Category Archives: Social Media

Mark My Words. This is where Social Networks are heading – PART 2

Facebook and Twitter were two very different animals… until Google+ hit the scene.   G+ developed their network around the most popular features of Twitter and Facebook and addressed their deficits by creating Circles.  Facebook in turn stole the Circles idea.  Until recently, Social Networks have pretended that there’s no such thing as competition.  But when they roll out features that bear a striking resemblance to their rivals’, it becomes obvious that they’re paying attention.  They try to play it cool, but they are freaking out!  The new competitive pressure being placed on companies like Facebook and Twitter will completely shift the way they operate.

The more that each network resembles the next, the less incentives we have to create multiple profiles and visit each on a regular basis.  Dashboards like TweetDeck, SproutSocial, and Hootsuite allow us to check several profiles in a single place, but somehow lack the same sense of community provided by the networks themselves.  The bottom line is that few users will visit multiple networks every day and dashboards are just not as fun and community centric as the real deal.  So what’s the solution?  Social Networks will become more like dashboards.

I call this Open Architecture – meaning at some point, I will be able to settle on the network that I prefer but still interact with my friends from outside networks.  How is that any different than a phone company?  The plans, phones, and features that distinguish one cell phone company from another are minimal and easily copied – rollover minutes, touch screens, family plans.  Instead they compete on customer service, coverage, and market share to draw in customers.

I have been an ATT customer for almost 15 years (long before there was such thing as an iPhone).  They reward me for calling people within my network but that doesn’t stop me from calling my brother who has Verizon.  We each communicate over the phones and company we like the best, but we don’t all have to be on the same network to do so.

Social Networks will start taking a cue from the phone companies.  Google already allows users to post their G+ stream to Twitter and Facebook – essentially turning those sites into dashboards.  Facebook will fight this with every ounce of their being, and rightfully so.  (After all, they do have the largest market share when it comes to Social Network users.)  But at the end of the day, the Network that becomes the best dashboard, will get the most traffic.  Facebook will have to follow suit just like they did with their reactions to video chat and Circles.

I love competition.  Imagine how hard Networks would fight over you, the user, if you could easily transfer your profile, contacts, and photos to a different network of your choice – just like phone companies let you keep your number when you make a switch and help you transfer your contacts from phone to phone.

As a consumer I don’t want to be taken for granted.  I love seeing Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and imminent newcomers fight over my business.  Competition is a good thing.  The Networks that embrace it will become giants.  The ones that pretend it doesn’t exist will find they have a lot in common with MySpace.

Check out Part 1 of “Mark My Words. This is Where Social Networks are Heading

Image courtesy of http://ow.ly/aukaw 

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.

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.

Why I’d Rather Be a Social Media Rock Star than a Supermodel

Future brand endorsements belong to Social Media rock stars.  Forget athletes and pop stars.  Websites like Klout are breeding a whole new type of celebrity – Influencers.  When Influencers tweet, people pay attention.  Brands are already finding ways to tap into this advertising goldmine by capitalizing on their follower cache.  This monumental shift is changing the world of Marketing and determining who is worth a company’s advertising dollars.  Celebrities will slowly be edged out by those who are leading the Social Media movement.

Klout looks at your Social Media profiles and scores you based on both the number and quality of the people you associate with online.  A high score reflects two things: 1) You are interesting enough that people not only care about what you say but they spread the word when you speak and 2) your following is vast and desirable enough that your message can influence.  Major brands are quickly taking notice of Influencers and moving endorsement dollars in their direction.

Imagine planning a trip to Vegas.  The hotel concierge notices that you’re a Social Media pro and upgrades your room.  Throughout your trip, you tweet about living it up like a Vegas god and post pictures of yourself in the Hugh Hefner Suite on Facebook.  Your hotel just earned advertising that comes across as both genuine and convincing.  Not a bad trade considering what the cost of a billboard on the Vegas strip goes for.  It’s not as far-fetched as you think considering The Palms Hotel has been reviewing guests’ Klout scores and handing out upgrades and free Cirque du Soleil tickets for almost a year now.

