What everyone in Silicon Valley and “Venture Land” conceive of as the real game-changing model involves capturing and capitalizing on the “interest graph. The company that succeeds in doing so would be “close to the Google search paradigm because it would be right in line with demand generation and with discovery that relates to product purposes.” Thus, it is the interest graph that defines the middle ground between Google and Facebook — between search, advertising, and the social graph.
The above paragraph comes from a year-old post in Tech Crunch, following last winter’s Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. It was a prescient sentiment for sure.
Just look at the current landscape. The new emerging social platforms are less about the social graph and all about the interest graph. Pinterest, Springpad, Svpply. We’re seeing an evolution from people centric social media (who I am connected with) to interest centric social media (what I care about, want to buy, hope to do.) Users are jumping on platforms like these and others in part because they make it so easy to express one’s self by posting stuff you like or find interesting. Add in the fun of discovery and the rewards of sharing and it’s likely we’ll see accelerated user growth.
For brand and marketers, this is good news. It’s a lot more lucrative to tap into intent and desire than it is to try and penetrate communities where you’re uninvited. Even the best conversation strategists can’t necessarily turn engagement into sales. And it’s become pretty apparent that collecting likes on Facebook will never be the Holy Grail. Just go to any Facebook brand page and take a look at the metric revealed by dividing fans “talking about this,” by those who “like this.” The percentages are typically pretty low. For Harley Davidson half of one percent of fans are paying attention while Old Spice’s number is only slightly higher.
In a recent video Gary Vaynerchuk asks an interesting question. “What’s the Dunbar number for brands?” He notes that most consumers have liked so many brands they don’t even remember which ones. As marketers should know, fans rarely visit a brand’s Facebook page and unless they engage on a regular basis they won’t see brand updates in their stream either. How many brands can we actually have social relationships with? Ten? Twenty? Certainly fewer than the number of people we engage with.
But we can like or want dozens of products and places. Books we want to read, movies we plan to rent, places we hope to visit, restaurants we know we’ll eat at. Offer that up to a marketer and it’s gold. It’s also likely that the right kind of message or alert or incentive to act, served up in a tasteful and polite manner, will be more than welcome.
Expect to see some pretty interesting (no pun intended) developments in 2012. Pinterest may have great momentum, effortlessly converting consumers’ interests into inbound links for the benefitting brand, but there’s more compelling stuff on the horizon. Springpad, a company whose board I serve on, goes beyond interest to identifying deferred intent, then delivering relevant alerts and information that convert interest to action. That’s a benefit for both a user and the brand whose product or service fulfills an obvious desire. Springpad has a slew of significant enhancements coming in February that will make it even more productive and incredibly social.
No doubt there will be others, too. I recently met a new startup called Aditive that offers yet another way to tap into intent. By making online ads social and shareable Aditive encourages readers to share offers with friends who they know might like the product or promotion being offered. When executed right, this simple tactic multiples click-through and effectiveness by a factor of 10 because it’s allowing consumers to identify interests that their friends might have.
In March, I’m on a panel at SxSW to talk about deferred intent and the brand opportunities inherent in social media as the interest graph evolves. Between now and then I’ll probably return to the topic a few times. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and, of course, your interests.
Thanks for reading.
Storify: The Interest Graph
Like everyone else in America who still reads I am deeply engrossed in Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs.
It’s a remarkably honest and thorough account. It introduces us to Steve’s early influences. It explains the genesis of his design obsession. It reveals his many flaws.
While the entire book chronicles the story of Steve’s life from childhood to the end, every chapter is a story in its own right. You probably have your favorite. The lost battle with John Sculley. The launch of Macintosh. The board trying to kill the best ever Super Bowl spot. (They failed because Chiat Day secretly refused to sell off the media.) Jobs’ questionably hesitant but triumphant return. The complex rivalry between Jobs and his sometimes nemesis, sometimes friend, one time savior Bill Gates. Or on another front, the confrontations with Michael Eisner that prompted Disney to back off its ill-advised attempt to re-write Toy Story.
Readers can cull endless lessons from these stories: how to simplify, how to believe in an idea, how to adhere to standards, how to trust your intuition, how not to back down. In some cases – personal hygiene, treatment of friends and family – we can also learn what not to do.
