Category Archives: Social Media

As we settle in to the chaos of around 30,000 people gathering into Austin’s tiny downtown area… just as we get comfy, and snug as a bug in the bed, so comes the rain! Now we have a jumble of umbrellas stabbing at us as we jump puddles and sprint from building to building. Seriously, Austin… you’ve got a road problem with all these puddles! The downpour hasn’t dampened spirits nor stalled the food trucks, though, so all is good.

We're SXSX stars, bitches!

We’re SXSX stars, bitches!

On Day 2, we attended sessions, hid out in the PayPal lounge to charge our gadgets and recharge our minds, and hit up with friends to share tips on how to actually get into the “hot” sessions and trending parties. A lot of chatter erupted around Julian Assange’s Skype-cast from his mancave in the Ecuadorian embassy. It seems like the hipsterati wasn’t too impressed with what he had to say.

We decided to catch Julian on a web stream instead of waiting in line to get in, and instead, hit some of the design sessions. Most of those focused on “next gen responsive” design strategies for supporting the myriad of screens we’re faced with everyday. The consensus was that basically if you’re a content designer nowadays, you’re pretty much screwed! From big screens/billboard to wearable devices you gotta make your content work everywhere. Whew! Good luck. And you’ll need to take a few classes to up-level your skills. Although Google is screaming about the “post-mobile world”, most of what we were hearing was people still struggling with 1990s style websites. So maybe it’s not as bad as everyone thinks.

One of the best speakers of the day was by Kristina Halvorson, a content strategist. She begged and pleaded with today’s marketing folks to stop firehosing us with meaningless jargon and to really, really, please start focusing on what people really DO with brands. It was a refreshing rant to hear amidst a sea of “content marketing strategists”. She got a little Tweet-hate for it, but I’m glad she was so bold as to speak out against the status quo.

And yes, shortly after, we hit the Oreo “Trending Vending” machine to print us a fresh Oreo cookie! Viva Texas! Now, go away rain, the last thing you want in Austin is damp, smelly hipsters clogging the hotel lobbies!

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 9.44.25 AMFor years, I’ve moved between Android and iOS, usually changing operating systems when a new phone grabs my attention. It’s a constant “push and pull” problem: the combination of a phone’s unique features, the operating system, and my desire to have a “perfect mobile experience”. Rarely is that experience as perfect as I want it to be. As an iPhone loyalist, I judge everything against the experience I have with iOS, Apple’s hardware, and the overall platform’s ecosystem. As iPhone has seemingly “shrunk” in form factor, staying at an untenable 4″ screen size in light of other manufacturers’ growing screens, I’ve gravitated toward the larger-screen phones, most recently, the Nexus 5. The Nexus 5, for once, is the perfect phone for me. It’s size and form factor seem the perfect size for my palm, my pants, and my weary eyes. KitKat is the best version of Android to date and, simply put, I’ve never been so satisfied with a smartphone. I’ve kinda cast away the thoughts of going back to iPhone. Yes, there are the nagging rumors of the coming iPhone 6 with a larger screen, but KitKat has a hold on me unlike any that iOS has ever had.

However, Apple’s advantage is their App Store. And, with Facebook’s iPhone-only new app, Paper, being released today, I’ve begun to wonder: can one app make me go back? I hate the feeling of being left out: when an app is only available on “another” platform, I get frustrated. Facebook turns 10 years old today, and there’s new research that shows its users have evolved their expectations of what the Facebook experience means for them. In light of this, Facebook’s Paper app is an attempt to evolve how Facebook interacts with its users and how it expects to provide new types of interaction between you and your Facebook friends. Paper reformats the typical Facebook experience with a more visually stunning approach (similar to what Google Plus did with their app), and turns your Facebook feed into a “Flipboard-like” magazine experience. Development of the app was led by a team that Facebook acquired from Apple in 2011, and represents Facebook’s obvious prioritization of rich visual design. The obvious plus to Paper is it gives you a platform-specific experience optimized for what that platform can best provide. In this sense, it may mean more fragmentation in apps if Facebook determines to release platform-optimized Facebook experiences across the board. However, it also means that Facebook evolves from being a fast-food experience (dumbed down UIs to provide a similar experience across all devices), to a more holistic and optimal experience based on whatever platform you’re on. The Paper app could signal a new frontier in designing and developing app experiences that mold more to its user’s context, and is a step-forward to a more humanistic experience. This means our platform decisions may no longer be made based on just price, carrier subsidies, form factors, and operating systems. We may begin making decisions based on all these plus the type of app experience we prefer based on how we use our phones.

fingerprintBy now, most of us realize that the US government is tracking our online activity (it’s just to what extent, we’re still a bit unsure), but it’s probably safe to say the bureaucrats know more about us than we’d like them to know. What’s more disturbing, however, is the extent that advertising and marketing companies go to determine who you are, what you do, what you buy, and who you buy from. And it’s no longer just your online activity: data mining allows companies to combine your offline activity with your online activity to create a more accurate profile of everything you do. This aggregation should cause more concern than anything the NSA is doing, and as of now, it’s completely unregulated.

