Category Archives: Digital

Why Facebook Should Search Outside of Search…

The news that Facebook is considering a venture into search has sparked much debate in tech circles.  Since its very inception, Facebook has striven to integrate itself ever more visibly into every facet of our lives; its recent IPO and subsequent floatation on the stock market accelerating this desire for ubiquitous omnipresence even further.  But are plans to enter the search market one step too far for the social networking behemoth?

My initial reaction was that this is a step too far.  Although no technology company is ever untouchable (look at the declining fortunes of Nokia), Google’s dominance of the search market and the web economy shows no signs of slowing.

This venture into search actually parallels Google’s avenue into social media: Google Plus was launched last year in an attempt to leverage the company’s ownership of search and content and thus grab a slice of an extremely lucrative social pie.  But even the most ardent Google fan would have to admit that this venture has not been met with the success the search giant would have hoped for.

As of September 2012, Google Plus boasts 400m accounts, which, at half of Facebook’s membership, gained in only a year, is a staggering achievement.  But the truth is that many of these accounts have simply been given automatically to people who use various other Google products, such as Gmail – and this may go some way to explaining the low engagement rate.

And this is not to say that Google Plus is a failure: it has a beautiful UI, its integration with search results allows us to see content publicly ‘+1’d’ in search results and features such as hangouts and circles have been lauded by many tech commentators and consumers alike.  But despite this, the platform has simply failed to inspire the wider general public in the way that Facebook has.

So if Google, a company with almighty clout, has ‘failed’ to dent Facebook’s ownership of social, what makes Facebook think that it can take on search?

There’s a lot of compelling arguments to suggest that Facebook is in a good position to do just that.  Search links people with content, and Facebook is one of the biggest sources of content generation on the Internet.  Facebook is a visible part of our everyday lives and a digital destination that we use frequently throughout the day.  Adding a service such as search makes it easier for users, right?

I’m not so sure.

You see, for me, one of the big appeals of social media is its serendipitous nature.  I like browsing through my feeds, stumbling over amusing photos that friends have shared on Facebook; reading an article that a colleague has posted on Twitter; discovering some amazing research from a contact on LinkedIn.  Browsing and discovering are wonderful features of social media – and browsing is very different to search.

When we search for something, we actively know what we want; what we are looking for.  And tools such as Google and Bing serve that need perfectly.  When I log into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, I don’t go there because I’m after a specific piece of information – I go there to discover.  And that’s crucial.

Social media connects me with content, which, granted, is exactly what search does.  But when I visit my social channels, I’m engaging in a journey of discovery.  I don’t know whether I’ll stumble across a fascinating piece of research shared by a colleague, or a photograph of a cat dressed in a cowboy outfit posted by a sibling.  If I knew exactly what content that I wanted to consume, the chances are that I would have turned to Google to seek out my insightful research article.  Or cat picture…

You could argue that Facebook is in a position to offer both – serendipitous moments of discovery shared by friends, as well as providing a search feature.  But, in my opinion, Facebook needs to be very careful that it doesn’t dilute its proposition as the world’s foremost social networking platform – which it is – by trying to model itself into a sole hub for people’s entire internet experience.

For me, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google – all of these channels have been so successful because they own their particular features – and are damn good at what they do.  Trying to shoehorn a service offered ten times better elsewhere leaves a company in danger of diluting the core proposition that made it so successful in the first place.

And for me, that’s why I believe that Facebook should search outside of search for any new additions to its popular service.


Things are getting Pinteresting…

The public’s appetite for new and innovative social networks shows no signs of abating, with Pinterest rapidly emerging as ‘the’ social media phenomenon of early 2012.

Between September and December 2011, unique users on the site grew by 400%.  As of February 2012, the site has 10.4 million registered users and an average of 2 million users per day.  And its explosive growth has been the fastest of any independent website of all time, taking less than nine months to reach that impressive 10 million users mark.

