This Is Personal

In my previous post I started getting into how the social platforms we use everyday are also being used by marketers, by advertisers to learn what they can about consumers. Tools such as Radian6, FB insights, Sysomos and many others record demographics, sentiment, interests, keywords. These tools are built to pick up on behaviors and patterns and make sense out of all of them. Think of the recommendation tool on Foursquare, and other tools like Bizzy that take the info you give them, and start giving you ideas of other places to go, things to do and things to eat.

It’s all about you, your preferences, things you like. Pretty soon, these apps we use will be sitting on your shoulder, whispering into your ear by name, telling you what your next move is. They’re there to make your life easier, right? Why not start thinking for you, be one move ahead of you. Social networks are great because we share with our closest friends, our circles, get input from them. Deep inside, you have the things that you like. A recommendation from a friend may be great, but it doesn’t mean you’ll love it.

Think about the future of check-ins. Right now, you physically take out your phone and check into a location on Foursquare. From the app, you can see nearby deals, once you meet the requirements of the deal, you can claim it. The thing is, the deals are too broad. Think more personal. What if these apps really learn from us. Instead of pulling out your phone and checking in, all you do is step into a restaurant and the establishment knows you’re there. Based on prior information from your apps, it knows if you’re a vegan or vegetarian. Maybe you eat fish a lot. Your phone vibrates, you pull it out, and you have a personalized deal on your phone for Mahi-Mahi. Maybe if you order it, you get a glass of wine. Based on previous behaviors, its more likely you will order that dish because it’s the most appealing.

Think about shopping. You walk into a mall, and all of a sudden your favorite store in the mall sends you a notification of a deal going on the store because it now knows you’re there, and based on previous shopping history, you find that deal attractive. Maybe you walk into H&M, and from their P.O.S. records, they know you purchase V-Necks the most often. So, you can a personalized deal on your phone, buy two, get one free. It’s about one on one deals. The same thing will hold true online, your computers, tablets, smart phones. They all have the potential to learn about the individual using them, and target ads specifically ad you, with your name front and center. Perhaps as TVs because tethered to same networks our internet devices are using, advertising there as well will be targeted just at the person using it. The XBox lets you log onto individual profiles. With cameras being attached to everything, it’s not to hard for other devices to easily do the same, just by using facial recognition.

While platforms are learning now, I believe the next thing is personalization. While some people thought certain advertising was invasive, do you think this type of advertising would be considered invasive? It’s logical and it makes more sense.  Why waste time, effort and money trying to sell something to someone if it doesn’t make a connection with them?



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The “I Want It Now” Generation

Technological breakthroughs are happening around us every day. The way we communicate is constantly changing and evolving. The way we get our news, pass on information and research information happens in the blink of an eye. If we want something, we’ve got to have it now, we can’t wait for it. We don’t even have to leave our homes to go grocery shopping anymore, we can have those delivered to us simply by ordering online.

I remember back in high school while doing reports, we were still forced to use books, online resources weren’t allowed because their validity was questioned, digital encyclopedias were the only exception. With e-readers, books are heading six feet under. We have the capabilities to load  hundreds if not thousands of books, music and movies in our portable devices.  Everything has to be at our fingertips when we want it. What would happen if we woke up one day and the entire internet went down? We would be damned. That probably wont happen of course.

We’ve become the “I want it now” generation. It’s this mindset that’s allowing for businesses, brands, companies to take real advantage of consumers. For them, it’s become the “what can I learn about them?” generation. With a plethora of analytical  tools out there and recommendation engines, marketers and brands are finding out everything and anything about consumers. With Facebook and now Google+, your profile information is allowing for hyper-targeted ads to focus on you and you alone. While you are putting more and more information out there, there are others soaking in that information to use it later on. The more we want, the faster we want it, the more we adapt, we have to have the new shiny device, we have to be using the next cool platform. It’s in our nature.

While people teeter on the issues of privacy, it’s more likely the Y generation, or younger generation will be less prone to the ideas of privacy. Growing up into the technology, they’ll see it as helpful, fun and beneficial, and that’s the only thing that really matters to them. Does giving up so much information to these marketers, advertisers harm us in anyway?

In my next blog post, I’ll be talking about the future of marketing & advertising and how all this information collected about you will be used to target you, one on one. Remember, anything you say  can and will be used against you in a court of law. That or used for other purposes.

(Update: The follow-up piece:

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The Future of Advertising, Community and All Things Social

Often we come across the question  in moderated chats, on panels, and in our networks about the future of digital & community. Sure, social media is still something new and exciting. I believe that the term “social media” will be absorbed into something bigger. It will become such a routine part of everyday life there will no more need for said terms. Whether its through interaction with each other, sharing stories, updates, recommendations, interacting with favorite brands, though advertising, it’s about being personable. That’s the biggest things brands are really trying to do, they want to be able to relate with every individual on a one to one basis.