Ever heard of Acxiom? Probably not. Well, Acxiom has heard of you. In fact, they probably know more about you than many of your own family members. Acxiom currently runs 23,000 servers that process more than 50 trillion data transactions per year. Acxiom has dropped over 1.1 billion cookies onto hundreds of millions of Americans’ computers, they have constructed over 200 million mobile profiles and average about 1,500 pieces of data per consumer. Scott Howe, the Acxiom CEO has stated, “Our digital reach will soon approach nearly every Internet user in the US.”

The recent hacking of Target’s commerce system has been widely reported, but what you may not know is what Target knows about you. Target assigns each customer a unique “Guest ID” which is linked to their credit card number, email address and/or name. Every purchase or interaction the customer has with Target is linked to their unique Guest ID. You tend to buy a lot of yogurt, live in San Francisco, and shop with your American Express? Target takes this data and links them to your profile, and then uses it to market more products to you. This seems harmless at first glance, and some would argue that targeted advertising is valuable, however, this data can be aggregated, diced and sliced to predict your future behavior. Target will know if you’re pregnant based on what you purchase. They’ll use that data to predict when you will be interested in buying diapers. Of course, they won’t stop there. They’ll know the gender of your baby when he/she is born, and be able to market to them as well. Lock them in at birth! This is valuable data for other companies too. PetCo will know if you’re buying dog food for your “older pet” and sell the data to insurance companies that will then encourage you to buy health insurance. Sound creepy? Creepier than the NSA logging your phone calls?

Sure, the NSA’s tracking activities should be a major concern, but you might also want to think about what advertising, marketing and data mining companies are doing “behind the scenes” with all those breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind.

I saw an ad for The Circle several weeks ago in the NY Times Book Review, read the synopsis on Amazon, and pre-ordered it. A few days ago, it arrived on my Kindle. I read it in 2.5 days, as I was unable to put it down.

The Circle is definitely a satirical novel about a not-so-utopian future driven by technology. Lately, I’ve read REAMDE by Neal Stephenson and re-read his Snow Crash. I also tore through Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (a book I felt was written purely to be a movie). So I’ve subconsciously been seeking out these dystopian near-futures that seem to have more than enough roots in our present. I might also point out that during this fiction binge, I also quit Facebook for a while. I only recently semi-returned, albeit not entirely. I mention all this so that you can take my current mindset into account as I talk about The Circle.

The story is about Mae, a 24-year old college graduate who ended up landing a job at a fictional company called The Circle, in what appears to be Silicon Valley (although this isn’t explicitly stated, it is definitely implied). The Circle begins as a fairly accurate amalgam of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple. Basically, The Circle is a large, technology-focused company (although they are insistent they are “about humans” and humanizing) that bows to advertisers, sells user information to advertisers, makes an amazing amount of money doing it, and to whom users willing give over our privacy. The Circle has users’ health data, likes, dislikes, hobbies, love interests, education, ancestral history, virtual banking, minute to minute daily experiences – because the countless users provide it. Sound vaguely familiar?  The founders of the company are the “Three Wise Men,” who varyingly show traits of Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and wrapped in, some random cult leader whom you can’t help but trust and follow.

Our protagonist, Mae, is a bit of a fool, who falls into situations, not because she is brilliant but because things often go her way, even the bad things. She makes some poor love choices, and I honestly could have done without at least one of the boyfriend sub-plots. Mae also has ailing parents who are fighting the domestic healthcare system because her father has debilitating MS. She has an ex-boyfriend, Mercer, who goes on long rants about the evils of social networking and the always-on mentality. Honestly, I agree with some of what Mercer has to say, but he really does get preachy about it all. Luckily for us readers, it makes Mae want to tune out as well.

The book is divided into three unequal parts. Part 1 had me fired up, ready to defend privacy and everything associated with it. Part 2 was frustrating, because I realized that Mae’s foibles weren’t just from youth and inexperience, but true narcissism, bred by the always-on, always-connected world of her life within The Circle. Part 3 revealed a “secret” character that I’d figured out earlier. Admittedly, some of Part 3 was a little too pat for me, too contrived. But the ending? It surprised me. I expected it to go a certain way but it didn’t.

