Randi Zuckerberg (yes, that Zuckerberg) bounced onto the stage for the keynote speech at ClickZ New York to share her thoughts on new media trends and how these are shaping the lives of modern consumers.
The overarching theme was the increasing role technology plays in all of our lives and the importance of finding the correct life/tech balance. As a business the opportunities lie in identifying ways you can help your users live their lives, whether by motivation, or by saving them time, money or effort.
In more detail:
All brands are media companies
Building on the idea the idea that everyone is a publisher, brands can now dominate media, simply by picking a niche and sticking with it.
Redbull Energy Drinks for example, has more than 43M Facebook fans alone and they now produce their own events and sponsor a Formula1 race car. In 2013, they live streamed the highest ever space jump and it was the most watched livestream ever.
This is all the more remarkable because Redbull is a consumer goods company, a comparatively new one at that, and yet it is now competing with legacy sports networks in terms of engaged fans watching and sharing their events.
The opportunity for any brand is clear: try to tell a story with your products and staff, consider behind-the-scenes videos, or Q+A sessions with the company founders.
This is also true for your employees, they offer distribution via their own social networks. They can represent your brand and their work themselves and promote your company to their friends and followers.
The Internet of Everything
Echoing general noise in the tech industry, the new wave of affordable and occasionally-pretty wearables has interesting implications for brands and users. We live in an age where we can collect data on almost every aspect of our lives, whilst this might be data overload for some, there are still opportunities for brands who embrace it.
A good example is Nest, recently acquired by Google. This app allows you to control elements of your home, such as the thermostat remotely. GoGoGate allows you to open your garage door to drive straight in, an immediate upgrade from those iffy remote controls of the 90s.
In a rather morbid development, Tikker is a watch that counts down the minutes and seconds left in your life (assuming no foul play). Try whipping that out next time you are in a meeting that is going nowhere.
The upshot for most brands is that wearable technology gives us incredible data about out health, exercise and sleep patterns. Try to factor in how your brand can apply this data in a way that is useful for your customers.
Your Currency = Your Connections
In this brave new era of social media, brands should look to their fans and influencers and harness their social weight to promote their products.
Some brands are already starting to do this, whilst others are rewarding those users with considerable social networks.
American Airlines for example, had a program that gave users to access their lounges for free if they have a sufficiently high Klout score. (Above 55 if you are interested). This contest is now over.
Hotel 1888 in Australia is celebrated as “the world’s first instragam hotel”, allowing users with more than 10,000 instagram followers to stay for free.
The good news is that all brands can employ similar tactics, the trick is to identify your passionate, influential users and offer them perks or discounts in exchange for promoting your product to their circles.
Building from direct marketing of the past, from the likes of Avon and Mary Kay, Stella and Dot took this principle and applied it seamlessly to the modern digital age and made it feel cool. Their business model is simple: connect with stylists around the world and offer them commission for anything they sell on behalf of Stella and Dot. They have successfully tapped into their highly engaged, passionate user base and encouraged them to ‘work’ for the company, without the expense of having fulltime employees.
On a similar theme, Liketoknowit is an instagram app that allows your followers to buy the products that they see in your feed. They are then paid a commission based on related sales. If you think of the influence of some social media stars, Bethany Mota or even the more established players (models, actors, stylists) for example, this is incredibly powerful. Bethany Mota has just launched a collection with Aeropostale and Instagram. Aeropostale are betting that her virtual influence will translate into real-world foot traffic and sales.
JOMO over FOMO
Quick recap: FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out.
There is a growing set of people who feel JOMO (the Joy Of Missing Out), people who might feel a bit overwhelmed and overexposed by their digital lives and want some guidance on when to shut down, turn off and tune out, so they too can experience JOMO.
There is an opportunity for brands who can work out how to help them in this quest.
RunPee was mentioned, an app that lets you know when is the best time to nip to the loo during a lull in the film, so you don’t miss out on any of the key action sequences. You can apparently even receive text updates on the plot developments, so you can come back to your seat and still know what is happening. RescueTime and Anti-Social are products with a slightly loftier goal, that of analyzing your computer habits and showing (with pretty visuals) where you are wasting time, Anti-Social can then be used to block your social networks.
Think Like a Maker
We’ve all heard about 3D printing and as it becomes more accessible for a growing number of people, brands can have some fun with their users.
BusinessLife ran an article in 2012 about a 3D printed guitar, in a more futuristic development, scientists at Princeton University shared a 3D printed human ear in 2013.
For brands, there is an opportunity to join the communities who are committed to these new developments. Custommade is one such community, connecting ideas with artisans, however businesses can get involved too, helping would-be inventors troubleshoot or even just posting a wishlist into the universe and seeing who can solve the problems. The key point is to share your ideas with an audience and wait to see what develops.
Visual takes center stage
As a general piece of advice for those new to social media, try to post visual content, the advantage is that it does not need translating. This is especially pertinent for businesses, who can now reach a global audience with their content. Users prefer interacting with images and video, as seen by the rise of Pinterest. The old issue of not having any digital assets to share has evolved, now, thanks to Pinterest, Instagram and the likes of Getty Images recently releasing some 35M images free to the world, everyone has access to more images than they can possibly ever need. With this influx of media, the new role is to curate images and present those to your users.
Dunkin Donuts feature their fans in their social feeds, honouring them as fan of the week. Chobani have more than 8,000 pinned images on their Pinterest boards, designed to both make you hungry and promote the versatility of Chobani as an ingredient.
As a brand, all you have to do is pick one micro-niche and post consistently on that theme.
Mobile for Time-Saving
Mobile apps have evolved since smartphones first hit the market. The truly valuable apps now are those that are not geared towards engagement but instead offer to make user’s lives easier or quicker, whether the afore-mentioned Nest app or Starbucks launching what can only be described as an uber for coffee later this year, namely an app that will allow you to pre-order your coffee. Paypal is working to make payments quicker too, allowing customers to pay in restaurants via their phones instead of queuing up.
When considering the role your app plays in your user’s lives, assess what it is doing for them, a time-saving device is going to be more valuable in the longterm than anything else and this should inform you strategy.
Gamification for Motivation
There is a suite of apps that allow you to share your progress with your friends online, helping users stay motivated to achieve their end goal. The Nike+ app will post your running plans to your networks and applaud you in your headphones every time a friend ‘likes’ it. There is even a charity alarm clock app that donates money every single time you hit the snooze button. If shaming is your thing, there is also Gymshamer, an app that broadcasts your workout no-shows to your followers as a motivator or, Withings, a wifi scale that will broadcast your weight. Whilst the social implications of sharing all of this information publicly are yet to be fully realized, it is still important to focus on the opportunities, is there any way you can encourage your users to ‘game’ your system?
Find a Tech/Life Balance
As our digital lives become ever-more complicated, the need to digitally detox is greater than ever. Several companies are now using this as a product, selling digital detox weekends where all your technology is locked away for the duration of your stay. It is worth exploring if there is any opportunity for your brand to help your users do this
Sarah Kershaw is a search analyst based in New York who engages in freelance writing in her spare time, writing about trends in digital marketing, the future of news and fine art. As a search analyst, Sarah is interested in UX and IA and tends to get very animated when talking about fonts and colours.