Unlike a Vegas billboard, Klout allows companies to evaluate specific Influencers, analyze their following and direct their message to a very targeted group.  Why would Coors Light want to give an incentive to just anyone with a high score when they can instead target the top 10 Influencers on Beer (Yeah.  That’s a real category).  Whether they’re offering to let you test drive a new Audi or handing out a free Frappuccino, the bottom line is that they want you talking about their brand and they will give you a reason to give a glowing review.

The Influencer’s emergence in brand marketing is still in its infancy, but you don’t have to look too far back to see history repeating itself.  Almost any American Vogue cover through the 90s featured the likes of Cindy, Naomi, Kate and Giselle.  Fashion covers were reserved for supermodels.  But when editors took notice that readers were more interested in what their favorite actresses had to say, they were quick to make a change.   The most recent Vogue coves to date showcase singer Rihanna and actresses Reese Witherspoon, Penelope Cruz, and Emma Watson.   Not a supermodel in sight.  The shift reflected a fundamental change what type of celebrities had influence.

Social Media has created an entirely new type of celebrity and their endorsement is a lot cheaper than that of Tiger Woods (pre scandal) or some Hollywood starlet.  Of course, today they might be getting a free hotel upgrade and tomorrow they might be signing an official ad deal with a six figure paycheck.  Either way, there’s no denying that life as Social Media superstar certainly comes with its benefits.

Google Plus You Minus Facebook

It doesn’t matter how good your Social Network is if you can’t build a hardcore fan base.  Google+ has yet to open to the public but has already mobilized an army of dedicated users offering rave reviews about its awesomeness.  So long as Google+ Beta is an invite only club, they continue to create a pool of Early Adopters who will commit their undying support for this new venture and create a buzz more valuable than any purchased advertising.  Google has cleverly found a way to grow their army of Early Adopters exponentially before ever officially launching their new network to the public.

Being an Early Adopter is a badge of pride and a difficult bond to break.  My husband STILL brags about the fact that he joined Facebook when it was called THE Facebook and required a college email address to sign up.  Twitter’s initial launch fell flat until they followed their small fan base to SXSW.  They didn’t just offer the tech savvy audience a sneak peak at the new network but the elite experience of giving it a spin at a once in a lifetime event. In both instances, the networks created Early Adopters who became their most diehard fans and biggest cheerleaders.

Google+ Beta is no different.  Everyone seems to be in agreement: It’s a polished, super simplified version of Facebook… and people LOVE it!  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve fallen prey to the Early Adopter Syndrome.   I know I’m not a hotshot, but when my Google+ invite finally arrived, I became a trendsetter (at least in my own mind).  I imagine this must be what motivates Apple fanatics to sleep outside an Apple store before a big launch just to be the first to have the new iWhatever.  Especially when they know full well that everyone and their mom will have one of their own in a couple days.

There is one more thing worth mentioning about the much coveted Google+ invite.  It doesn’t have to come from Google, just someone who has a Google+ account.  In fact anywhere you go online you can find someone willing to spread the invite love around.  So an invite is not just an invite, it’s the keys to the city.  It allows you to invite as many people (with gmail accounts) as you want.  Now you’re not only an Early Adopter but you get to allow other people to claim the same title.  While in Beta, it may not be open to the public, but it’s very much open to the public.  Even I’m guilty of sending invites to online strangers anxious to be the first of their friends to try it out.

It’s a brilliant move on Google’s part.  As invites spread like wildfire, it still maintains its exclusive feel making every new user feel like a trendsetter and thus developing a solid bond with the new network.  Being an Early Adopter means you get to be part of something big before it becomes big.  You feel invested and loyal.  My hat is off to the marketing geniuses behind Google.  Their Early Adopter plan is simple but genius – exactly how the first users describe Google+.

I Am Not a Very Nice Person. But Social Media Can Help

When it comes to being a “good person” – you know, making the world a better place – I am well intentioned. I am also lazy and forgetful. Three years ago, I proudly walked in a local Breast Cancer Awareness walk. It was great! I walked for an hour with neighbors and my dog and could just sense that my involvement had brought the world one step closer to finding a cure. The following year it was entirely off my radar. I should have donated the same sum of money regardless of whether or not I walked an hour long loop around downtown, but it didn’t even occur to me to do so. It’s an embarrassing confession that I would never bring to light if it weren’t to make a point.

