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The difference between forcing a community and finding a community

The last couple of years have brought a shift in social “media” as ad agencies have tried to disrupt the space with clever gimmicks (Real-time marketing) which is what they’ve always done best. Disrupt conversations and grab attention. It’s a perilous game: one misstep and you’ve got an angry mob on your hands. And it doesn’t work to drive much of anything except a couple of articles and some goodwill. Until the next brand trumps it and you’re forgotten. It’s a zero sum game in the end, and one that costs a lot of money to boot.

The real growth is where your value meets a need. There are a few brands who are doing it right. They’re the ones who spend the time getting to know the community of people who could USE their product or service and deliver the value behind it in a way that impacts someone’s life.

The digital space isn’t all about YOU. It’s about how you can help US. Sure, wit and snark will always play a part, but that’s a small part. Customer service? Big part. Relevant content that I can use? Big part. Being there when people are just talking? Big part.

It’s time to get back to basics and start serving the customer, not just looking for the most likes and retweets. Pay attention to the people, they’re the ones who buy your products. Invest in that strategy and you’ll win.

[Image credit Robie06]

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Why does Google get social content but not social networks?

It’s a running joke in the digital media space that Google+ is a ghost town. Not entirely accurate as companies such as Ford believe in the space and prominent bloggers still actively participate there, but it certainly didn’t meet the promise that many hoped for – to finally bring a direct competitor (with deep pockets) to Facebook. 50mm active users and 90mm registered users is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s certainly not where the Internet giant was hoping to be. This isn’t the first time Google’s tried to venture into social networks, there were the other Internet services, Buzz and Wave, which became fodder for Internet jokes before being shut down.

On the flip side, Google’s content creation engine consistently churns out compelling content that is shared far and wide and highly praised: think Google Doodles; April Fools jokes; and random Easter Eggs in products (e.g. Map Directions). They excel at it and appear to have a lot of fun doing it. So it should be only natural that if they are that good at creating content that people want to share they should understand how to build products that facilitate that sharing. Right?

Well, understanding the psychology of human sharing and interaction is different from creating cool things that people like to geek out to. Google, at its core, is full of incredibly smart engineers who look at problems logically and have a deep understanding of how the Internet works, how to create workflows, and how their own products can all be tied in together. These are the folks who brought us Gmail that revolutionized email, search which is the backbone of how people find information online, etc. etc.

But these products are all fundamentally purpose built, not discovery and interaction built.

I go to Gmail to read and respond to email. I use the search engine to find things I’m looking for, not to browse the web. I use Maps to get directions and find things. You get the picture. YouTube is different, but it wasn’t built in house, it was acquired after it was already successful and hasn’t really expanded much past it’s original purpose – to watch videos online.

The sticky social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr et al. are all about frictionless creation and sharing which is where the content that Google creates naturally spreads. Google+ is amazingly built. It has so many features that the other networks lack it should be a natural place to migrate our social interactions to. Except, all those features that make sense logically probably confuse the average user. Geeks get it, but geeks already have channels where their buddies are to share on. Circles are actually a really great idea, but the average person looks at that and says, whoa, way too much work! I’d hazard a guess that 9 out of 10 people on Facebook and Twitter haven’t set up lists either (the simplest versions of Circles). Ripples? What are those? Hangouts, which should have been the killer feature weren’t promoted properly (think about how Apple promoted Facetime for how it should have been done), and YouTube integration was an after-thought instead of a must have from day one. I could go on and on but you get the picture. When Google builds social networks they build them through their own incredibly logical lens instead of an average consumer lens.

So, what can they do? I’d suggest taking a look at why their content is so successful and how it spreads (psst, they have Google Analytics that recently added social networks tracking they could take a peek at for some insights). I’d also do a deep analysis of what their competitors are doing from a marketing lens, not a development one. Make it easy to import friends from other networks, make setting up a profile a snap, make it cool (and easy) to be there. Then, in the immortal words of start-ups: pivot…. Hell, even Zuckerberg pivoted by opening The Facebook to non-college kids.

In the meantime, keep the content coming, it’s really good!

Image credit: [Jennifer Horn @ Google]

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The Canadian Digital Living Room research

Do you have kids? Are you a 5-screen household? If so, you aren’t alone. That’s the number of screens (TV, mobile, tablet) that the majority of Canadian families with kids have according to MediaCom research. It’s a far cry from the lone TV in the living room most Boomers & Gen-Xers grew up with.

I recently attended a conference that presented a ton of great stats from Microsoft Advertising and Rogers Connect based on research they conducted in November – December 2011 of Canadian parents with kids under 18.

For anyone in marketing or advertising that is looking to market to the next generation of families, multi-screen programs are an absolute must. Gone are the days of focusing on one device or medium. Your content and campaigns must be adaptable to various mediums.

Some key stats that were revealed include:

Canadian adults consume 190 hours of media per month

Which devices are they consuming it on?

-       99% TV

-       53% laptop

-       48% Gaming system

-       30% mobile device

-       6% tablets

88% of families use their TV simultaneously with another device so the opportunities for seamless-content and advertising is abundant to create emotional connections through multiple devices and cater to the screen they are looking at.

As well there is a slight difference between how parents with younger children (Digital Natives: 0-10yrs) vs. parents with older children (Digital Adopters: 11-18yrs) view the role of tech in their family dynamics. Digital Adopters tend to become educated about tech by their children; they are influenced on purchase decisions, are educated about new technology and are using it more frequently to communicate with their children, even when they are in the same house together. The Digital Adopter families spend their time together in the living room primarily consuming media that breaks down as follows (82% TV shows; 81% movies; 37% playing video games; 10% using social networks). Integrating campaigns around these various activities makes perfect sense and can serve as a media multiplier with multiple touch points to reach the audience with functional and emotional content.

While the research didn’t focus on the specific types of content or brands that resonated with the various groups, it is valuable to get a baseline understanding of the growth and spread of platforms that is now becoming part of the fabric of how families interact in their daily lives. I can see this playing out with my own family and how, as my children grow they start to use things such as my tablet while we watch TV and I’m on my smartphone. This will only continue to grow and advertisers and content creators should pay attention.

Thanks to Microsoft Canada & High Road Communications for the media pass; it was a highly informative day for someone who lives and works in the digital space.

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