There is no shortage of facts, figures, stats and predictions on the proliferation of mobile and the market penetration of smart phones. Apparently you can make a pretty good living issuing research reports about how many people now have smartphones and what they’re using them for. (Hint: That would be everyone and everything.)
You can also fill up the web, or try, simply re-posting and regurgitating those facts in one form or another. Take a look at some of the coverage of Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report from a week or so ago. Hundreds, if not thousands, of press and bloggers embedded her deck or linked to her talk.
The real question is what you’re supposed to do with all of this information, from Forrester, from Pew Research, from Mary Meeker. Sure you can put it all into a deck with your logo on the front and present it to clients. But I’m not sure that will get you very far. At least not in the long term.
It’s not about knowing that mobile is soon to be the dominant digital and social platform, it’s knowing what to do about it. I can’t claim to be an expert, but here’s what I’m thinking you should be doing.
Make mobile your new focus
You may have been late to the Internet revolution (hopefully you’re still around to take advantage of this one) and perhaps even slow to realize the potential of social. Don’t blow this one. It may be too late to be early, but it’s still early enough not to be late. What, you’re thinking mobile should be the domain of the media department? Or maybe the developers? Think again, everyone will need to be and do mobile before next year is out.
Get smart about behavior not technology
Since I’m not a developer I always start with the consumer rather than the technology. Think about social media. What was more important, the platforms or what consumers did with them? The same is likely to hold true for mobile. How and when will people search from their devices? Will they access a retailer’s site when they’re looking for directions, or when they’re in the store? How about a museum? Will a user want hours and exhibit dates before visiting the museum? Or is she interested in the backstory of an artwork when she’s standing in front of it? Understanding how and when someone uses their device leads to better mobile functionality.
Think utility over advertising
A few months ago, Jeremiah Owyang shared a mobile strategy deck. The mobile world changes pretty fast, but Jeremiah’s content remains relevant, demonstrating how to bring utility to every point on the purchase funnel, from pre-sale awareness generation to post sale loyalty building. He includes examples from North Face’s snow report to AAA’s roadside assistance, making this overview a good starting point to think about all the ways you can apply similar thinking to your clients.
Remember that mobile isn’t always about on the go
Heineken’s Star Player is one good reminder. It’s an accompaniment to a user’s TV set. The app makes a soccer fan a participant in a any televised soccer match. It does everything right: it understands the user and context, connects him to others in a community, and puts a branded experience in his hands for 90 straight minutes. It may make it harder to slurp down a beer, but presumably if you use the app for that much time you can do it with one hand. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out.
Don’t forget to think beyond apps
Yes we’re all programmed as users to download and use them. But as mobile search begins to rival that of desktop – it has a ways to go but is growing fast – you’ll want to be in the business of developing mobile optimized sites. And if you start developing them using responsive design, you’ll deliver a branded experience to the all of the plethora devices that make standardized apps a never-ending challenge. Furthermore your online advertising will be more effective. Most Google ad buys (full disclosure, they’re a client) include mobile, but if you’re delivering ads that link a user to a non-optimized site you’re wasting money, or at least diminishing effectiveness.
Take a look at this search I conducted to make the point. On a smartphone I searched men’s shoes. (In real life I’d just go to Zappos, but for the purpose of this exercise I used Google search.) Two paid results came up. Whose site would you use?
Remember to sell stuff and make paying easy
Apps and gaming are easily embraced, but the real future of mobile is commerce. Pay Pal will do $3.5 billion in transactions from mobile devices before the year is out. And that’s a conservative estimate. Heavy mobile users actually prefer to shop from their mobile devices versus a laptop. So make sure your commerce site is not only optimized for mobile but offers a fast and easy way to search product categories, find what you want and enter payment information. Oh, and let us not forget mobile payment. We may have taken a long time getting there compared to some other countries, but it’s here. Learn how to leverage it.
