Getting through the social day

Posted: Wednesday, August 15 2012

A strategy is dependent on the landscape it applies to and the current forces at play. In the digital reality of today the social, mobile, data bursting consumer is at the heart of it all.
In essence the goal of winning the hearts of the consumer hasn't changed, but because of different (economical, technological and social) drivers, brands have to adjust to new mobile application possibilties to reach that goal.
So it's the same user-centric strategy, but with different API-focused tactics.

The dreaded information overload related to the rise of the internet has become a mere addition to the already overwhelming stream of - often marketing induced - data fired at the average consumer. It's a reality the digital natives are born into. In fact, however, the users of the new digital technologies have become the largest content generators themselves. They operate in a continuous cycle of digital discovery, experience and narration (recounting their social day).

Tapping into this continuous stream of user generated data and deriving insight into the behavior and intentions of consumers comprises the concept of Big Data.

Take for example the Timeu.se data for 'commute'.It plots the mention of the word in the millions of Twitter messages on different graphs. Not surprisingly the word 'commute' is largely used during the morning and evening rush hours, however the intensity in the afternoon is a lot less. Also over the week (see the second plot type) the overall mention of the word decreases.

Knowing this allows you to adapt to the apparent different states of mind of the consumer and inspire on a more personal (adjusting to the local and chronological context), emotional and even subliminal level.

Messaging towards the afternoon commuter should be fundamentally different from the morning commuter and over the week it should change for both groups. None of the navigation and location-based applications, that I know of, do this yet.

The driver behind these possibilities is economical, for these insights could only be gained from fast analysis of large amounts of real-time data, made possible by the ever increasing production (at lowering costs) and adoption of connected devices.


These same devices fostered the advent of 'social media' as a game changing phenomenon, albeit no more than the technologically enabled amplification of age old human behavior.

The first wave of market(ing) response to the change in consumer attention is well underway. There's virtually no business today without a presence on the dominant social networks, urging us to 'follow' and 'like' them. Oddly enough this is not a very customer centric approach; it's 'tune in to my new channel and I'll tell you what you should know'.

The user's daily routine, on the other hand, has become filtering all the outlets and sharing, (re)tweeting, and (re)pinning what fits their reference model. It's this routine that business should support and can be enabled with a strong focus on integrating the different Social Media API's.

This integration goes beyond the basic site or page level 'share this' buttons. The social media functions should be part of the overall user experience (did you notice the 'Tweet' buttons on this page have different predefined messages?) and the interconnection of services should be seamless from a user perspective, even in the lack of an API.

The practice of doing this succesfully is becoming known as 'growth hacking' because it's the fastest and probably soon the only feasible way to reach the ever diversifying (online) markets (see for example this case of Airbnb / Craigslist integration).


As mentioned before the purpose of jumping on the social media bandwagon should not be to gather as many followers and likes as possible. It might even create a false sense of business security for it's resemblance to the formerly revered 'customer lock-in'.

A better measure of connection with your customer is their level of engagement; are they relating their own story and your (brand) story?

In order to reach this connection a business needs to master the art of Storytelling.It starts with exploring the assumptions of your audience.
Knowing these assumptions prevents misunderstandings (which is a bad way to start a story) and creates a good departure point. In essence you want to convey to your audience 'what's in it for them', 'why they should care' and 'how it's proven using their criteria'.

The magic word here is 'realize'. You 'realized' something and did something with or about it. And that's what you're sharing. Presenting your message in such a way transcends the factual content and allows your audience to relate to it. You want them to come to the same or a similar realization.

An out-of-the-box example is this video by Mercedes Benz where they use a car to catch a golf ball. It conveys 'fast' on a completely different level.
Also remember that people think in images, not words; it's how our brains are wired!

If you want to make each of your interactions a true experience, I recommend reading and applying all of Kile Ozier's Five Tenets of Experience Creation.

Do make me think

Posted: Monday, February 9 2009

Even with the rise of widescreen monitors, increase of screen resolutions and portal formatted/widgetized websites, most of the content a website holds remains ‘out of sight’ at first glance.
Of course, a well-devised structure and appropriate labelling will lead the user to and on the right trail, but the key ‘battle’ for the user’s attention is made at the point of entry (be it the homepage or any other landing page).

This issue is present for offline media as well. The book cover has to convince you of the value of its contents and the billboard or movie trailer has to lure you into the (movie) theatre. Even though these offline media have far greater limitations (no interactivity, very low refresh rates, long lead times), they seemed to get by fairly well and are still going strong.

