Yes, we all know that there are 450 million people on Facebook, that YouTubers upload the equivalent of 86,000 feature length films (in under 10 minute increments) to the web every week, and that Twitter users tweet more than 50 million times a day.
An even more interesting – though maybe not surprising — fact is that there are 309 million people in the U.S. and combined they have an astonishing 276 million mobile phone accounts. Factor out babies, prisoners and the occasional rural recluse and that’s a pretty impressive market penetration. Oh, and did I mention that by the end of next year 45 percent of those phones will be smartphones.
Of course the real story here isn’t about technology or platforms. The real story is what all those Facebookers, YouTubers and smartphone users are doing with the platforms and tools. They’re rapidly transfering power from broadcasters, publishers and marketers to themselves, the former viewers, readers and consumers. The latter, now content creators and distributors, continue to embrace the potential of digital technology, open-source software, and community faster and more effectively than those from whom they are wresting control.
Just look at what happened yesterday in New Jersey; thousands of students across the state walked out of school disrupting classes, throwing off test schedules, and reminding teachers and administrators not only who’s really in charge, but how easy it is to mobilize in the age of Facebook and Twitter.
Granted there’s no shortage of students in any public school system looking for a reason to get out of the classroom. Nevertheless the ease and speed with which the event was organized speaks volumes about a new generation’s use of all things digital.
Michelle Ryan Lauto, an 18-year old college freshman, posted an “event” on Facebook, attracted 16,000 members in a matter of no time and organized a state-wide protest against cuts in school budgets. One person plus a Facebook account equals the power to inspire thousands of student bodies to stand up take action.
My friend Faris Yakob talks about how we all have a primary mode of interacting with content. People over the age of 35 (rough guess) are perhaps viewers and readers first, content creators and sharers second. They may be online and in social networks, but TV and print remain their primary mode of engaging with information and entertainment.
But the generation entering adulthood (ready to buy cars, homes, furniture, electronics, and laundry detergent) uses the web and its interactivity as their primary mode of engagement, relegating TV and print to second place.
They will have grown up like Michelle Lauto. They will never be passive consumers of either products or media.Still there remain brands, marketers, manufacturers, educators determined to pump out circulars, broadcast messages, and exclude consumers from participating and co-creating.
Sure all those tactics still work and there are well established infrastructures to support them. And yes, they’ll perform for another few years. Maybe even longer. But consumers, readers, viewers, audiences and students no longer behave according to the old rules. In fact they’re writing the new ones.
For everyone on the left hand side of the slide above, it’s time to get with it. I don’t mean put up a Facebook page and use it to “collect” fans (now called likes.) Or launch a Twitter account to tweet out offers and incentives. Instead:
It’s time for brands to understand all the different ways in which consumers engage with content, media, technology and each other and then learn to create experiences, utility and social value, along with an invitation to participate.
By now there are thousands of companies and brands using social media platforms and networks. Some actually get it, using them not as replacements for old media but as ways to create and build a new kind of relationship with their communities. But others are still sitting on the sidelines. I’m not sure what they’re waiting for. The pace of change will accelerate at a blinding pace. If they want to be around to see the future, it might be a good time rethink their vision.
I stopped in at my local bookseller today to pick up a copy of Ian McEwan’s Solar. Despite owning a Kindle and an iPad, I still enjoy holding a real book, admiring perfectly kerned type (in this case a digital version of Bembo, originally designed by the Bolognese Renaissance type cutter Francesco Griffo) and feeling the pages as I turn them.
Plus, for some odd sentimental reason, I remain dedicated to supporting local bookstores in hopes that my loyalty will save our downtowns from yet another Starbucks, CVS or chain of some kind. (Yes, I know it’s a futile effort, but one has to try.)
I asked how business was and got “eh” for an answer. A reply that suggested the cash register definitely wasn’t getting enough of a workout.
Having just read a number of pieces about publishers’ recent negotiations with Amazon and Apple, having observed the jaw-dropping reaction of kids turning book pages on an iPad, and believing that it’s only a matter of time before a generation of digital natives grows up and introduces their kids to Make Way for Ducklings on a digital screen, I suggested that local bookstores, even those woven into the fabric of a community, were facing an uphill battle.
“Nah, books will never go away,” the manager responded a bit defensively. “I’ve tried the Kindle and it’s just not the same.”
I asked if he’d experienced books on an iPad but he hadn’t. “Well you should see what it’s like to turn pages on that device,” I replied. “It’s pretty cool.”
“Maybe, but I still don’t think books will go away. We have parents in here all the time introducing their children to books. The tradition won’t die.”