Include mobile thinking on every assignment
There’s a tendency whenever a new technology comes along to place it in a silo. Digital. Social. Mobile. But they’re not isolated media or experiences. These days everything is connected to everything else. And I’m not talking about QR codes on print ads. Take a look, for example, at this print ad optimized for mobile. The Zappos team at Mullen knows that people discover fashion in magazines. But you can’t really shop off a magazine. Unless, of course it interacts with your smartphone. In this case we developed an ad that lets you drag items of clothes into your phone, dress a digital shopper and then connect to Zappos to actually purchase your desired items.
Learn from the startups
One thing that ad agencies and clients have a tendency to do is to copy each other. I prefer to steal from more innovative companies, in this case startups who are inventing the stuff. We can learn a lot from Instagram – fun, sharing, user participation, community and the network effect. We can learn from Spotify – a perfect application of the freemium model and an experience made better by social sharing. We can learn from SCVNGR – gaming dynamics to influence.
Make it social
One interesting fact in Mary Meeker’s presentation is how much social media is now mobile. More people tweet from their smartphone than from any other kind of device. She also reminds us that the mega-trend of the 21st century is the “empowerment of people connected via mobile devices.” Hate to break the news, but in most cases, people want to connect to other like-minded or trusted friends via mobile more than they want to connect to your brand. So give them all the opportunity possible by creating a site experience and/or apps that not only allow but encourage people to connect with one another.
Do it to get it
Everyone who got into social media as a user got better at creating in the space. Ask Iain Tait, the brains behind Old Spice on Twitter. Or talk to the Brammo team at Crispin. Same is likely to hold true with mobile. So don’t leave it up to someone else. Play in the space. Get excited about responsive design. Think about all the ways a mobile site can be useful. Try all the new services. Check-in. Pay with Google. The more you use it the more you’ll get it.
Thoughts? Other things your agency is doing? Or your clients?
Related post: It’s time for web marketers to cater to mobile users.
The good folks at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication were kind enough to invite me to speak there this week as part of their Global Leaders in Digital and Social Media Speaker Series.
The experience was awesome. I had the chance to visit and present in two classes – Dr. Bill Ward’s Social Media You Need to Know, and Professor Brian Sheehan’s Integrated Advertising Campaigns –and then deliver a keynote in the school’s wonderful Herg Auditorium.
S.I.Newhouse impressed on all fronts. The facility is spectacular, especially Newhouse 3, with its curved facade and the full text of the First Amendment (written in its entirety) incorporated into the exterior glass walls.
The building houses media rooms, production facilities and editing labs that feel almost as cool as an Apple store. There are well-lit open spaces that act as metaphors for transparency and freedom of information. But best of all, I found eager engaged students.
In my keynote, titled The End of Us and Them, I talked a bit about the somewhat conflicting trends in our business today. On one hand, TV spending in the US next year will grow 5.1 percent to well over 70 billion. On the other hand the critics tell us that, “In the future marketing will be like sex. Only the losers will pay for it.”
We have agency models that are still beholden to the golden era of media defined best by Walter Cronkite, Bill Bernbach and Ed Sullivan. Yet the new media forces are people like Zuckerberg and Chen, who’ve liberated us all and therefore relegated the old model – in which agencies and media companies were owners of content and controllers of distribution – to the diminished position it has today.
I shared an exchange I witnessed between Ted Koppel (SI Newhouse alum) and Arianna Huffington to remind students that it didn’t matter who was right –Ted wants to give people news that’s good for them; Arianna wants them to have the news they want – the reader, and consequently Arianna, have already won. (You can see the entire video of that conversation if you want.)
But I also suggested that all would be well. Advertising and its practitioners will prevail and prosper presuming we learn to create not only with words, pictures and stories, but also with technology, APIs and community.
There are a few other suggestions and examples as well. Much of it familiar to regular readers here. But if you want to take it, use it, repurpose it for yourself, here it is.
Thanks to the folks at S.I. Newhouse and especially to @DR4Ward for the warm hospitality and dinner at America’s best rib joint. I suggest the pork ribs and pulled pork combination.
America has lots of problems: unemployment, poverty, obesity, urban violence. But there’s actually a more pressing problem. It’s the “us versus them” mindset that permeates our country and our politics.
