Social Media

The year that will be…

Crystal gazing began in right earnest in Dec 2012, and across the web, there were many top x predictions for 2013.

Trendwatching made a list, and my favourites in it were #9 and #10 – “Full Frontal” and “Demanding Brands” respectively. The first was about brands moving further on the transparency curve and proactively showing they have nothing to hide as opposed to merely reacting. The second was about brands getting their consumers to contribute to their sustainability and socially-responsible endeavours.

Branding Strategy Insider made 2 lists – Brand and Digital & Media. In the first, I found #5 – ‘The Known and the Branded’ – a very intriguing thought. Brands being thought of as category placeholders, stuff that doesn’t really stand for anything. Understandably, brands will find it harder to differentiate themselves. In the second list, again #5 – omni-channel marketing is something I have written about earlier while on the subject of cohesive experiences.

JWT has their annual 10 trends list as well, and I thought #1 “Play as a competitive advantage” and #9 – “Going Private in Public” were particularly insightful. The reason I look forward to the JWT list is because while they deal with the immediate, they also come up with a couple of nuggets which are really far out. But the thing is, I can instinctively connect with them and am sure that even if not this year, these are inevitable somewhere down the line.

This year, I also found Next Generation Media’s list quite interesting, especially because of their ‘implications for brands’ after each trend. My favourites in this list were #9 and #10 – “New Currencies” and “The WOW factor” respectively. I like the direction of the former, but would have liked it to be pushed further, but that’s mostly because of a more (personal) philosophical perspective on us having no alternatives to money as a currency. “The WOW factor” – related to ‘The Known and the Branded’ I mentioned earlier in the post, and the writing is pretty much on the wall for brands!

Update: Came in late, but Simply Zesty’s list is a must-read as well!

until next time, hope y’all have an awesome 2013. :)

Broadcast 2.0 then?

Facebook is planning a new video-ad product that will offer video advertisers the chance to target video ads to large numbers of Facebook users in their news feeds across devices. It is also becoming more public about its Publishing Garage, that aims to put into place a set of measurements to demonstrate how well campaigns are working. Twitter has partnered with Nielsen for the the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating” – an industry standard metric for measuring the conversation that TV shows spur on Twitter.

The commonality I see is the shift from social to media, though to be fair, the Twitter-Nielsen partnership also talks of sentiment being measured in the future, in addition to tracking the volumes generated. I am using the term ‘social’ for two of the biggest platforms around now – FB and Twitter, but considering they have been the trendsetters, it is likely that the others will follow suit. Yes, there would be exceptions, I’m sure, but let me generalise a bit. While time will dictate whether this shift is smart or not, I’d think this shift is massively underplaying the true potential that social has thus displayed as a disruptive force. Social is now walking the measurement rules laid for a thoroughly different kind of media. (I liked this post at GigaOm because it throws light on, and questions why every social network is trying to turn into a broadcast platform) Doesn’t this put them on the same path of vulnerability that traditional media is facing now? Is this inevitable or is this sheer laziness and/or conforming? Also, from a user perspective, isn’t this a fundamentally different direction from the original premise/reason for existence of these platforms?

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that this is happening at the same time as users (increasingly) are treating social as broadcast – from the shoot-from-the-hip opinions on everything to the careful posturing. Not so suddenly, it’s more about numbers than actual conversations. Now what does that remind me of? :) I don’t know how much of it is unconscious and how much of it is subtle nudging (read) by the networks and their features. But whatever the reasons, imagine a future where everyone behaves the way media behaves today – loud, pompous, full of themselves, ignorant to their own faults, violent towards any criticism, and generally abhorred. What happens then?

