The Rise of The Phone Zombie

Earlier this year the picture below was trending on Twitter, with the ironic statement (and I paraphrase) ‘What on earth is this guy looking at? The World or something?’. It looks like we’ve become a society of phone zombies.

Instead of engaging in conversation with our friends or family, it seems we are constantly distracted by our smartphones. As if proof were needed, a recent IPSOS study identified this trend. They surveyed 16,000 people in 20 countries and 60% of them agreed that they were ‘constantly looking at their screens’. In the UK though, 71% said they were glued to their phones (second only to China). Perhaps our zombie behaviour is best summed up by Buzzfeed’s, 23 Pictures that Prove Society is Doomed. This phenomena doesn’t just impact on our social lives, there are other risks. One cyclist, writing in London’s Metro paper, explained that phone zombies were the most frequent hazard she had to contend with. Maybe in the future our smartphones will need proximity sensors to alert us of traffic hurtling towards us.

Is the phone zombie good or bad for marketing? A decent ad person would spin the problem into an opportunity. For example, we reach for our mobiles within 15 mins of waking and check them up to 150 times per day. That’s a lot of marketing opportunities. But perhaps, just perhaps the best thing we can do is to help society act a little less like the living dead and occasionally speak to other people. The Brazilian beer brand, Polar tried to do exactly that. They created the phone nullifier. A bottle wrapper was able to block the phone signal for anyone within a few feet, thus nullifying the phone zombies and ensuring that people enjoyed their drink, whilst conversing with their real friends.

Arguably though, the phone zombie could be seen as a natural behavior. Humans, especially the younger variety, enjoy media that distracts us from the real world. The Victorians complained that young people spent too much time reading books. Television and video games have constantly been blamed for corrupting teenagers. Perhaps the phone zombie is just another example in a line of media distractions. Before smartphones, commuters were hiding behind newspapers on their journey to work. And maybe the only reason the man in the picture is looking at The World was because on that day, his battery had died.

The Medium is The Message (why teenagers are going to Instagram and Snapchat) …

Where are all the teenagers going? Instagram and Snapchat it would seem …

A recent Pew Internet study, was followed by aFacebook announcement, that teenagers have largely lost interest in their network. Those of us in the business have been observing this trend for some time. And for brands, this could be  a problem. Just as they are starting to see some ROI from Facebook ads or promoted Tweets, this hard-to-reach audience has left the building.

Of course, this is nothing new, and if you understand teenage behaviour, it should come as no surprise. Like most users, teenagers are driven by need, and not technology. As a teenager you want to communicate (not with your parents of course) and find your place amongst your  peers. That communication has always been  done in school break-time, or by passing notes in class. As mobile phones took off, SMS became the communication tool, and MSN online (fast and almost free). Then it switched to BBM. For a short while it was Facebook and then Twitter. And now, it’s Instagram and Snapchat. The latter is seeing 350m photos uploaded per day, which is equal to that of Facebook.

In many ways, these Instagram and Snapchat are perfect for teenage users. The key drivers are cost, speed and where their peers are. Teenagers aren’t looking to write long prose, whatever they do needs to be done as cheaply as possible and they will tend to drift to the channels that don’t include their parents (and they have no channel loyalty). Instagram and Snapchat also come with the added bonus of pictures. For many, a picture expresses far more than a few words. For some observers though, perhaps there is a little too much expressing. Whilst Instagram is more public, Snapchat has been accused of being a place where teenagers are ‘sexting’ each other. We have no evidence if this is true or not, but it is important to keep in mind that whenever younger people adopt a new comms channel, there is always some kind of moral backlash. BBM was blamed for triggering the UK riots in 2011. Facebook was a corrupting influence, SMS was seen as ruining our language. Whatever the choice, the medium will usually be blamed. The reality is that it is purely a communication channel and they are essentially neutral – they can either be a force for good or bad. It depends on who/how it is used.

Perhaps the best way to understand the teenage engagement with Snapchat is this article by Rory Murdock. Whilst adults view photographs as permanent, or even nostalgic records, teenagers think of most photos as temporary, ethereal and worthless. Think of Snapchat like the notes passed around at school.  Short comments that are instantly disposable.

