone write here. However, now that I'm back, I've had some time to think through the discussions I've had with my customers recently.

Normally I have relatively little contact directly with customers. I may hear their filtered input through other teams which are more customer-facing, but I normally focus most of my time in back-to-back-to-back meetings with colleagues. While that can be good to get things done, it also means that we can lose track of what we're truly putting in front of our customers.

Sitting in the same room with customers while they use our tool and show their frustration is an unsettling experience to say the least. I expect to hear complaints about gaps or bugs in functionality, but the really startling part is when I see how complex we make things for our customers. More often than not, this complexity is due to "flexibility" we want to give our customers. And it's ever more clear to me that adding features or settings or preferences in the name of flexibility is not always a good thing. In fact, unless there's a lot of thought put into those additions, they can, more often than not, be a BAD thing!

We may think the tough decision is about committing to adding more features. In fact, the toughest decision can be about paring down features and making things more simple. The proverbial "more with less" definitely applies to web applications. Our application has a hidden preference to auto-correct specific errors when building an order. It's a great feature, but it's not turned on by default, and we have to tell users in training materials why it's a good thing and how they should turn it on and off. So not only do users need to worry about whether this great feature is on or off, we spend more time telling them about it basically just telling them to turn it on! I'd contend that feature should be blind to the user. Just turn it on and tell the users about what we've fixed in the background, but only when they want to see the details.

This sort of thing has been written about quite a bit so I won't be-labor the point. I'm just reconfirming that, yeah, trying to simplify your end-product is a good goal and the work involved in simplifying can be way more difficult than the work involved to endlessly add more features.

I'll leave you with an article a friend sent over to me recently. It's about constraints and forcing ourselves to make tough decisions: Constraints

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Brands relying on their community for create content

The slow march of creativity in the social media realm into the corporate marketing realm continues!

Food & Wine's Unconventional Tumblr Strategy

I've written about this twice before, but I'm really happy to see well-thought out plans which don't simply place ads on a social media site or just use photos taken by fans for the purposes of advertising.

Food & Wine's strategy is a bit different than what we've seen before in that they're not just relying on fans. They've chosen three photographers for different reasons, but none of them are known for being foodie or food photographers. I think this is great since there's still a lot of expertise being applied to who would provide a good eye, but take photos which will likely be very different from what traditional food or event photographers take. That alone is a great approach, in my mind.

Plus, they're not just placing their photos on a single site, they have plans to place these user generated photos not just on Food & Wine's tumblr, but also the photographers' sites and as an ad on Radar. It's a great way to get visibility not just to a larger audience, but to a wider variety of people.

Kudos to these marketing teams who are leveraging social media, but blending this into broader plans around how they are marketing their events or their brands.

Here's F&W's tumblr in case you want to see their yummy photos :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pinterest making big moves to commercialize?

It has been quite a while since I've written about Pinterest, but they've recently made some big moves and I think they're significant changes affecting how people use it and get more from it.

Mashable recently wrote up a good summary of what happening in the land of pinning:
Pinterest Partners With Brands to Add Information to Pins

On the face of it, the changes are all about becoming more commercial and essentially letting brands advertise their wares to users. While this is certainly true, I think it's a great additional resource for Pinterest users themselves. There's essentially two types of things being added here:

  1. Informational pins which provides direct info about the pinned item. As Mashable states, an example would be the recipe for the Blueberry Crumble that's been pinned. It could conceivably be other types of instructions for DIY projects that for Ikea Hacks, Paint colors for rooms, etc. These, I think take the site into being a really useful resource to catalog such things across various sites, rather than having to save off recipes or instructions from various blogs or sites like
  2. Ability to go directly to the appropriate mobile app to buy the pinned item. Here's a direct way to turn a user into a buyer and it'll be interesting to see if people actually leverage this ability rather than just keeping the pin and potentially never actually buying the item. What's great here though is the ability to go from app-to-app rather than being sent from the Pinterest mobile app to a website for the site selling the item. On mobile, I think this provides a potentially far better experience since mobile apps tend to meet users' needs much better than mobile versions of websites. This is a very necessary thing as I wrote about a couple of months ago when Twitter implemented Twitter Cards. When social sites play well together and have clean hand-offs, it can only encourage more usage and less frustration.
There's a few things to mention about where this takes us. 
  1. These moves take Pinterest much closer to what I wrote about more than a year ago:
    P'Oh My Gawd! - What you're obsessing about on Pinterest
  2. Pinterest is moving into these informational pins through specific Brand Partners rather than enabling every user or pin to have this ability. I think it would be ideal to allow all pins and users to post informational pins, but I also see the benefit to limiting this (for now) and also having a visual notification that the pin was posted by a brand (to differentiate from the organic pinning which the user-base may be doing)
  3. This whole thing positions Pinterest in an interesting way such that it's not just a social site, but potentially a marketplace as well. Right now, Pinterest may just be a pass-through to allow users to get to the final product sale page on another site, but I wouldn't be surprised if they're already working on the ability for users to purchase directly via Pinterest (and presumably for users to also sell directly)
I'd be interested to hear from you all about what you think of social sites partnering with brands and becoming more commercial. It's inevitable to me, but it's not just about "selling out". I think if it's done well, it can be a very useful thing to every social user.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Ads, ads, everywhere

So you think my discussions about monetizing social media interactions are esoteric?

Well, the ad execs at Google, Facebook, and Twitter certainly don't :)

I've written in the past about how users of search sites and social sites react differently upon seeing ads. I've also written about how Facebook is working to connect online ad views & interactions with offline purchases.

Well, here's a very interesting panelist dialogue about how Google, Facebook, and Twitter want to measure the success of ads.

It's not surprising to me that Facebook's Rajaram is focusing very heavily on offline interactions as a result of online ads. As I wrote before, users of Facebook may not click on ads and directly buy products they see in banner ads, but the visibility of these ads at the right time and place can help guide them to purchase. As I called it back then, these mid-funnel users are key to Facebook's monetization of  its userbase.

Twitter is focusing on engagement metrics such as tweet responses or retweets. Google, unsurprisingly needs to look at a wide swatch of metrics including engagement (for social aspects such as on Google+), but also views, clicks, and ad forms (for ads based on search or context)

I suppose I'm overly enamored with this, but to me, these companies are finding new ways of growing their businesses. From the perspective of ads, they're finding new ways of getting people to react to the ads they see and eventually buy. People say Google is not really a search company, but an advertising company. I'd say that the way social media is evolving, Facebook and Twitter are as much about ad & media engagement as they are about social engagement.