Not one to pass up a good debate, I suggested that was only because most parents were probably over 35, and digital or not, they grew up with books as their primary medium for reading.
“But what happens when everyone under 25 reaches parenting age, having consumed most of their media on a screen, and introduces their kids to digital books, complete with interactive games, mixed media, sound and more?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but I still don’t think books will go away.”
The manager uttered that same sentence, unconvincingly I might add, at least four times during our conversation. But never once could he back it up with any reasons as to why he might be right.
The assumption held by the bookstore manager — that physical books, along with their most dedicated advocates, the local bookseller were too important to disappear — reminded me of Clay Shirky’s recent SxSW talk about abundance breaking more things than scarcity.
Shirky is fond of telling the tale of how 15th century scribes, honored and revered for their rare skills, were instantly made obsolete by the printing press. If Amazon and its Kindle along with Apple and the iPad aren’t the epitome of abundance today, then I don’t know what is.
The sad thing for books and local bookstores is that they’re both victims of a publishing industry that remains hopelessly archaic. As I reminded my bookseller, I’ve probably bought 50 Knopf titles in the last 10 years, yet the publisher has no idea who I am, what I read, the volume of books I consume, or what’s on my library shelves.
Amazon on the other hand knows a lot. As does Apple and iTunes. Enough to make recommendations, add my information to their clouds of content, and even predict my future consumption. Meanwhile publishers think that bookstores, rather than readers, are their customers.
If you read between the lines of Ken Auletta’s New Yorker piece this week, publishers are as defensive as my local bookstore. They believe that their talent –for identifying, nurturing, and supporting those needy authors who have to be constantly encouraged and coddled in order to finish a book — is indispensable.
But what’s stopping Amazon from hiring the best editors themselves, signing authors to better contracts, and taking publishers right out of the picture? I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon eventually puts both publishers and bookstores out of business while the two insular industries are busy proclaiming their invincibility instead of pursuing innovation.
Ironic to think that booksellers and publishers — both of whom are literate, intelligent, and well-read — can be so good at seeing the writing on the page and so bad at seeing the writing on the wall.
I hope that physical books and the local bookstore are around for a long time. But I’m putting my money on Amazon and Apple. What about you?
We should probably start with a different question: what is social brand value? In the past, almost all of a brand’s value derived from the product, its characteristics and ultimately its performance. Today, a brand is as likely to be defined by the value created by a community and its members.
According to Vivaldi and Partners, the brand consultancy whose research inspired the Fast Company piece, social brand value (for a user) is the perceived value that results from the exchange and interactions among and between brand users within a community.
For the brand it’s the percentage of its equity resulting from those interactions. While the numbers invite debate, Vivaldi insists that at least 15 percent of customer loyalty and 30 percent of brand perception (seems high to me) is driven by social interaction within a community.
Its argument is built around five dimensions; combined they yield brand value.
- Affiliation Value: Social interaction creates feeling and assurance, as well as emotional ties among users
- Brand Evangelism: Community members both promote and defend brands
- Conversational Value: News and information spreads faster among an active community
- Identity Value: Connecting with the right community (think Harley Davidson owners and Apple users) makes users feel better about themselves
- Informational Value: Relevant knowledge and support solve user problems and perpetuate loyalty.
It’s important to note that social brand value, or social currency, is not the same as social media. Generating awareness with a gimmick, collecting fans and followers, being present in social media does not necessarily add to a brand’s value.
It’s what we do once we get them there. (Whether the there is a platform, forum, or in the case of Apple, a retail store.) How we add value, contribute to the conversation, introduce customers to each other, allow them to participate, give them a role based on their personal preferences, and foster overall connections to our brand and others in the community is what matters.
As Fast Company makes clear, Starbucks loses to Dunkin’ Donuts when it comes to customer advocacy. Starbucks may have more followers, but Dunkin’ involves its customers in more active ways. Their online create-the-next-donut contest, for example, generated nearly 300,000 entries, making those involved community members far more likely to say good things about the Dunkin’ brand than Starbucks customers say about the siren.
And no surprise, Wendy’s prevails over Burger King. The former engages with ongoing games, connections to influencers, and motivations to actually try the product. The latter relies on high awareness gimmicks, that while fun and visible, fall off the radar screen rather quickly.
In fact, the brands with the greatest social value include Apple and Google, the former, of course, basically absent from the platforms we associate with social media, but effective through the passion and participation of its active, vocal and loyal customer base.
What should we take away from all of this? According to Fast Company:
- Advocates are more important than followers
- Social tools are a means, not an end
- Gimmicks marginalize trust
While Vivaldi reminds us:
- Social brand value has to be part of a brand’s culture and behavior, not just it’s media presence.