So what is Pinterest?  At base, Pinterest is a ‘visual pinboard’, allowing users to ‘pin’ images onto ‘boards’ on their profiles, according to themes, groups and passions.  According to the site:

Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favourite recipes.  Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

And perhaps this description goes some way to explaining the unique gender demographics of this network.  Statistics show that 97% of Pinterest’s Facebook fans are women, a demographic split that is replicated fairly accurately on the main Pinterest site.  And these women have been adopting Pinterest in their droves…

Between September and December 2011, unique users on the site grew by 400%.  As of February 2012, the site has 10.4 million registered users and an average of 2 million users per day.  And its explosive growth has been the fastest of any independent website of all time, taking less than nine months to reach that impressive 10 million users mark.

What does this mean for brands?

Needless to say, the sheer number of consumers flocking to Pinterest makes the platform an attractive proposition for brands and businesses.  Add to this the fact that Pinterest currently drives more traffic to third-party websites than Google + and LinkedIn combined, and you can quickly see a huge opportunity for the right brands in this innovative new space.

Indeed, many of the world’s biggest brands have flocked to Pinterest already – but how are they using it?

Clothing and ‘lifestyle’ brands such as GAP have been quick to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon, creating mood boards that reflect ‘inspiration’ for their latest collections and ‘denim icons’.  What does this do?  It allows GAP to curate a broad visual identity for itself, building lifestyle and aspirational messaging into its branding simply through subtle image association.  A well-executed and proven method to build on a brand identity through a popular new platform.

Other businesses have taken a more commercial approach to Pinterest, using its visual appeal to showcase products in a way that consumers find easy and appealing.  Tarte Cosmetics (in the US) uses its Pinterest boards to display its broad product ranges by category, offering a brief description with each picture.  Due to Pinterest’s simplicity, all users have to do is click on the desired image and they are taken directly to the product page on the company’s e-commerce platform.

Brands can also offer users the chance to pin their images onto the brands boards.  This is yet another example of social crowd-sourcing that allows consumers to feel closer to, and valued by, the brands they interact with as part of their world.

The Future?

There’s no doubt that Pinterest is big business – and here to stay.  It undoubtedly has strengths in certain key areas and naturally appeals to certain demographics that are visual-led, for example fashion, photography, retail, clothing, make-up etc.  These prominent ‘sectors’ also explain why Pinterest is such a female-dominated platform.

However, the advent of ‘digital snacking’ has seen users shift towards visual images and short copy as a preferred means of digital consumption.  Pinterest highlights this shift and brands would be wise to consider how their business could utilise this latest craze.

The Digital Landscape in 2012

There’s no questioning that the pace of digital technology (and indeed, its subsequent adoption by consumers) means that each year, digital practitioners and marketing types face a new set of channels, mediums, challenges and of course, possibilities..

 Whilst I am loathe to add to the glut of run-of-the-mill, obvious ‘digital predictions’ currently swilling around the Internet’s waters (especially given we’re now well into January already!), I feel compelled to jot down my thoughts on the digital year ahead. 

In no particular order, here is what I envisage the digital landscape to consist of in 2012, providing the Mayans weren’t right and we’re not all doomed of course…

 1. Mobile

 Mobile is one of those mediums that seems to crop up in these ‘prediction’ lists annually now, but 2012 really will be different.  There’s absolutely no question that the advent of smartphones has triggered a fundamental shift in how society communicates with brands and each other, as well as with the world around them.

 Sources vary, but latest figures put UK smartphone ownership at around 36% of the adult population, up from 27% from August 2011 – and this will only continue to grow in 2012.  Add this to the fact that consumers are becoming more mobile-savvy (40% now know what a QR code is) and using mobiles when shopping and you quickly realise that we’re on the cusp of some big things for the medium. 

 What does this mean for marketing communications?  Quite simply, the ability to reach our target audience with timely locations in the geographical locations we deem effective.  This could be product information, conversion tools, offers or CRM information.  But the advanced nature of mobile phones, coupled with the increasing adoption of mobile internet and geo-location services spells big things for the mobile future.

 2. Social CRM

 Thankfully, the social media debate has (seemingly) finally been put to bed.  It’s here, it’s lasted, it’s not a fad and its benefits are clear for even the most ardent sceptic to see.  However, businesses are still looking for ways to quantify their investment and maximise their efforts – and why not?

