words on (facebook) paper

[@TheDrum contribution]

There’s something quite romantic about Paper. You can touch it, fold it and throw it as you would with real paper. It looks and feels fantastic. Well done Facebook, you have created an app worth tweeting about at a key juncture in your own life story.

Yesterday, Facebook, with its 1.25 billion users and today celebrating its 10th anniversary, took a big leap forward with the launch of Paper. A Flipboard-type app that brings a contemporary (Facebook) experience to social discovery. 

‘What’ it does is not big news. We were all expecting a new way to explore our tired feed. ‘How’ it does it is big news, whilst combining multiple content feeds from (at present) a meagre selection of publishers. Paper does it in a way that insists on an original kind of exploration (for Facebook at least!). Exploration that requires more from the thumb generation (even Flipboard is an experience of constant scrolling!) as we are now offered a user experience that has been designed to within a millimetre of its life. Did you expect any less from Mike Matas (and Loren Brichter), who has single-handedly (pun intended) implanted touch-based interfaces into the DNA of old and young? The experience feels responsive and instantaneous but continues to push the boundary of what feels natural. Pull-to-refresh is out. New and rehashed gestures are in, adding cute touches to every element of the experience. Facebook’s main iOS app feels very dated by comparison. The integration of mainstream Facebook features is seamless but very much secondary (they are there but almost a given). It looks and feels newer; more exciting; and feels like a far better place to spend my time. It doesn’t feel like Facebook. Will we ever go back to the Facebook app?

Facebook say: “Stories that matter the most… your own”. This holds true to their core belief of being the champion of relevant discovery, giving users what they want. The way in which that discovery is delivered through nine by five centimetres has, undoubtedly, taken a big leap forward. What does this mean for brands and marketing? 

Nothing has drastically changed. We now have a new change in Paper users behaviour that brings with it a new environment in which to reach people. How brands get attention will evolve. I would hypothesise that people will explore more, and more laterally, no longer constrained by a stream, with more choice as to which path to venture down. If I look at my own behaviour, I know that I want to consume different things on different days and at different times (this has meant jumping from different sources better suited to giving me those types of content). I might read the Guardian on the way into work, but look for more stories from my friends in the evening. Now I have more reason to remain within a Facebook environment to serve me different content. 

New behaviours bring new data. New data brings new advertising options. Paper is a big step forward in the way businesses can reach and engage with their customers (I sound like I work at Facebook). The old rules still apply but Paper makes Facebook advertising feel more natural. When it doesn’t, we’ll be quick to turn off. Intrusion and irrelevance from advertisers will be particularly obvious in Paper. Those that stand out in this way will not go down well and it’s in Facebook’s interest to avoid such. 

The basic rules are simply even more meaningful. 

Be relevant and engage. Being relevant is ever more crucial. If you’re not, users will be quick to swipe. Engaging users in the context of what it is you’re saying and who you’re saying it to is arguably the most important thing for brands (and users). As Facebook continues to grow, what it decides to show to users is becoming even more policed. If you don’t engage, you won’t be seen. 

Alternatively, get your chequebook out.

google and retail

google is a giant and they have long been more than a search engine.

they’re a tech company. they make and sell technology, to consumers, businesses, advertisers and governments.

they’re now dipping their toe into the fast changing retail industry.

examples include:

  • payment. google wallet is both as a piece of software and now a physical card facilitate payments in the US, will soon be here in the UK. 
  • retail experiential. like the winter wonder lab in the US to showcase their consumer technology products 
  • shipping. although a trial in san fran for now, google promises same day delivery to rival the likes of ebay and amazon – offering shoppers delivery from the supermarket giants.

so watch this space and who knows maybe one day you’ll be walking into a google shop to buy your milk and sugar.

stagnant social

stagnant social

Social media was supposed to be the exciting one. The new marketing frontier with no boundaries, no rules, immense opportunity and scary repercussions if you got it wrong. How times have changed. For brands it’s become the norm. Why are brands playing safe, playing by the rules and sticking to a one answer fits all solution. Why are brands not keeping to the core idea of social media?

Ask a handful of marketing directors to give an overview of why they use social media, and you’ll likely get very similar, tired in my opinion, responses. What’s your social media strategy? We want to engage with our customers on a daily basis to entertain, build our brand and create meaningful real time conversations that ultimately drive wider awareness of our product and service; make existing customers more loyal; and get them spending more money.

That’s a lot to do in 140 characters.

Brands continue to see social media in a traditional sense, media. Social networks are seen as media channels: whereby brands first assess the platform based on how many of their key target audience spend time on that channel, then assessing how they can use that channel to communicate to the audience. Let’s look at it a different way… rather than thinking channel first, think user first. Let’s think that the user owns the channel, for without the user the channel would be nothing. When we start thinking about things from a users point of view, we should start asking ourselves questions like: does the user really want to see an advert for a brand that they’ve never heard of before in their newsfeed? If the user is half way through their 24-month contract, do they really want to see a video about the latest Android phone? Does the user care that their old classmate likes a drinks brands latest post about kittens? What are the long-term effects of annoying people, everyday?

It’s clear to see that the last twelve months, in particular, has seen UK customers attacked with messages that (let’s be honest) they simply don’t want. It’s no coincidence then that last month Facebook shares hit their highest price since May 2012 and Twitter lifted the curtain on its plans to go public, joining the IPO club. That’s all well and good, but change is afoot, and it’s been a long time coming. Mainstream social networks are aging. That’s not just because mainstream social networks have been pillaged by advertisers but also because what was once a very fun and personal space is being questioned by many users, especially those in their younger years, who are asking questions. AP tech writer Barbara Ortutay puts it’s best,

…as they wade through endless posts, photos "liked" by people they barely know and spur-of-the moment friend requests. Has it all become too much of a chore? Are the important life events of your closest loved ones drowning in a sea of banana slicer jokes?”

Once personal streams from friends, family, colleagues and those who interested us has become boring. Users are getting bored. Bored of the mainstream experience. Bored of being sold to. Bored of the paradigm that is popular social.

So what? So do something different. Break the mould. Be innovative. Innovate with the platforms you use, the message that you want to say and how you say it. Make it fun again, BUT, fun with a purpose. Your customers will appreciate it. Your message will cut through.

Facebook is not the answer to the challenge that your business faces.

Engagement is not a strategy.

A great tone of voice won’t sell your products.

Innovation, originality, differentiation and passion will.

Think about the long term, in line with David Ogilvy’s famous belief that every single thing should be an investment in the long-term reputation of the brand. It’s not about the quick wins. Otherwise, your brand becomes another number. One that’s on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. A brand that is bombarding customers, not with content that get’s attention, but with content that is broadcasted into the screens of everyone who just want to use their thumb to scroll to something meaningful.

It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s an exciting time. A time when there is a real opportunity to be different when everyone else joins the flock. Let’s not forget why social media is amazing… it’s the opportunity to get everybody speaking about your brand through word of mouth. BUT, to do that you need to have a clear insight, a focused strategy and (most importantly) a killer idea.

Steve Cater, Head of Digital, whynot!

top facebook pages | may 2013 | social bakers

it's that time. socialbakers top performing brands on facebook for may 2013, in the UK, is out.

their report ranks of the biggest, most engaging and responsive brand and media pages, along with the top 3 most engaging individual posts from UK pages this month (showcasing their new "local fans" function).