But one of my favorite lessons doesn’t come from Steve. It’s attributed to Mike Markkula. Upon his official return to Apple in 1997, Jobs fired Markkula from the board and then asked Mike to join him on one of his long walks. Jobs told the former chairman that his goal was to build a company that would endure. He asked Markkula’s advice. Markkula shared this.
“Lasting companies know how to re-invent themselves. Hewlett-Packard had done that repeatedly; it started as an instrument company, then a computer company. Apple has been sideline by Microsoft in the PC business. (by then Apple’s market share had plummeted from 16 percent to four percent). You’ve got to reinvent the company to do some other thing, like consumer products or devices. You’ve got to be like a butterfly and have a metamorphosis.”*
The language and the metaphor may not sound brilliant. But you sure can’t argue with the advice. According to Isaacson, Jobs didn’t say much that day in 1997, but clearly he agreed.
Lasting companies know how to re-invent themselves. I think the same might even be said for individuals.
Got a favorite story from the book of Jobs? Please share. And as always, thanks for stopping by.
Photo “borrowed” from Christopher Dernbach’s blog Mac History.
*Excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, page 320.
I just got back from my first trip to Mobile, Alabama. For most people an inaugural visit to the original home of Mardi Gras would be to hear some really good Dixie Land Jazz. And while I did get in some of that, the purpose in this case was to help Google get all, or at least 500, local businesses optimized for mobile.
To its credit Google and the competent folks at Duda Mobile agreed to Mobilize Mobile, creating optimized sites for free and covering hosting for a full year. The effort makes sense for both Google and the recipient small businesses. Ad Words ads that show up on a Google search made from a smart phone become a lot more effective when they link to a site that “searchers” find useful and easy to navigate. Everybody wins – Google, the business, and most importantly, the user.
The program, going on this week, includes two days of seminars, training, and site conversion along with a little bit of evangelizing. I had some responsibility for the latter, presenting to 200 ad agency and brand folks last night at an event held at Red Square Agency.
Jason Spero, director of mobile at Google spoke first, covering trends and insights that leave no doubt about the proliferation of devices, changes in search behavior and a plethora of other uses. My job was to remind ad agencies that they need to jump on this opportunity full force while it is still early enough not to be late. An awful lot of advertising agencies were caught off guard with the pace of change brought on by all things digital. Many missed it out again when social media altered consumer behavior forever. Mobile is bigger than either of the previous disruptions and will inevitably affect every section of the purchase funnel, from awareness to loyalty. You don’t want to miss out on this one.
A couple of key facts are worth noting. First from Jason: “The consumer is adopting mobile and all that it offers far more quickly than brands, marketers and small businesses.” That alone should be enough to wake up any agencies or brands that haven’t put the newest digital movement at the forefront of their marketing efforts.
Second, from a conversation I had a few months ago with Joe Ferra, head of Fidelity’s mobile marketing: “Fifty percent of Fidelity trades, transactions and inquiries will soon be made from a mobile device.” That’s a wake-up call to anyone who thinks this is all about for 18—24 year olds. Doubt many of them are trading equities with Fidelity.
And finally, the battle for mobile payments, about to escalate as Google, Apple, American Express all vie for dominance, will end up creating numerous opportunities for retailers. We’ll know who’s in the store, when they were last there, their past purchase behaviors and their current loyalty status. Doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see the opportunities in that.
Anyway, below is my presentation. (Or here’s a version with a few notes attached.) Up here in Massachusetts we give the presentations first, then open the bar and start partying. On the Gulf Coast, they party first — kicking out a few jazz tunes and making sure everyone has a drink or two before they invite the presenters up on stage.
But this alternative sequence made my argument for mobile sites even more convincing. If you think it’s tough to pinch, zoom and navigate an unfriendly mobile site when you’re totally sober, try it after a couple of drinks. Can you imagine searching from your smart phone for events on Mobile’s Mardi Gras site next February if it’s not optimized for mobile?
If you have a chance, visit the warm welcoming city of Mobile. It’s a happening town. Reminds me of Austin. And for the best grits there, try True’s.
My friend Erik Proulx is in the midst of his second Lemonade film, this one telling the story of what we all hope might be Detroit’s resurrection. As with his first film, the original Lemonade, it’s not government policy or unemployment checks, or even the bailout of the automobile industry – don’t get me wrong I was in favor of a better stimulus package than the one we actually got – that restores an economy, it’s personal and collective optimism, achievement and creativity.