 Social media analytics packages are now reaching advanced levels and social media’s integration with other digital channels (e-commerce, websites etc.) has allowed businesses to see the value in joined-up strategic execution.  So the question is no longer ‘should we do social media’ but rather ‘how well do we do it’?

 In 2012, I believe that more and more businesses will start analysing their social media activity and joining up the dots on a consumer’s digital journey.  We can collect rich data from consumers through their digital activity, whether mobile, online or indeed, on social media, so working out ways to offer intrinsic value to these customers and segment them through social networks remains a powerful concept – and one that we will see integrated into business in 2012.   

 3. Augmented Reality

 I believe that 2012 will also be a hugely exciting year for augmented reality.  Whilst digital marketing geeks such as myself have been bouncing around with excitement at the possibilities of AR for a few years now, it’s only literally in the last few months that we have seen working examples wheeled out to the public in high-profile marketing campaigns.

 Just as 2011 saw consumers starting to engage with QR codes that brands sprinkled liberally on every press ad and piece of packaging they could, 2012 will see consumers starting to engage with augmented reality executions.

 For a young technology, I believe that the coming 12 months will see the majority of AR provide ‘brand theatre’ and add some fun, excitement and innovation to marketing campaigns.  It’s a fantastically creative medium and one that holds limitless possibilities for marketing campaigns, making AR a big thing to watch in 2012.


 So there we have it – I could list plenty of other areas I believe 2012 holds big things for, but shall stop (for now) at these three core examples. 

 Every year in digital is fast-paced, challenging, fun and packed with learnings, opportunities and incredible executions – and 2012 will be no different.

What do you think?  Do you agree with my list?  Have I missed anything?  Leave your comments below!

BeKnown: will it fail to change BeHaviour?

Since this weekend, my various social media channels have been ‘buzzing’ (pun very much intended) with ‘BeKnown’, a new Facebook app from Monster, one of the UK’s largest job boards.

The premise of the BeKnown app is simple: provide a professional networking platform within the most popular social network platform in the world, making professional use of your ‘friends’ and their connections.  Put simply, Monster is attempting to recreate LinkedIn within Facebook.

The accompanying promotional material claims that being able to use Facebook for both personal AND professional networking provides users with the convenience of having one place in which to conduct all their digital networking – and I can certainly see this.

Those who fear mixing their personal, private selves with a professional persona need not worry; BeKnown only allows connections to see the information contained within the actual application, thus avoiding exposing your professional contacts to photos of your boozy stag do in Blackpool.

So in theory, a comprehensive professional app within Facebook’s walls sounds like a great way to network with professionals and utilise your friends’ networks too, right?  I have my reservations.

As a digital marketer, I know from first-hand experience how challenging it is to change customer behaviour and pertinently, I believe that BeKnown is attempting to do just that.  Despite Facebook’s position as THE poster boy for social media, LinkedIn is by no means a small player, with over 150m members.  LinkedIn has grown organically over the last few years to become the de facto place for job seekers, networkers and recruiters to engage in professional activity.

Which leads me onto my second point: if we are to successfully change consumer behaviour, then we need to offer compelling reasons to do so – and as yet, BeKnown offers nothing different to LinkedIn.  I understand that these are very early days, but everything appears to be a carbon copy of LinkedIn, for example ‘Endorsements’ instead of ‘Recommendations’; ‘connections’, ‘experience’ etc. – there’s no dynamic unique selling point that makes me think, ‘wow, I NEED to be on BeKnown!’

Finally, BeKnown offers a ‘gamification’ element, with the issue of badges for certain tasks.  Gamification has become prevalent in social media society – apps such as Foursquare and GetGlue allow users to ‘compete’ with each other for points and badge unlocks, conveying social prestige and social currency.  But in professional terms, this aspect has been relatively untested.  One could argue that issuing users with ‘stickers’ for various professional achievements could in fact ‘cheapen’ those feats.