In the past advertising agencies would create ads for the mass, sure they would have their target market, but still, it was a huge market they were reaching out to. Creativity could only go so far. Facebook comes along, and using personal profiles and a person’s individual interests, brings in personal ads they can pinpoint and target almost anything. Still, the ads are becoming routine, it’s a small picture and a block of text, nothing very exciting. As the web becomes more social, search engines are pulling from social profiles and really getting to “know” users. Interactive web banners will adapt to the individual  browsing the web. As algorithms are evolving, they’re beginning to pick up the smallest patterns and learn behavior and will be able to to make not only recommendations for, but maybe even start making decisions for you. You won’t see  recommended friends on FB or whatever network is in existence, they’ll be added automatically.

With Google+ rolling out, their network could really revolutionize the whole web experience. If and when people start updating profiles to Google, it’s then that everything will become even more one on one in one huge connected experience. People really are different, and if you want to make true, real connections, you need to be able to understand where they are coming from. In shopping malls per se we’ll begin to see interactive billboards. They will all be camera operated, scanning people passing by, and based on sex, age, maybe even clothing style, they’ll post what they believe is an ad that will suit you personally. Maybe they’ll send that information to a database that will send something back to the smart device in your pocket offering you a personalized deal at a store in the mall.

Brands need to be on top of technology 24/7 if they really want to be connecting with fans as personably as possible. As for the communities and fans that fuel brands, the same methods need to be adapted. I’d like to see networks that translate automatically between users. For example, my FB is set to English, and yours to Mandarin Chinese. We become friends, I can see your page in English, and you see mine in Mandarin, we then are able to communicate flawlessly through an application that does all the translation for us. It’s innovation like that, that could really help tear down language barrier between people. I can see that happening somewhere in the future.

Then we have augmented reality, thats a whole other story and innovation. Imagine online shopping from home when the camera on your computer scans you, then virtually places the clothes on a 3-D model of yourself you can spin around and check out. There’s already been a Kinect hack that does. There’s plenty of other uses in the real world where your phone or tablet places virtual objects on  screen in the real environment around you.

Only time can really tell what comes next, but never be afraid to adopt new technologies. It’s those who hesitate that will either be left behind, or caught behind the competition. That’s not really what anyone wants. You may not always be excited to jump on the bandwagon, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and get with the times.

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Social Media is About the Human Connection

There are plenty of books out there on how to use social media correctly with more coming out everyday. When it comes down to it, aren’t they all really saying the same thing or similar things? While some books are written in a terminology easy enough for a ten year old to understand, others are written similar to a college text book. If you look at the history of brands over the century, you can make pretty easy observations of how they relate to consumers.

Looking at ads from the early 20th century, you see illustrations for soap, cigarettes and Coca-Cola. In these illustrations you see beautiful people, sex sold. It’s human nature to be attracted to beautiful people you see in posters and in print. As advertising evolved throughout the years into TV & digital, branding still took a similar stance. It’s about the human connection. The hard sell existed, but that wasn’t the RIGHT way to sell your product. People like emotional connections, they like being told what to do, how to do, and what can make them  better, stronger and more beautiful. From beauty products, to fashion, to cosmetic and plastic surgery, people strive for something different in our lives. It’s really not that hard to make those connections if you’re saying the right things or presenting the right imagery.

As branding started transitioning from traditional advertising into social media with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and other channels, it allowed for a stronger emotional connection between brand and consumer. We all want to be loved, to be thought about, treated like we’re someone. That’s what brands needed to start leveraging. People choose and distinguish between brands for many reasons. From the simplest of reasons: affordability, to packaging, quality, reputation and status; people have their brands of choice. It’s now up to the brand to take social media and connect further with the consumer. Unlike advertising, where a brand attempts to make an emotional connection, social media helps better those chances. Then again, traditional ads have a lot better placement and a higher ROI (Return on Investment) then ads through social media channels. The good thing about the social part, is growing the relationship with current fans in hoping they’ll leverage WOM (Word of Mouth) and share with their friends what an amazing experience they had.

Talking to people is the easy part. Social media is a lot about conversation and engagement, listening and understanding. Those are words you’ll see thrown around quite a bit in blogs and books on how to use social media. It’s really just a casual conversation between two people, the only difference is that you have one person voicing the entire brand. A big part of the relationship is empathy, every fan has feelings as well as good & bad experiences. The person speaking on behalf of the brand needs to be someone who’s a friendly conversationalist with a solid amount of patience. It doesn’t get much simpler then that. People enjoy stories, they like being heard, understood and even some direction at times. You can ask people to LIKE something, share or retweet content and they’ll most likely adhere to your direction.

Just remember to pay close attention to the upset people as well. They’re venting through social media to be heard not only by you, but so other people can see their distress as well. An unhappy customer will scream from mountain tops about how angry they are, while an extremely satisfied customer will share with their closest friends. It’s best to deal with those situations both publicly and privately when possible. If you can turn around an angry customers on a public wall, it’s can very beneficial. Another reason to take care of negative sentiment as quickly as possible, is that you never who that person is and what their influence is on the social web. News travels fast and the quicker you can rectify the situation, the less time it takes for that news to travel to thousands if not millions of people.