Our communities of concern have become too narrow
Before the Occupy Movement even launched, I heard Robert Reich speak at Google’s Zeitgeist 11 Conference. In a brilliant talk he clarified how our communities of concern are shrinking. We don’t do everything as a country to solve unemployment because those in power don’t really care. Why? Because they are college graduates. And the unemployment rate, while 35 percent for high school dropouts, hovers at a mere five percent for college graduates. High school dropouts are not in the community that matters.
Reich extended his argument to rationalize why the poverty rate for senior citizens in America has been reduced significantly (from 20 percent to five percent) while poverty rates for families with small children has sky rocketed (an appalling 37 percent of US families with small children now live in poverty). The former reside comfortably in the community that congressmen care about (powerful voting block; closer in age) while the latter sits outside it.
Whether his assessment is right or not, two facts emerges as crystal clear. Each of us – blue, red, old, young, urban, rural, black, white, gay, straight – tends to care disproportionately about those with whom we share empathy and interdependency. And as our country becomes more fragmented rather than unified, our communities of concern get narrower. In fact, even the Occupy Movement, which has effectively called attention to the most obvious “us and them” gap, has been criticized for its lack of diversity, particularly in southern cities where there are large African American populations.
This is ironic in an age of social media when we have remarkable tools to connect us to each other. But what do we use them for? To find more people just like us. Take a look at your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers, your Google + circles. Chances are they are a mirror reflection of your upbringing, your background and your profession. When I went to college, 30-plus years ago, even unimaginative housing administrators worked hard to match you up with someone from a different background. Now our kids use Facebook to find roommates whose tastes match theirs, reinforcing a tendency for both parties to stay in their mutual comfort zone.
As I thought about Reich’s argument, something else struck me. There are two places where we create “communities” that do work — juries and military service. Granted in the case of the latter, people’s lives depend on one another. But think about juries.* We stick 12 strangers in a room, present them with a very serious responsibility, and in most cases they fulfill their duty with the utmost of diligence.
So here’s my idea for saving America in case the Occupy Movement doesn’t work. It’s an idea that could help us increase empathy. It takes full advantage of social media’s true potential. It’s a program that steals from the military and juries — practices that do work — when it comes to creating interdependency.
Mandatory social media service
- We require every 18-year-old in America to participate in mandatory social media service as part of a daily or weekly routine for one year.
- We assign our young adults to a racially diverse online social group comprised of 12 people from different regions, backgrounds, income brackets. (Google+ is a potential platform.)
- We present each group with a social challenge – obesity, jobs, poverty, high cost of education, even the problem of young men getting their sex education from watching online porn – and we ask them to solve the problem.
- We give them benchmarks, goals, and require an outcome in the form of an idea, a program, a new policy or maybe just a video.
- Finally we aggregate all of the solutions on one public website where the press, our legislatures, businesses and educators can access, rate and maybe even implement the ideas.
No doubt there are details to work out. Does each group have an official moderator, someone to coach and keep track? What happens when partisan differences challenge collaboration? How do we make technology and Internet access available to everyone? Is there translation software good enough to serve multi-lingual users? But these are all solvable through trial and error in the course of developing the program.
More importantly, we’re not asking anyone to give up an entire year of his or her life or make a significant sacrifice. We’re simply asking them to work together, as a community of concern, to find some kind of common ground that might yield a solution to a problem or an idea worth pursuing further.
Will a group of strangers on a social platform really solve big issues like unemployment, poverty, obesity, and urban violence? Maybe not. But as a society, we might solve our most pressing problem. The need to create greater empathy and understanding between and among people who are different but share a vested interest in America.
Think this idea has potential? Send a link to this post to your congressman or woman. Got a better idea? Please share.
Photograph courtesy of: Konstantin Sergeyev, who has some great images of the Occupy Movement on his Flickr page.
* A thought put in my head when Esther Dyson asked Sandra Day O’Connor a question about their effectiveness.
“So you have a college class visiting you today?” The comment came from one of the 10 small agency CEOs visiting Mullen last week as part of a 4As tour. He watched as 20 or so twenty-somethings filed past to take over the conference room where we’d just met.