It’s very early days yet, and Monster seems to have invested a lot of work into a slick, well-functioning app.  However, asking users to completely change their behaviour and switch their allegiance from a very established professional platform in LinkedIn to Facebook, which has traditionally been focused on the personal rather than the professional, could be tricky indeed.

Only time will tell…

Advertising is Dead: Long Live Engagement.

OK, so advertising is not actually ‘dead’; however it’s syntactical position as the exclamation mark or full-stop in a campaign has been usurped by the genuine need to engage and interact with consumers.

It’s interesting to see how different brands, different businesses and different sectors are employing this need to engage with their customers.  This weekend, I visited Tesco as usual to carry out the weekly food shop, when the following piece of in-store signage caught my eye:

This signage struck me for a number of reasons:

i) It blurs the boundaries between the offline shopping experience and online engagement.  Supermarkets have traditionally bombarded us with in-store signage in order to tempt us with special offers and multi-buys.  However, this piece of advertising clearly goes beyond that and considers the shopper long after they have left the store.

ii) The QR code is a nice touch – it allows smartphone users to access more information (and thus, engage more deeply) with the brand right there and then.  My only criticism is that the social media handles are not signposted clearly for those who do not use QR codes – an ‘@Tesco’ for example would allow customers to search specifically when they got home.

iii) There is an opportunity for genuine two-way interaction and engagement – customers are asked to submit their own recipe and get involved with Tesco’s new venture, the Real Food TV show.

iv) The platform on Facebook itself is innovative, dynamic and adds value, offering a place to compile and view recipes.  Not only is this a nice tool in itself, but it offers clear potential for several repeat visits.

v) It ties in with Tesco’s key business – the app details food that is ‘in season’ etc., providing a clear call-to-action for consumers to return back to the store and spend money.

In a previous post, we saw how Facebook’s marketers are talking about the new cycle of social engagement, and this piece of social marketing activity adheres to each step in that cycle:

AWARENESS: In-store signage
INTEREST: Competition mechanic and recipe feature
DECISION: QR codes and social channels visited
ACTION: Interaction with the application online
RECOMMENDATION: The ability to share / tweet tool with friends

Engagement is not solely the preserve of social media channels, as we saw in my recent ‘Social Media is a Budweiser Bottle’ blog post.  Social media undoubtedly acts as the platform in which brands can engage consumers more deeply than ever before, but successful brand engagement is an integrated phenomenon.

And this first-class example from Tesco highlights how the offline and online channels are becoming ever more intertwined.

Social Media is a Budweiser Bottle…

Social ‘media’ has undoubtedly acted as the catalyst in creating a more connected, social world in the digital space, but humans have been ‘social’ long before the advent of Facebook et al.

This brilliant new campaign from Bud Light uses special labels on its bottles that drinkers can etch messages on using a key or blunt object, penning anything from a name or party invite to a mobile number:

Although undoubtedly a gimmick, this is a great piece of marketing that taps directly into our fascination with being social, sharing and communicating with each other – yet the only social ‘media’ being used is a glass bottle!

Needless to say, there’s support for this campaign on the brand’s Facebook page, ensuring that interaction and engagement can continue into the online space through established social media platforms.

But the pertinent point is this: Bud Light started this campaign by creating something that taps into our fundamental psychological fascination with communication and being social.

Of course, social media allows us to reach and engage with consumers in authentic new ways never before seen. But at the very heart of any social strategy, we need to remember that, like the Bud Light bottle, we need to appeal to real people in ways that fascinate and engage them.

2 Innovative Digital CVs

The expanding availability of digital tools has meant that today’s job seekers can employ ever more creative, innovative and dynamic ways of grabbing the attention of prospective employers, whilst social media can help the good ones go viral.

Here are two of my favourites…

QR Code CV

Victor Petit’s phenomenal integration of QR code technology and YouTube video with the traditional CV resulted in one of the most dynamic résumés ever:

YouTube CV

Having recently graduated, Gareth Cash is looking for work as a production assistant.  The YouTube CV is starting to become more common; yet it’s rare to find videos as creative, innovative and truly charming as this one.  (Thanks to Sara Doron for bringing this to my attention!)