The book is about extremes. There are the folks such as Mercer, who are determined to go analog to an absolute extreme (running off to the woods with no connectivity or phone). As a reader,  you begin to expect his particulate fate, but that fate is suspenseful and well-written. Then there is the extreme of May and her colleagues at The Circle. They are so convinced that “secrets are lies,” “privacy is theft” and that “sharing is caring” with no regard to sense of self. In fact, sense of self, such as Mae experiencing a magical moment in nature on her own, is suddenly considered selfish, greedy. In that instance, Mae was alone, disconnected and not sharing, yet this was interpreted as stealing knowledge by not sharing it.

I was fascinated by how Eggers was able to take privacy and flip it on its side, showing the glass half-full version of knowing and seeing all. The Circle, in the novel, suggests that we should all – from government to the everyday office worker – be walking around with a camera around our neck, sharing all, telling all, and keeping no secrets aside from necessary human functions (like sleeping or using the restroom). Eggers somehow reaches out and foretells what the positive argument might be, yet we can hear the underlying satire.

I was taken aback by this dystopian near-future, which is an effect these Orwellian books tend to have on me. The very possibility of all of this seem so near, and so terrifying. Yet, perhaps I am an optimist. As I read the book, as I got more terrified and more determined to change this process, I realized that we won’t let this happen. The Circle in the book is something that is easily bought into and accepted by everyone. As the company seeks to improve society (always watching each other leads to being our best selves?) and eradicate all evil through accountability and technology, the populace just simply agrees and goes along with it. “Why didn’t we think of this earlier?” they ask. Well, humans are just a little too rebellious for this. We would never agree to this instant and digital subjugation. We want to have our private moments. We want to have our living-out-loud moments. We want both. We won’t easily submit to the privatizing of our governments, our health, and our personal lives.

In the book, Mae sacrifices family and friendships, in ways you can’t even imagine until you read it, for the sake of the completion of The Circle. I am always ever hopeful and I believe that we would never let that happen. The Circle is about the lack of individualism and my optimism requires that I believe, as humans, we’re more than the sum of our parts. We’re more than The Circle. No matter the size of Google. Facebook, Twitter, or the social networks that will follow, we value our individualism and will fight for it.

Read The Circle. It will surprise you and I hope, make you think. People seem to be upset about the book, often panning it in reviews, forgetting that The Circle is about a fictional potential future and not the now.

For me, at least, Eggers raised some interesting points. The Circle reminds us that we are individuals and perhaps do not have to be part of the whole. We can choose to share; we can choose not to, and we can strive to retain that sense of individualism. But conversely, many of the solutions proposed by the fictional Circle for society’s ills were pretty fantastic. The question we may need to eventually answer is just what bargain are we willing to make to get there?

It’s been windy and rainy in the Texas capitol, but there’s still 24,000 people huddled together for SXSWi. Day One of Interactive (for me) was about mobile marketing. Tim Reis, the head of advertising for Google, kicked it off:

Mobile marketing/advertising is now about weaving into the consumer’s device. It’s about having a conversation with the consumer. The device is used for dialogue, and marketers now have to do more than just throw banner ads out there. The real opportunity is to learn how people use their devices and interact with them to build a relationship with them.

Mobile is the signature device of the 21st century. It will also interact with the device of the 20th century: the TV. The second screen experience is where your primary focus should be for mobile advertising.

What is mobility and context? New patterns are emerging as consumers integrate multiple screens into their day. Context used to mean placing an ad next to content. Now it means where the consumer is and what they’re doing, and what mood and mode they’re in. You need electronic cigarette usa to focus on how the consumer moves across multiple screens, and their ever-changing context is.

Consumers weave seamlessly through context, doing what they do at any given moment. Devices are blurry — phones are getting larger and acting like tablets, tablets are getting smaller. The device itself is no longer important. Context is what it’s all about. We used to think about intent. Intent is a powerful signal. Combine intent and context, and you see the direction we’re going in.

Five years ago marketers thought of social, local and mobile as buckets. As new tech emerges, we tend to box them into buckets we can understand. Consumers don’t see these buckets, however.

Contextual opportunities are the essence of mobile. Consumers take their digital life with them.

Friction is also key. Eliminating friction in the process empowers your connection to your consumer (stop asking someone for their city and state when you’re also asking them for their zip code). On a phone, that friction is big. Bigger than on a laptop. Think through the friction points. Erase friction.

Pages 41