So in the current direction I see the networks (and users) taking, the future media mashup will show more characteristics of traditional broadcast platforms than the social traits displayed by the social networks in the early days. My concern in such a scenario is because of what Godin has stated in another context – “Media doesn’t just change what we focus on, it changes the culture it is part of.” That’s when I wish social/we would be more ridiculous.

until next time, growing pains

Interviewed on Lighthouse Insights

It’s a bit scratchy, courtesy a really bad broadband connection, but poor Prasant has done the best with the material he had been given. :) The chat was on Myntra’s social media strategy and how it manifests on various platforms. In addition to the more visible Facebook, and Twitter , it also covers our experiments on Pinterest, YouTube and even Foursquare. Most importantly, it covers one of the pillars of our social media strategy – customer care using Get Satisfaction. And finally, I gave a few thoughts on social commerce as well. Yes, I was asked for it. :p

Read more at Lighthouse Insights.

A new era of work

Sometime back, I had written about institutional realignment – on how the internet will slowly eliminate the middlemen across industries and disrupt every institution that we have built thus far – political, societal, economical, professional, cultural, health and so on. This would have massive impact on our sense of identity and how we live as a society.

A couple of weeks back, I read this interesting post at Pando Daily titled “Are we becoming a world without big companies?” The post quoted AngelList founder Naval Ravikant “the world would be increasingly made up of very small startups interacting with each other through APIs. No big corporations.” The corporation, at this point in time, plays a lot of middlemen roles – from our sense of identity to global relations – and continuing from my earlier thought, I think the internet will disrupt this one too.

Which then makes one think of the workforce currently employed in the corporations – that’s most of us. :) From 3D printing which is poised to disrupt the already shaky manufacturing industry and the not-so-shaky distribution systems to singularity, which will have major implications on our health, education and employment, there are macro changes that will affect us. Even the best minds would not have a definite answer on what/ where the jobs of the future would be. As Ray Kurzweil has stated in this interesting interview, “People couldn’t answer that question in 1800 or 1900 either. ” (when asked about the scene in 2000)

It then brings me to something I believe will be the key to survive and flourish in the coming age – the willingness and ability to live with uncertainty. In this excellent read in the WSJ titled “Learning to Love Volatility“, Nassim Nicholas Taleb argues that rather than trying to predict black swan events, we should be building institutions that are not fragile and can withstand and even benefit from disorder and unexpected events. Though an institution is the protagonist here, I think there are lessons for individuals too.

In a way, humans could be considered open APIs that big corporations and governments used to meet their ends, it would be interesting to see a future that reverses this. :)

until next time, be the change….

The story of #bachpanstyle

Myntra’s twitter accounthit a couple of milestones last week. For starters, it overtook me in terms of number of followers – not that I am way up on the charts or hugely active on twitter these days, but it’s good to handle a brand that has more followers than I do, especially when it has more than quadrupled in the last year. :) Growing a personal brand is fun, but as a professional in the domain, growing a brand on social media is more fun because of the increased number of challenges and constraints.

We have focused mostly on getting the basic stuff right – Customer Care, (utilising GetSatisfaction to a fair degree) promoting interesting content relevant to our domain – created and curated, presence on the website, and when we were confident of taking it to the next level experimenting with various contest formats. Not the “let’s make it trend” kind, but ones that have some meaning for us as a brand/business and that’s fun for our followers on twitter as well.

And that’s what gave us our second milestone. Long before brands arrived on the scene, Ashu Mittal, (to begin with.. thanks Surekha for the correction) Surekha, Roshni, The Comic Project, b50, Aalaap had made Children’s Day a fun event on Twitter by getting people to change their DPs – to a childhood photo – for a day. I have participated too, at least for a couple of years. Though I didn’t inform them (because I am still unsure on how I should deal with personal relationships in a work scenario) this was also a hat tip to them. All users had to do was share a childhood pic of theirs with a description of it and use #bachpanstyle. We used our larger FB crowd for publicity, ran the contest on Twitter, and made a Pinterest board specially for it. It was a lot of fun, and also got us our second milestone – a little bit of coverage (courtesy Lighthouse Insights) for the activity. That was a first for us. :)