My sense of connection to a charity directly influences my desire to donate time and money. Fundraising is crucial to charity survival. I want to be passionate about a worthy cause. Simply scribbling out a check seems detached and cold. I should be doing more, but I have a job, I have a husband. I have dog fur balling up in corners somewhere. “More” of anything is nearly impossible. And so I do nothing.

People want to feel involved, committed, and attached. It’s easy to feel this sense of camaraderie for an hour long walk. But sustaining that feeling takes work. Social Media engagement can foster individual connections to a cause during the rest of the year that’s void of fundraiser walks. Spotting posts in your newsfeed builds your familiarity with the organization and awareness of the cause. It can give a face to a disease and share the stories of someone affected.

Social Media takes the momentum of an annual fundraising event and creates a constant state of charitable activity throughout the year. One Breast Cancer Awareness Facebook page posts discussions, informs about advances in research and encourages members to involve their friends. They even feature a button where one free click helps fund mammograms. Social Media plugs people into a community and a network of caring.

Displaying your “like” of a particular charity is akin to displaying a pink ribbon on your key chain or wearing any number of colored rubber wrist bands. A Social Media connection both displays our pride in and support of a particular cause, but also serves as a status symbol, advertising our characters and our priorities. It’s not that people are inherently selfish or heartless. But they are busy. They have things to do, things that are ultimately less significant than curing breast cancer, but much more immediate. Most genuinely want to help charities, but must feel a connection to the organization first. They need to feel like they did more than just cut a check. Something as constant and immediate as dog fur. Social Media plugs participants into a continuous state of support rather than relying only on a spike in participation for notable events. It powerfully spreads awareness and keeps the message moving between 10Ks and galas. It explains why Breast Cancer Walks are so successful. For one day, participants feel like the most charitably involved people in the world. Social Media can keep that dedication going long after the pink t-shirts have been handed out.

Facebook and Twitter Users Have Been Known to Get Around

Can you imagine Steve Jobs using an Android smartphone?  Me neither.  Betrayed Apple fanatics far and wide would crucify him if their heads didn’t explode at the mere thought of it.  If the concept of Jobs touching a competitor’s product seems so improbable, on what planet does it make sense for Facebook to have a Twitter page and Twitter to have a Facebook page?

As each other’s greatest adversaries, is it a respect thing?  Are their networks so widespread that not having profiles on each other’s networks would be like ignoring each other at a dinner party?  Perhaps they are recognizing each other as worthy competitors, like boxers bumping gloves before a fight.  Of course, after Facebook got busted planting negative Google stories in the press, it seems unlikely that Zuckerberg is all that concerned with propriety.

What’s so interesting about Twitter’s site on Facebook and Facebook’s site on Twitter is that for such innovative and tech savvy companies, their pages are pretty uninspired.  It is not uncommon for Facebook to go four or five days without tweeting.  Twitter’s Facebook page is no better – limited posts, no photo albums.  It uses only the bare bones Facebook features.  They don’t even bother modifying their wall.  At least Facebook features a couple jet silhouettes on their Twitter wall.  What little jet silhouettes have to do with Facebook, I’m not quite sure, but at least it’s a small attempt at customization.

Obviously both networks are there out of some sort of obligation.  They are on each other’s sites, but they don’t really want to be there.  Their pages are not out of respect for each other.  In fact, it’s not for their benefit at all.  It’s for yours.

Let’s revisit the preposterous concept of catching Steve Jobs using anything Android.  What is the major difference between Apple fanatics and Social Network users?   Apple supporters are in a committed relationship.  They are a devoted, stand-by-their-brand group of people – willing to wait in line for days prior to a product launch just to be the first to have the new iAnything.  They have chosen Apple and will stand by their choice no matter what new Android feature is unveiled.

Apple fans are brand monogamous while Social Media users flirt with every promising networking site that comes along.  Facebook has over 1 million followers on Twitter.  Twitter has over 700,000 fans on Facebook.  That’s just a tiny reflection of the total number of people cheating on one site with the other.  Most users are pretty brazen about their Social Media disloyalty sending Direct Messages to new Twitter followers that read, “Thanks for the follow!  Let’s chat on Facebook!”