And so it will be with Detroit. The often ill-fated attempts at urban renewal and the erection of shiny glass buildings are never what make a city great – it’s the people who live there. Erik’s film focuses on such people and as an exploration into the spirit and passion of Detroit residents intent on bringing the city back it paints a picture of hope and possibility.
Erik released the extended trailer of Lemonade Detroit right as I happen to be reading Edward Glaeser’sTriumph of the City. Erik’s premise is that with enough will power and motivation (the latter often comes from having got kicked pretty good) people have the ability to turn lemons into Lemonade. Glaeser’s hypothesis is that cities magnify those qualities. They attract innovators and entrepreneurs, place them in proximity to one another and encourage interaction, collisions and social mobility.
In the late 1800’s right before Detroit became the center of the automotive universe, the city looked a lot like Silicon Valley in the very early days of the computer industry. Dozens of small, innovative firms and an army of entrepreneurs – Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, David Buick – fueled each other’s ideas, created a community of competition and attracted investors.
A culture of learning and experimentation, and communication among and between industry pioneers, led to the growth of both a city and an industry. Detroit was a center of knowledge. If you were in the car business you needed to be there.
But unlike Silicon Valley, where constant learning, education, and ideas continue to attract thinkers, Detroit’s industrial model led to the opposite: a culture and a massive scale production process which, according to Glaeser, turned out to be “antithetical to the urban virtues of competition and connection.”
Instead, because the assembly line made it possible to be highly productive without knowing that much, it killed the need for learning and attracted the kind of worker for whom learning didn’t matter. According to Glaeser’s thesis, as soon as that happened Detroit was destined to die. “When a city creates a powerful enough knowledge-destroying idea, it sets itself up for self-destruction,” the author writes.
In the end the same industry that made Detroit great ended up destroying it. The vertical integration of the automobile companies crowded out new ideas, spinoffs and alternative industries.
Erik’s film suggests that if urban re-invention is possible it will emanate from a diverse mix with of human capital. Entrepreneurs, artists, educators and other creative people are the ones who’ll make it happen. They’ll make new connections, riff off of each other, and maybe turn Detroit into the kind of city that Glaeser writes about: one that attracts smart people and enables them to work collaboratively to build something lasting.
Kudos to Erik for celebrating the human spirit and making us all more hopeful.
I’m on a bit of a mobile kick as you might have noticed. That’s in part because Mullen has been hard at work getting our own mobile capabilities into high gear and also because we’re in the midst of a really cool project with Google to launch Go Mo, an initiative to get small businesses across America (and eventually the world) to optimize their sites for mobile.
It’s hard to think of anything that isn’t mobile anymore. Search is mobile. It’s pretty frustrating when you’re looking for something from a smartphone and it comes up like this.
Entertainment is mobile. In many cases it provides more options than the alternative. (Note how HBO GO actually trumps HBO On Demand for depth of content and choice.)
Travel is mobile, from booking flights and hotels to checking in. And the list goes on: shopping from mobile sites, making digital payments, executing stock sales and bank transfers, connecting with friends via social media.
More importantly, it’s evident we all have to stop thinking of mobile as its own medium or category. It’s part of everything – in-store, print advertising, physical experiences, customer service, data and analytics. Yet there’s a tendency to treat mobile as an afterthought or at least to develop mobile apps and utility off to the side.
Our program with Google is an attempt to change that. We both believe that given the proliferation of smart phones that everything – from strategy to content — has to start with mobile.
One of the more fun things we’re doing is mobilizing Mobile, Alabama. We thought that helping optimize sites for an entire town’s local businesses would be a great way to demonstrate the value of having a mobile site and the alliteration was too good to pass up. Google will help up to 500 local businesses get optimized for mobile, even hosting the sites free of charge for a full year.
I’m heading to Mobile next Monday to speak at an event encouraging ad agencies to learn, think and create in the mobile space. Jason Spero, Google’s head of Mobile Advertising, will join me. He obviously knows a hell of a lot more than I do about mobile proliferation and consumer trends, but I can share at least a few thoughts on how ad agencies can ready themselves for the biggest shift ever in marketing and engagement.
Oh, and the video below, on how Lulu’s optimized for mobile, was shot by my filmmaker friend Max Esposito.