Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mark My Words. This is where Social Networks are heading – PART 1

I just learned that the small town I used to live in will soon have their own Social Network.  This is the type of town where seven degrees of separation should be more like two.  Everyone knows everyone and they’re all up in each other’s business.  I love this town, but when I read this email suggesting how necessary this Network would be … well to be honest… I had a pretty good laugh.  This is the type of town where if you sneeze, 5 minutes later, someone from across town will call you to say God Bless You.

No offense to Small Town, USA but when they start launching their own Social Network, you know the industry is getting saturated.   Just like any other industry this can mean only one thing.  We’re about to see a fundamental shift in the way Social Networks operate.  In addition to the niche networks that are town-specific, occupation-specific, or even beer-specific, the titans of industry are lining up to launch their answers to Facebook and Twitter. 

Only weeks after Google+ invites began hitting our email boxes, Microsoft “accidentally” revealed the home page of their creation, Tulalip.  Even as the tech obsessed debate the staying power of Google+, details are surfacing regarding Twitter cofounders’ next venture, Lift, for people who have potential – unlike the losers on all the other networks (I kid. I kid).  In the next two months, we’ll even see China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, offered in English.

As more Networks come to the table, each struggles to create THE feature that will win over users…  or to STEAL the feature that is getting other networks noticed.  Not surprisingly, Facebook’s new Privacy tool sure looks a lot like Google Circles.  The more Networks try to stand out from one another, the more they resemble each other.  In a strange way, competition is leading to sameness.

People love to debate which Social Network is better?  But at their most basic level, each one is simply some combination of the following: Friends, Followers, Posts, IMs, DMs, media, Circles, Liking, and Checking In.  That’s it.  Each new network claims they’re something special compared to the others, but realistically, they’ve just developed a different combination of the above… or maybe they’ve just applied a tested combination to a different demographic – say Small Town, USA.

Competition is a relatively new concept for companies like Facebook.  I love seeing Networks work a little harder to satisfy users!  It makes companies better.  It makes them work harder to win over consumers and give us the features we crave.  But when competition leads to uniformity, it’s a game changer.  Most people will not regularly check in to three or four big name Social Networks and then throw in a couple Niche networks to cover their home town and their hobbies –especially if they’re the same thing at their core.  So how will this change the entire Social Networking landscape as we know it?

Check back for Part 2 for my prediction.  Then be sure to mention it to your friends so that when it comes to fruition they can call you a genius.

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Viral Commercials are F!@king In!

I hate commercials.  Well, that’s a lie.  I used to hate commercials… until a friend emailed me a link to the new Kenny Powers K-Swiss CEO YouTube video (Uncensored of course).  It is by far the most horribly distasteful, unsuitable-for-most-audiences advertisement I have ever seen.   I would know because I’ve now watched it at least five times.

It features character Kenny Powers, from Eastbound and Down – a TV show that is objectionable to women, athletes, and generally anyone with a mullet.  He’s crude, obnoxious and kind of an idiot and K-Swiss doesn’t water him down either.  I counted 11 expletives typically reserved for HBO within the first 60 seconds (and we’re talking about a five minute commercial).  It’s not the profanity that makes this a phenomenon though.     It’s the fact that the content and language guarantee that it will never be aired on most TV channels alongside animated bears with bits of toilet paper stuck to their butts.  This ad was meant to be seen on YouTube, forwarded in emails, and written about in blogs – then seen on YouTube again.

Considering that it will never hit the airwaves, it was far from an inexpensive production.    K-Swiss parlayed the fortune they would have spent on TV air time into an impressive celebrity lineup.  They paid big bucks to include Jillian Michaels (from The Biggest Loser), NFL stars Matt Cassel, Willis and Director Michael Bay, just to name a few.

That money was riding on the hope that a very specific niche market would find Kenny Powers more hilarious than repulsive (or maybe find his repulsiveness hilarious) and tell a friend.  Two weeks and 658,386 views since the original post and I’d say the risk is paying off.  It’s not for everyone – but that’s exactly why it’s so potent.  It gives viewers the satisfaction of being in a club of people who get the humor and they in turn forward it to someone else who shares the same shameful definition of funny.

Viral marketing is powerful.  I actually paused the TV show I was watching to play the full commercial.  I not only watched the entire five minute ad from start to finish, but cued it right back up again for my husband to watch.  Both of us agreed that I should get a name plate that reads MFCOO and then watched it again before forwarding the link to anyone who could appreciate a character who says things like “Konichiwa Bitches”.

Viewers have become intolerant of material that doesn’t directly target them.  We fast forward through every commercial on our DVRs and opt for the crappy Netflix streaming selection because, hey, at least there are no advertisements.  We are more likely to click on an article that a friend posts on Facebook than if we come across it ourselves in the Wall Street Journal.  Advertisers are learning that their content can’t be all things to all people – but if they direct it at a very specific niche audience, they just might strike viral marketing gold.