“What are you talking about?” I replied. It never dawned on me that he was referring to a team of social media strategists, creatives, media planners and developers who were gathering to get briefed on a new client initiative.
He pointed to the team that had just gathered.
“Oh them. No, they work here.”
His look suggested surprise that we could actually have that many young people in one place at one time working on an actual project.
Yesterday, I encountered a similar reaction when the founder of a big New York rep company was visiting to show off his clients’ work.
“So, how do you manage to stay fresh in this business after all these years?” he wanted to know.
“I get out of the way,” was the honest answer, explaining that the wisest thing anyone my age could do was to hire smart young people, load them up with responsibility, point them in the right direction and hover in the background until someone needs you.
He, too, was stunned, assuming that no one would do that out of a need for control, or a fear of becoming irrelevant, or a concern that everyone else would get the credit.
To me, these reactions reflect some of the vestiges of the old days in advertising. They’re left over from a time when the industry made people pay their dues instead of rewarding raw talent, an age when people spent way too much energy protecting their turf or their rung on the ladder, the days when agency staffers were more obsessed with crediting people instead of the idea.
I find that the smartest, most inspiring people I work with tend to be the youngest. They move seamlessly from one medium to another. They have the courage to try new things. They’re so familiar with technology and its potential that nothing seems impossible.
In the last week I witnessed a team on which no one was more than a year or two out of college conceive and launch the Good Belly Project. They came up with the idea, took it to local restaurants, sold it internally, got it online and into the press. No one cared about personal credit; they just wanted to make it.
It was the same kind of initiative and determination that led to TNGG signing a deal with boston.com. Three 24-year olds had the idea, did the work, initiated the dialog and have been delivering the goods.
Take a look at the companies that are thriving, inventing, creating new stuff. Big companies like Google. Small companies such as Hubspot. New companies like Kickstarter or SCVNGR or Livefyre. They’re filled with 20 year olds making products, reinventing service, and leveraging new technologies.
Want to stay young, relevant, and deserved of some control? Want to attract the kind of talent you actually need to prosper long term? Focus on the bigger stuff: culture, vision, standards, organization and casting. Then let go and out of the way.
Video: Young minds from Zeitgeist 2011. Eric Derdinis, 20-year-old U Penn student, talks about his prototype belt to aid the blind.
When this post is finished I’ll share a link to it on Twitter. That’s a pretty common tactic used by most bloggers, journalists, and media properties. In some cases it leads to more traffic, more sharing, reader comments and conversation. All of which is good for content generators as it drives engagement, inbound links and, of course, a bit of recognition from the likes of Google.
But many times, the conversation doesn’t end up back on the blog where it started. Instead it gets carried out on Twitter, or Facebook, or Google + where, let’s face it, there are many more people hanging out. You could have been the one to start the conversation, but as far as Google juice goes, you’re not getting much.
Now, thanks to Livefyre’s new social sync, any conversation that emanates from your post ends up back in your blog’s comment section, accomplishing two things. First, and perhaps most importantly, it aggregates the conversation – opinions, provocations, disgreements – in the one place where it really belongs. Easily accessible for reference now or months from now. (Try searching for old tweets.) And two, it gives you, the content originator, the SEO credit you deserve.
I was one of the very first bloggers to install Livefyre. In part because I’m a big fan of founder Jordan Kretchmer, who once worked for me. But also because I’ve always liked Livefyre’s mission to replace static conversations with dynamic, real-time dialog that actually builds community. Jordan knows that blogging and journalism are as much about conversation and community as they are about writing and reporting.
Livefyre has been at it now for two years and continues to get better. The company’s platform is now installed on more than 14,000 websites, from small-time bloggers like me to big publishers such as The Sun, Sugar Media, Talking Points Memo and MIT Tech Review.
Given that they just closed a second round of funding and stuck another $4.5 million in the checking account, I’m expecting the platform to get even better.
Do me a favor. Chat this post up on Twitter so I can see how well the new features work.
And let me know what you think of Livefyre as a comment system.