There is it, how to leverage social media as simple as that. Of course that’s in a nutshell. There’s a lot more that can be learned, a lot through trial error, as well as through reading and education. Once you know how to use as the different social channels though, it’s talking to people and making connections that’s the easy part. Just remember, think before you post and double if not triple everything before you hit the send or post button.

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“Like” becomes the new Share Button

If you hadnt noticed before, when you “liked” something on the internet via the like button, it would show up in your news feed as small copy. It wasn’t deemed big enough to show up large-sized in a friend’s news feed. Then you had the share button. The article or media piece you shared showed up big and bold in the news feed. You would see whatever thumbnail photo or video of the article you decided to share. We could go through the internet liking piece after piece and it never became a nuisance on our FB wall. The other day I noticed while using Mashable Follow, which gives me the option to Share (send it to Twitter and FB) that after sharing it and liking it, it showed up twice in my feed as being shared. The previous “like” had changed into a large, news worthy feed post. Which can or cannot seem obtrusive. What does this mean for the “like” button. Will people now limit when they click it so it doesn’t constantly take up too much space on the feed? What will you do?

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Community in the Wild

We’ve all seen the discovery channel and animal planet with shows on wild animals and nature. When you look at nature, animals tend to thrive in communities. Whether its a pack of wolves, a whale pod, a herd, a gander or flock, some animals work together better as a group. The groups work together to create a bond and to survive. A wolf pack is a great example. With a hierarchy in play, different wolves carry different roles within the community. You’ll find hunters and gatherers, the ones watching the young, or even the ones that keep watch around the perimeter. We as humans call learn a lot by watching how communities act in nature.

As a single unit in the wild, you might find it hard to survive. In the human world, that might not be true, but you’re really missing out on a lot of things. Communities can really accomplish so much more. They learn and thrive off each other. In nature, survival depends on working as a group, a community. In the real world, a successful company runs the same  way. Everyone plays their own part in something bigger in order to create an overall achieved result. As the saying goes, you’re only as good as your weakest link. People need to work together, reach out to each other and converse with one another. We aren’t meant to be alone on this planet. We thrive on being around people. Sure, people have their differences, their change of opinion, but its what makes us unique and different. Personality is amazing. We have to learn to get over ourselves and build community. Go out and meet people who have similar interests and see what you have in common. Two heads are better then one, and with three or more, the possibilities are endless. One person can make a difference, but a group of people can accomplish so much more.

Sure, we have our differences, unlike wolves, or birds, or anything animal that thrives within a community. Humans have more emotions, feelings of hate, greed, envy, lust and the list goes on. We  can be biased or prejudice which can make it hard for some of us. No one said it would be easy for us to get along. We need to set aside our differences, realize we’re all human and work together. When it comes down to it, we’re aiming for the same goals in life, well most of us hopefully. We need to learn to listen to each other and see what makes us who we are, our wants, our needs, what makes us happy, what bothers us. Its simple human emotions that really rule our lives. Thats what community is about, working together and listening to each other. No matter how complex our species is compared to others, we can still learn from them. Don’t be a loner, don’t be afraid to go out and meet people. Use the resources available to you and find a community to be a part of. Lets go out there and learn from the ant colonies, the wolf packs and the Canadian geese.

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Are You Listening?

Are you listening? Listening to what you may ask? And when I say listening, I also mean reading, understanding, and empathy. This is for the brand, for the advertiser, the marketer.  The hard sell isn’t what sells anymore. When you have the resources to communicate back and forth instantaneously, when nothing can no longer be kept a secret, you need to stop and listen. Listen to the the consumer, to what the people are saying. It doesn’t have to be about your brand necessarily, it can be casual conversation. Social Media has become the new market research. Forget focus groups, you have everything you need using social media channels.

These channels allow you to hyper target small niche groups, in which you can then monitor your results. If all goes well, or not, you have the ability to move around and switch things up, then record your new results. Go where the people go. See what they like, don’t like, want or don’t want. Listen try to understand where they’re coming from and where they want to go. Everyone is a consumer, yeah, you tend to be taught to think differently once in the shoes of a brand, but think about the brands you like. Talk to people around you. You need to genuinely care and think what benefits the consumer is getting from your product. You need to be the friendly neighbor next door who offers up a cup of sugar or friendly advice then they need it.

With so much competition, you need to stand out, be different and let people know what makes you different. What sets you aside from every other cookie, shoe, hairdresser or doctor. Is the consumer just a number orrevenue to you, or someone you really want to benefit from your service or product? People don’t like to be confused, talked down to, don’t use incomprehensible words. You need to keep things simple, like everyday conversation. People seek familiarity. Not everyone is the same of course. Thats why you need to listen to your audience and then modify your plan to adapt to their wants and needs. Its all pretty simple when you get down to it. Just be transparent, and believable, be honest and straightforward. If you make a mistake, fess up, we’re all human and nothing is perfect. Not all mistakes can be fixed of course, but have some sort of plan for when bad things happen. Respond when asked a question, and even reply to a statement, it lets people know theres a face behind the brand.

So listen, I mean REALLY listen, be human and see how it works out for you.

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