- Simply distributing content across the web does not necessarily yield benefits to a community and therefore may have little contribution to social value.
- Consumers may have control of the conversation, but clearly brands can influence it.
What about you? Are you building social value for your brand?
But the client, as all clients do, asks for one more round of creative. Both agencies are pretty spent. Unbeknownst to each other, each agency decides to crowdsource its final round of creative in hopes of finding something fresh.
Fortunately, the competing shops each choose a different crowdsourcing platform. Agency A chooses to go with Victors and Spoils; Agency B signs on with AdHack. Both platforms assure that they can conduct the process secretly. Victors and Spoils is confident because it has a vetted group of creative talent from all over the world; the company knows much of its community personally and can admit to the “competition” only those who it feels bit the bill.
AdHacks is sure because it has all the legal non-disclosure documentation built into its registration along with a reputation management system that ranks past contributors for adherence to the rules.
The agencies submit their briefs; the briefs are visible only to the participants and not the public. And while anything that ends up on the web can is fair game, both agencies willingly gamble they can keep things contained.
Meanwhile, a young, bored creative team learns about the crowdsourcing request for concepts because the writer on the team is part of the V&S community. At the same time, the art director has previously submitted ideas to AdHack and hears about the call for work from them. The team comes up with a campaign that includes, TV, experiential, and social all wrapped up in a coherent theme. In order to double its chances, the duo decides to enter the same work on both platforms. Why not, right?
Agency A (the one that went with V&AS) loves the work and presents it as part of their final pitch. Agency B (who went with AdHack) thinks the idea is lame, casts it aside and goes with something else. Lo and behold, the crowdsourced campaign is the deciding factor and Agency A prevails.
Starting to sound like the Twilight Zone? Well consider this. The creative team that submitted the work was a junior team at the incumbent agency, which was cut from the pitch in the first round. However, at that agency, the team whose work won wasn’t even invited to participate as part of the pitch team; they were deemed too young inexperienced to be beer-pitch-worthy.
Last week, in Boulder, Colorado, I had long conversations with John Winsor of Victors and Spoils and James Sherrett of AdHack. We chatted about the current state of this new tactic, the quality of participating communities and the satisfaction of current clients. Crowdsourcing is still relatively new. No one really knows where it’s going, how many clients and agencies will embrace it, or how good the work will be. But one thing we did agree on is that a scenario like the one above could actually happen. I can only hope that I’m not Agency B when it does.
Photo by Michael
Last week Chris Brogan and I agreed to reduce excess “pollution” in the stream by publishing our #followfriday suggestions in a blog post instead of on Twitter.
In some ways the stream makes it faster and easier, but in a post you can add some reasoning behind your recommendations. A list of nothing but names, representing people you don’t know and content that may or may not be of interest doesn’t always serve the purspose.
On Twitter as @cshirky. He may not be that active on Twitter, but if you want a sense of what the Internet means to culture, community and people, you really do need to devour his Internet writings. Follow him anyway, and you’ll stay aware of what he’s writing about.
On Twitter as @bbhlabs. Assuming that most of you are in the communication and marketing business, Ben Malbon and Mel Exon are among the best sharers of links, ideas and other cool things that are happening in the digital space.
On Twitter as @faris. Faris is one smart guy. Check out his recent talk at MIMA and also his blog. If you add him to your Tweetdeck you’ll often find interesting links, commentary and, of course, interaction with others that he follows. Always a good way to serendipitously discover others you might be interested it.
On Twitter as @mikearauz. A strategist at Undercurrent, Mike is another great source of interesting content, some serious and thoughtful, some just fun. As his bio says, he’s from the Internet. He gets how it works, how people use it and what marketers can do with it.
On Twitter as @stuartfoster. One of Mullen’s social strategists, Stuart discovers stuff before anyone else. He knows as much about social trends, platforms and new technologies as anyone and posts it daily. Prepare to be overwhelmed.
On Twitter as @schwartzie14. He also blogs at Metal Potential. The chief creative TBWA Chiat/Day, Rob is one of the old school advertising creatives who is rapidly embracing social media and its potential. His blog is a great filter for cool creative ideas from all over the world.
Obviously you should be following everyone who spoke at BDW this week, but I am assuming that if you were there that you’ve already added them to your Tweetdeck. I could add more, but if I do it will take some of the fun away of discovering them yourselves.
Plus if I remain diligent at this, I’ll need to have others to post next Friday.
Enjoy, learn, share. And, if you have others you recommend, please post in the comment section. See you out there.
Art by: soosay