One thing is certain about all this. The teenage channels are constantly changing. Don’t expect Snapchat or Instagram to dominate a few years from now and advertisers will probably still be chasing their audience. But largely speaking the behaviour stays the same, but the channel in which it’s done will change.

Some useful social media tools …

A useful list of social media tools from get2growth.com/ (see the resources section for more useful stuff).

Social / Influencer Tracking

PeerIndex – Measures social interactions across the web to help you understand the people you influence online (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora)
Little Bird – On demand expert and influencer discovery and engagement tool validated by their peers on any topical community (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google+)
Traackr – Tool for finding the right influencers through social media and understanding how to engage with them.
Mentionmapp – Twitter network analysis and data visualization.
Topsy – Measurement and analysis tool for social conversations to identify key thoughts, opinion and content being shared over time or in real-time (Twitter, Google+)
Klout – Social media analytics tool that scores and ranks users’ influence using a ‘Klout Score’ from 1 to 100 ( Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Wikipedia, Instagram)
CircleCount – Google+ profile statistics and influencer measurement.
Kred – Uses social data and influence measurement to produce a personal visual stream from Twitter ID activity or hashtags based on communities connected by interests and affiliations.
twtrland.com – Visualizes social footprints to help you discover new connections, understand their impact and find better ways to connect.
Followerwonk – Twitter analytics, follower segmentation, social graph tracking, and more.
who.unfollowed.me – Check your Twitter unfollowers, see who is not following you back and who you are not following back.
Radian6 (Salesforce Marketing Cloud) – Social media monitoring tools, social media engagement software and social marketing.

Social Media / Content Management & Marketing
Buffer – Tool for collating and sharing online content via social feeds throughout the day.
Hootsuite – Social Media dashboard to manage and measure across social networks.
Tweetdeck – Twitter management and insights dashboard for power users.
Ning – Online platform to create custom social networks from scratch or to integrate with current sites; also integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo!
AddThis – Social infrastructure and analytics platform with personal and social web sharing tools.
DivvyHQ – Content editorial planning and production tool.
Kapost – Software platform for organizing content marketing into a structured business process with calendar, workflow and analytics.
Compendium – Orchestrates all of the content necessary to maintain a consistent message for your brand from both inside and outside your company.
WordPress Editorial Calendar – WordPress plug-in allows you to set up all your posts in a simple calendar format with clean interface that allows you to drag and drop blog posts to better manage your ideas.
Publicate – Easily organise your content or content you’ve discovered to share, publish and showcase.

SEO / SEM & Keyword Research
Google Keywords – Enter keywords or phrases to see what related word searches your ad will show on.
Wordtracker – Keyword research tool to discover high performing keywords based on your subjects and messages.
SEMrush – Keyword and competitor research tool providing ad copies and positions, organic positions for domains and landing URLs, search volumes, CPC, competition, number of results, and more.
WooRank – Website review and SEO tool for tracking and optimizing your site.

 

 

Brands, Mobile and The Future

Predicting the future is never easy, but I gave it a go at a TEDxUCL talk in the spring …

The future is …

By 2045 we will have reached the point of singularity when the devices that are now smartphones will become the size of a grain of sand and 1 billion times more powerful. At that point the computers become sentient and run the world in a Matrix style.

So what happens between now and then? Read the synopsis below, or you can simply watch the video!

Well the first problem is that largely speaking, consumers just don’t care about brands that much. Pointless apps, or social media campaigns fail to ‘engage’ the audiences. The solution is around service. Brands should do what they do, and use channels such as mobile to simply do it better. Some brands understand this. Look at someone like Gatwick Airport who use Twitter as a service channel. They encourage their visitors to Tweet any problems and a small team sets about putting it right. Similarly car companies such as Mercedes are using QR codes in a useful way, by embedding them in cars to help emergency services know how to get access quickly in case of an accident. Or an augmented reality app that shows you how to change car parts.