Twitter and Facebook recognize that subscribers use both platforms and are not ready to choose one over the other.  Their bland pages on their competitor’s websites are their attempt to prove to you that they are okay with the fact that you are dating them both.  Realistically, they are each other’s direct competition and they don’t want you to have anything to do with the other.

This lack of tech brand loyalty is new and unchartered territory, forcing companies to be cordial and interact with each other’s brands in unprecedented ways.  Social Network subscribers are tough to tie down.  They are all about free love and using whichever site feels good at the moment and few are whole heartedly committed to one or the other.  Facebook hates being on Twitter.  Twitter doesn’t want to have anything to do with Facebook.  But they pretend to make nice for your sake as if to say “We don’t mind if you date other people.  We’re totally cool with that.  Watch how cool we can be!”

David vs Goliath: How Niche Social Networks are Kicking The Giant’s Ass

Sometime this week we will experience a first for Twitter.  You will be able to (Drumroll please…) tweet photos!  Well, actually you’ve been able to share photos all along but now it won’t require a third party app to do so.  And yes, this is still big news even though sharing photos has been a component of the Social Network landscape since the hay day of MySpace.  As each social site grows, they continue to adopt each other’s’ winning features – much to the detriment of their individuality.

Say my alma mater, Santa Clara University, decides to have an alumni event at a San Francisco Giants game.  Do I Check In using Facebook or do I use Foursquare as I enter the ballpark?  Do I post pictures of my $4 hotdog to my friends on Facebook or for thousands of Giants fans to envy on Twitter?  At the end of the game, after a triumphant Giants victory do I share my elation on Twitter, Facebook, or maybe LinkedIn under the SCU Alumni group.  I should post it to the SCU Alum Facebook page.  No wait, maybe their Twitter page with a #SFGiants.  Oh crap, doesn’t SCU have an Alumni page on Foursquare?

In an attempt to compete with each other, the Social Network titans are actually diminishing the distinctions between each other.  The wake of this homogenization has given rise to what may be the next generation of Social Media: the niche market.  There are now dedicated sites for everything from dolls to beer.  If you’re an avid reader, you may have more luck visiting goodreads than asking your Facebook friends for a book recommendation.  Aspiring designers who dream of one day hearing Project Runway’s Tim Gunn telling them to “Make it work” should check out BurdaStyle (no hashtags required).

Instead of emulating the big boys of Social Networking, Path has gained notice by emphasizing their dissimilarities.  The second question in their FAQ section is “How is Path different from Facebook and Twitter?”  It won’t allow you to have any more than 50 friends, which quickly eliminates self-promoters and anyone collecting friends and followers like baseball cards.

Niche sites offer a highly concentrated experience for the user – quality over quantity.  Rather than broadening the scope of their services, the big names in Social Networking may be wise to focus on specialization.  Would it be so awful if they just stayed in their respective lanes and committed themselves to what drew users to them in the first place?  Why can’t Twitter be used primarily to compile news and information from the masses?  What’s wrong with only using Facebook to share your vacation photos with friends and family?  You could Check In on Foursquare and further your career on Linked In.  After all, no one wants to meet their boss in the same place where friends post comments about their party antics, and people don’t want to seek professional advice on the network where they gripe about their boss.

The titans of Social Media aren’t leaving their thrones anytime soon.  Even Path asks you to follow them on Twitter.But as the distinctions between networks blurs more each day, they should start viewing the niche networks to size up the incoming competition.

Image courtesy of http://ow.ly/auoPv 

Status Updates Vs. Real Experience

People love to credit digital cameras for their ability to take incessant photos.  Film never stopped me, though.  I have bins and bins filled to the brim with photos and negatives.  I captured every moment on film the same way most people now record them digitally. Digital just further enabled my budding photography addiction.  My photography obsession is based entirely on its archival abilities.  Every photograph is a documentary, cataloging every instant of my life both big and small.

I’ve become so consumed with photography that I have a tough time letting a moment pass with my family and friends without a camera in hand.  I love looking through my pictures.  I love that people are impressed when I get the perfect shot.  The only problem is that when you spend that much effort trying to capture every moment on film (or a SIM card), you let those prized moments slip right past you.