The years of consumer experience of their producers are the reason for this, and there still is a great deal to be learned for online use. And most of their knowledge leads back to understanding human behaviour and more recently human neurology.
Let’s first look at the book again. The saying goes “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but that’s exactly what you do when you pick one up.

Involuntarily, your brain makes a marker of the literal look and feel of the book before processing any other (conscious) information. The cover becomes a reference point for the book, even if the cover’s ‘sales value’ becomes obsolete. Publishers are well aware of this and go to great extent to make the cover memorable. Remarkably, this memory doesn’t have to
have any obvious relation with the subject matter.

Another implication of this is the fact that most book covers lack a lot of textual information. Compared to most websites they are virtually empty and the additional information the publisher does deem necessary (next to the title and author) is usually reserved for the back cover (which means it doesn’t obscure the front cover!).

When moving on to the contents of the book another key element becomes apparent, namely that of storytelling; presenting the elements in such a way that the reader becomes engaged and actually experiences the information that is conveyed. Since reading off of a screen is still inconvenient (because of several human factors) a better reference in this case are comic books.

There, both visual and textual information is presented in a truly engaging way without the luxury of hyperlinking, pop-ups, sidebars and help buttons. Even movies, that do have sound added as a means of communication, stick to a minutely stipulated script and extremely well thought of scenes and sceneries for the shots that will be shown to the viewer. Movie directors know that if they don’t build up to a very specific feeling for the viewer to experience, no celebrity or special effect will make up for it.
Finally, product design (and marketing in general) goes to great lengths to stimulate the human senses in order to enhance the experience. Take for example the Philips Ambilight/Aurea televisions. They not only reproduce the media (broadcasts, video’s) in the most accurate possible way, but actually add visual information by projecting related colours around the screen.

The key message is that user attention and therefore usability is a complex thing; making things ‘easier’ might not always be the better solution; let them use their brains to the fullest extent!

Invitation Only?

Posted: Thursday, February 21 2008

Social Networks are happening; you can connect to virtually anybody and have anything 'out in the open', if you like. Wouldn't it be nice though if it all could be a little bit more exclusive. Just as one could have an exclusive house designed by an architect or interior decorator, one should be able to have an exclusive personal site designed, where visitors can be shown around.

Uptil now the possibilities to do such a thing were limited. For different friends and acquaintences it is possible to join different social network sites and those pages can be personalized to a certain extent. Next to this, it is of course possible to make your own sites and open up certain parts to specific persons. This, however, feels like inviting visitors, giving them the key and say "have a look around" (while you yourself go on and do something different).

With the new initiative by Google named 'OpenSocial' this might change. It is their intention to simplify the exchange of information between social networks. Among others, Netvibes joins in by allowing you to share certain information with predetermined friends, while using it yourself.

VIRVIE's idea is to bring the same technology to personal sites, by which means specific friends and acquaintences could be invited to specific parts and functions of your site: so a 'private party' on your own website!

The same principal of course can be translated to corporate sites, which would make the interaction there both more personal and more social.

Network Effects

Posted: Tuesday, July 17 2007

The transition of the Internet towards Web 2.0 is coming full circle. Through the rise of social networks and personal homepages almost everyone and everything is connected in a distributed network. Getting connected is no longer the issue: there are infinite 'ways to Rome' now.

The key to getting the most out of it is keeping a flow of information through the network. The messages you send don't have to be directional (see weblogs and micro/nanoblogs), but the option for conversation (bidirectional messaging) should always be there. The interaction through conversation between hubs, i.e. actual persons or services, determines how the message is directed over the network. The delivery of the message to anyone who is interested is ensured because of the existence of the connection; the speed and intensity is dependent on how and often to whom (see Alpha-user theory) you are connected.

What is interesting to see is that this new reality brings about effects and issues on a cultural and personal level (instead of technical or functional). On the one hand there is the (re)emergence of the gift culture, which develops from peer-2-peer into consumer-2-consumer; creating value by adding something before you pass it on and thus inclining someone to do something in return. On the other hand this stresses a persons need to feel a sense of 'belonging'. The fact that one is connected to a virtual network is bringing about very real need to participate and being involved in its flow of information.

C2B, CMI or Upstream?

Posted: Friday, May 5 2006, Updated: Tuesday, July 17 2007

The Customer-2-Business, or Customer Managed Interaction, or Upstream Marketing trend is a result of the functionality known as Web 2.0.

The key is that customers can build up and manage profiles of themselves and distribute these to multiple suppliers. They in turn can match their offering with this profile and thus try to win the business. There is even the option of a Trusted Third Party that manages this new kind of interaction.

Although the developments in this area are still minor, good examples can be seen at Netvibes Universes and OpenID providers like Sxipper.