When it comes to the future of smartphones themselves then we’ve pretty much reached the conclusion. They’ll become faster, brighter etc, but the functions that we have will remain large the same. People were surprised when Apple launched the 5S and 5C that there was nothing radically different. But that’s not the point. The radical change was the introduction of the device itself. From then on, changes are simply incremental. So the next generation are the ‘connecteds and wearables’. Google Glass is seen as a major innovation. It probably won’t be the device that everyone adopts, but it is a good indication of where things are going. However, there are many issues particularly around privacy. Where is the place for brand engagement.

A good brand example of a connected device is the Nike Fuel wristband. Although millions of $s were spent on its development, innovation is not about money, or spending, it’s about ideas. There are many good examples, such as Red Tomato Pizza’s fridge magnet. Simply press the button and it connects to your phone and orders your favourite pizza. A simple idea, well executed. Even more interesting are developments in the world of health. In Kenya they have been using it to track the spread of malaria, for example. Or in Switzerland they have hooked sensors up to the brains of sheep. When a wolf is in the area, it can sense their distress and send a text to the farmer. A simple, effective use of mobile.

With API’s Good Things Can Happen

I’ve been banging on for some time about how APIs are the future for brand apps. The idea is simple. If brands created APIs for their activities, other people would take that information and create far better apps (and at no cost to the business). Strangely, it’s something that government bodies, such as Transport for London seem to understand.  Two of the best apps currently, are API-based, combining open data with a great user experience:

Citymapper

It seems like everyone in London is using this app, and no one has a bad word to say about it. Citymapper has so many functions, in a simple UX, they are impossible to list here.  Even as a life-long Londoner, Citymapper has suggeseted transport routes that I have never considered (and often faster ones). The app achieves its goal through accessing a number of APIs from TfL as well as Foursquare data and delivered via their own algorithm. It’s a great example of how open data can be used to deliver an excellent user experience.

Whisk

Although it hasn’t achieved the success of Citymapper, Whisk is another example of a great, frictionless experience. After selecting a recipe, and the number of diners, it lists the price of the ingredients across a range of supermarkets. They use APIs from Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose and Asda. You then select which you want to buy, and the supermarket. The best part is that the app allows you to add these items directly to the shopping basket of your chosen supermarket’s app.

Given these examples, why doesn’t every brand create an API for their data and simply open it up to developers? The results will be a far better experience than they could ever create (not to mention many more users).

How Kenneth Cole is Changing Fashion through Mobile and Social Media

‘During the @kennethcole runway show, out of respect for other members of the audience please make sure your phones and tablets are switched ON. This show will embrace the intrusive nature of social media.’

It wasn’t long ago that fashion shows were largely private affairs, where photography and video were tightly managed. Yet  the opening words above, greeted the audience to Kenneth Cole’s 2013 New York Fashion Week show.

The advent of smartphones, with high megapixel cameras and social media apps has challenged the highly controlled world of fashion shows. That challenge is similar to many retailers, where consumers are able to search, photograph and share products instantly. Whilst most runway shows barely tolerate smartphones, Kenneth Cole clearly embraces it. His front row was littered with fashion bloggers all using their smartphones to Tweet, Instagram and Vine (if that is now a verb) the event. He went a step further though, and at the end of the show the models came down the catwalk sending live Tweets from their phones. It was in the name of charity, as each Tweet sent resulted in a $1 donation from Kenneth Cole to an Aids charity.

By embracing smartphone driven social media in this way, Kenneth Cole has shown how brands can:

–       Use mobile social media to connect brands from the physical world to online channels

–       Bring amplification through sharing these events in social media

–       Create a long-tail of brand awareness through user generated content or co-creation

I previously blogged about how mobile social media were disrupting fashion and retail, but Kenneth Cole’s show takes it much further than that. Whilst it creates an opportunity to reach a global audience previously unavailable, Kenneth Cole is using mobile and social to challenge the traditional dynamic of fashion. With fashion bloggers using the new tools of the trade, it brings immediacy to a global audience. With models Tweeting down the catwalk, they are no longer simply ‘hangers’ for the clothes but now active participants in the event. And with celebrities populating the front rows, alongside the journalist and bloggers, are mobile and social creating a new form of reality fashion show?