Social Media shares the same quality.  Every status update captures a feeling or an opinion about something we’re experiencing.   It fascinates me that Facebook is like my very own time capsule.  There are even apps to generate albums from your Facebook photos and status updates.  This archival quality is the exact element that feeds my photography addiction.  It’s an incredible record of experiences from the momentous to the mundane.  Though, sometimes I wonder if my desire to connect online distracts me from connecting in person.

Last weekend I was forced to put this theory to the test.  Saturday was my second wedding… to the same guy.  Most people don’t get the opportunity to get married to the same person twice, but I highly recommend it!  Thursday morning, amidst wedding planning chaos, my iPhone finally kicked the bucket.  On one hand, I was thrilled to buy my new Android.  On the other hand, with a house full of guests and a list of last minute errands, I had zero time to learn how it worked.

My cell phone is more like my home office than a phone.  It’s within reach at any given moment.  My husband even joked that I might interrupt the priest to quickly reply to an email during the ceremony.  I was beyond familiar with my iPhone.  Without thinking I could check my four email accounts, update my Facebook status and return a text or two.  Being unacquainted with my new phone meant I was suddenly disconnected for the entire weekend – a first in a very long time.  When it buzzed, I had no idea if it meant I had a text or an email, much less what the fastest way to check either was.  I hadn’t set up my Facebook or Twitter apps yet, meaning I had to access my phone’s actual internet browser to check my profiles – much too time consuming for my liking.

As I drove around Saturday morning running last minute errands before the ceremony, I had to fight the urge to pull out my phone while driving and respond to emails or see what was happening on Facebook.  (Some people would call that a traffic violation.  I like to think of it as multi-tasking).  With my new phone, I couldn’t jump to my emails without staring at the screen.

At one point, while sitting at a stoplight I managed to check Facebook and see a comment about my soon-to-be second wedding.  Just like a photograph, friends’ comments marked the occasion – mostly with jokes about getting remarried to the same person after only 5 years.  I was already anticipating how I would update my status throughout the day or post pictures of myself in my new BCBG dress.  I compiled a mental list of the photos I planned to take throughout the day.

Then something significant happened.  I came face-to-face with the realization that you can’t take photos of your own wedding.  This was a big deal considering we hadn’t hired a photographer for Wedding #2 and I’m usually the one snapping away at family occasions.  As I handed my SLR over, I considered all the times that I was so determined to preserve the moment, that I didn’t really appreciate being in the moment itself.

The funny thing about weddings is that they fly by in a split second and if you don’t savor every second it will just seem like a blur.  Given that this wasn’t my first rodeo, I knew this all too well.  As I stood on an altar and exchanged my vows for a second time, I decided to completely let go of all other thoughts and really let the moment sink in.  Any concerns about status updates or work emails were overtaken by pure enjoyment.  I let go of my cyber life and the desire to update anyone who wasn’t present.  I let it sink in how moved I was that my husband of five years still had to fight back a tear or two when he saw me walk down the aisle.  It was incredible!

I tried to keep that mentality as the reception got underway.  All morning I had thought about the status updates and photos I would post online.  Instead, every time I considered pulling out my phone, I opted to dance with my niece or catch up with relatives and friends that I hadn’t seen in some time.  I basically avoided any interaction that was limited to 140 characters or less.  It was an interesting phenomenon.

Occasionally, throughout the night I felt the urge to mention something, anything, about what was going on.  Social Media and smart phones make it all too convenient to connect with people in real time.  Sometimes it feels as though postponing a possible status update by an hour or, god forbid a day, will mean it’s no longer relevant.  I finally had to resign myself to the fact that I would just have to rely on mental snapshots.  It ended up being the best party I’d been to in a long time (and I’m not just saying that because I got to shove cake in my husband’s face).

Sunday morning, I woke up to the realization that we never got the group photo that I had planned on and I wasn’t even sure that my husband and I had taken a picture just the two of us the entire evening.  Normally, that would kill me, but the whole day was so perfectly engrained in my memory that the photos were just icing on my delicious mango wedding cake.