The cake had some icing too! The next day, my Twitter daily digest showed me a tweet from Surekha about #bachpan and changing DPs. Since the contest was over and done with, I sent her the board we’d made. And got this

Being appreciated is always a great thing, and more so when it comes from my twitter-childhood friends. :)

until next time, childlike glee :)

Create and curate

Yay! Instagram launched web profiles, and mine, as you can see, is dominated by food! Which meant that I was completely blown by what Zomato did with the Instagram API at Zomato.xxx. If you haven’t seen it yet, now would be a good time. Try to have a full meal before you take a look. One of the bugs in this version is that it makes people hungry. I don’t see them fixing that bug soon! 😉

It’s not really an original thought, since I’ve seen at least one fashion brand use hashtags on  Instagram and Twitter to generate photos, but that doesn’t really take away anything, since the execution is extremely good.

I wrote about the reemergence of branded content last week. One way is to create your own content, the scalability of which is debatable, unless that is one of the organisation’s core competency and priority. The other way is curation. Like I have mentioned on the blog before, curation is a great way for brands to engage with content producers and at the same time, provide  great content to those who consume it. It’s not really creation vs curation, but more of their respective share in the strategy.

On the execution front, crowdsourcing works best if you make it as easy as possible for the for the content producer. In Zomato’s case, adding a #zomato to the food snaps I load on Instagram is hardly a task. The simpler the task is, and the more it is an add-on behaviour than a new one, the lesser the need for incentive. The cooler it is, the more people would want to be a part of it. It distributes itself.

In a traditional media dominated era, more money was spent on distribution than creation. Now content is marketing and with owned platforms, and earned and ‘sponsored’ media on social platforms, the costs of distribution have fallen. There’s a lot being written about content strategy for brands from a creation perspective, but the costs of distribution fall even further in curation because content creators would want to show off their work. The hope is that brands will spend at least a part of the money they’re saving, into creating platforms, processes, tools etc that make it easy for the user to create and share ‘branded’ content.

until next time, co-curation is for later :)

Branded Content.. Returns

Branded content is making a comeback, I think. I call it a comeback because I noticed quite a few posts in the last few days, but this is something that has been discussed at least since 2009. (here and here) One of the posts I saw was this one which called branded content a game changer for brands. In terms of imagery, I prefer this version of the image, (note the year of posting :) ) largely because the way it pictorially blurs the lines between paid, owned and earned media. In fact, given the way many bloggers accept payment and post no disclosure, the lines are blurred even within each sub-category!

As you can see, precious little has changed. But the ‘little’ that has changed has made quite an impact – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have made their way into ‘paid’ as well. In fact, they’re in all three kinds of media. What we call traditional media can at best be in two places at the same time – earned and paid, and that’s obviously why social has disrupted what we just knew as media.

I wonder if during the dawn of traditional media, anyone would have thought of ‘owned media’ the way we understand it now. Its arrival has been recent but it’s busy delivering near-death blows to other forms of media, which are now forced to adapt. Brands are now scrambling to create a mix that will help them meet their strategic communication objectives, even as they deal with the challenges of multiple platforms, screens and technologies across which they have to deliver a seamless, cohesive stream. But increasingly social is also falling into the frameworks of its predecessors. Revolution is fading into evolution!

What intrigues me is what happens next – after even this gets optimised. In the medium term, there will obviously be more channels, specially in ‘owned media’, but when this disruption becomes ‘traditional’, what is that new paradigm that will appear? Can you visualise beyond the current owned-earned-paid framework?

Probably navigational media that will help us make sense of the other three! Also completes OPEN. 😉

until next time, contend with that

With a little help from friends…

It’s official now. I had suspected it for a while, but this post from Simply Zesty

shows that page admins across the world are wondering why the ‘Reach’ figures of their posts are on the downswing. This then starts affecting the other ‘vital stats’ of the Page as well – like PTAT. It really doesn’t matter whether FB is showing the actual reach number (you may question that if you’re also monitoring via 3rd party apps) or decreasing it further just to pile on the pain, because fundamentally they’re throttling the reach and you would have to go by the numbers they claim, because well, it’s official!