I still haven’t posted anything about the ceremony on Facebook.  Unless someone else uploaded their photos, you won’t find a picture of John and me sharing our first kiss as husband and wife… again.  Obsessing over updating our status as events unfold and being tethered to our email and text feels like a great way to stay connected, but causes such a disconnect to the events unfolding around us and the people standing right in front of our faces.  Now don’t get me wrong, the second the dust settles I plan to clock some serious get-to-know-you time with my new phone and a Facebook album with follow shortly thereafter.  But this weekend served as a powerful reminder to stop and smell the roses every once in a while… not text about them, not take a picture of them, not comment on Facebook about them… Just enjoy them. 

It’s Just A Game – Part 2

Foursquare and Twitter have their own sets of rules.  But what makes a game a game?  Having a winner and a loser – or at the very least keeping score.  Klout is an online service that does just that.  It grades you based on your Social Media influence.  It calculates how many people will view any given update you post on Facebook or Twitter.  Then it gauges how many of those viewers will actually do something because of your post –such as click, “Like”, or retweet.  With those variables, they assign you a score from 1-100.  The higher your score, the better you are at the Social Media game and the more people want to associate with you online.  Your Klout ranking quickly assesses whether you are in fact a winner or a loser.

Whether the rules are obvious, like with Foursquare, or a matter of trial and error, like Twitter, there certainly are rewards for playing the game correctly.  For any brand, high Klout scores and plenty of followers may lead to the holy grail of Twitter rewards… a little blue check next to your name!  That little mark means you have so many engaged fans and therefore SO much online influence, that Twitter needed to obtain documentation to prove you are who you say you are online.  That little blue check means you are so significant that you made it onto Twitter’s radar – and anyone who knows anything about Twitter, knows you’re kind of a big deal.

The Foursquare equivalent would be the coveted “SuperUser” badge.  It’s a strange reward.  You essentially become an unpaid intern.  You edit inaccuracies and grammatical errors or merge duplicate venue listings on their website.  For a dedicated user, though, this title means you are a hardcore Foursquare user.  Similarly, if you rack up the highest number of visits to a specific business, you earn the Mayor designation (way cooler than a badge).  This honor is a little more up my alley because it can come with perks.  There can only be one mayor for any given location, making the rewards more exclusive and the title more competitive.  Discounts and special offers are commonly offered to Mayors nationwide.  Checkers offer Mayors a free milkshake with every visit.  Site For Sore Eyes awards a year’s worth of free contact lenses.   An LA real estate agency even dolls out $1000 reward if you find them a buyer for one of their listings.  As Foursquare and Groupon consider joining forces, discounts and coupons for specific badges and Mayorships will become even more widespread and more competitive.

Users Check In to Foursquare at all hours of the day and night.   When it comes to the Social Media game, there is no Time Out.  It is constant.  It doesn’t stop on weekends or holidays.  It doesn’t go to sleep.  It also lacks forgiveness, as we learned from our TSV tweet fiasco.  At times, the race to become a winner can feel downright exhausting.  If you’re like me, that’s when you turn to Facebook.  Facebook is my safe haven from the Social Media game.  I don’t accept strangers as my friends.  It’s filled with people, who like in real life, cut me some slack when I get busy and don’t drop me as a friend because I didn’t have time to post something that day.

When the ceaseless game starts feeling like an obligation, do the prizes keep us coming back?  Is a $1 discount off your favorite coffee worth the hassle of Checking In every time you swing by Starbucks?  Is constant vigilance over your tweets and your followers worth that little blue check mark?

Everyone plays the Social Media game for different reasons.  Businesses love Foursquare because it encourages visitors to return over and over and over again.  Foursquare patrons are rewarded with discounts, special offers, or just the amusement of crossing badges off their list.  A high Klout number or Verified Twitter status is a status symbol for any brand.  It signifies influence.  It puts you on the map as a leader in your industry.

Losing 20 Twitter followers in a day was an immediate warning that as a business, we couldn’t afford NOT to play the game.  It’s not always straightforward, and it’s rarely something you can be good at if you only practice intermittently – But the winners go home with some great prizes.

Don’t miss out on It’s Just a Game – Part 1

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