I’d say that FB is now behaving like a true media monopoly. It’d have been fine if the % of people who saw a page post were dependent on the positive/negative action taken by the people who liked the page. But this is just an “offer you can’t refuse” for the various advertising products that FB has begun pushing out aggressively. Should have known that IPOs have side effects. It hurts more because just sometime back, I’d written – in my ‘Social grows up to be media‘ post – that of the two (FB, Twitter) I had better hopes for FB. While Facebook owns the platform, (some) brands have done a lot of hard work in attaining fans organically through excellent content and engagement. By not allowing the content to reach these very fans, FB is being unfair. It becomes even more interesting when we figure that FB is now allowing brands to truly broadcast (beyond fans and friends of fans to everyone) their posts. On one hand, they are making their money from brands and at the same time, showing me an ad I never asked to see.

This could be just the start. I’m already hearing ‘viewpoints‘ of Facebook charging brands for pages. Knowing the way PR works, FB is probably setting the scene for this and we’ll be seeing more articles of this nature. Is this an unfair way to monetise one’s platform? That, in Facebook’s own words, is complicated.

More importantly, the larger debate of whether one should build (on) owned properties now becomes even more pertinent. What do you think?

until next time, pay walled…

Mean better than average?

BBH Labs offered some excellent perspective in a post titled ‘Mean Brands‘ a few days ago, which pointed out that when brands are asked to be more human online, we overlook the fact that humans are not nice online. Expanding on this, they showcased three scenarios – brand vs consumer, brand vs brand and brand vs organisation – with examples, and asked whether this was a good strategy to build stronger brand allegiance.

I was reminded of something I had tweeted earlier this year when Cleartrip was at the receiving end of some good old fashioned twitter outrage when putting an abrasive and stupid (non) customer in his place. I was convinced after going through the preceding tweets that Cleartrip had tried their hand at explanation before getting exasperated and reacting with sarcasm, just like a human. It was bold, but more importantly it also showed character and conviction.

Even as brands are trying to be human, humans are becoming (or are trying to become) brands. When they do get an audience, an increased sense of self-importance is inevitable. Most of the time, objectivity is minimal and the thrill of shaming/trolling a brand is too tempting. So perhaps a level playing field is only fair. Of course, it is always more fun when the knockout punch is delivered with a solid punchline. Richard Neill’s comedic rant and Bodyform’s hilarious response is an example. A few more here. (via @sunnysurya)

until next time, brands mean business!

Transmedia and popular culture

Last week, I chanced upon Coldplay’s latest comic-video. It’s apparently a prequel to a six-part comic which can be pre-ordered at the Coldplay Store. There’s also a live concert happening soon. I thought there was real potential here for some transmedia work – they already have a music video, comics and live concerts – with Facebook, Twitter and other digital properties it could have been a great mix.

But what I was really wondering about is how pop culture can be used by brands for building transmedia narratives. Comic books, music bands, television programming etc, and user generated content on social media can be a potent mix. When I have thought about transmedia (and written about it) it has always been with the brand as a driver. But what if the lead is taken by a pop culture phenomenon and the brand, understanding a commonality, tag on. In-movie promotions are probably a crude example I can think of.

The typical way brands handle it is by trying to push their messaging, and in the process destroy the pop culture phenomenon’s attraction. But if they find partners who have a connection, spend some thought on it, and help in advancing the narrative without forcing it in a selfish direction, they might actually get a completely different audience to become interested. A step further is in taking the help of the audience themselves to forward the narrative.

In many posts, I have mentioned that organisations need to find their purpose and then  nurture employees who can identify with it. Perhaps the above is an inorganic way of doing the same on the consumer side.

until next time,  to be continued 😉