Fallouts And Unfollows…

So following yesterday’s post about the 2oceansvibe thing (which I don’t care to rehash) out here, I noticed something interesting: a drop-off in Twitter followers. At first blush, this phenomenon is barely worth mentioning but it bears looking into since this is essentially the digital equivalent of “I don’t want to play with you anymore”. The same can be said about Facebook and the unfriending vibe.

Why this is interesting, is simply that the line between personal and professional is so easily blurred out in the social media environment. More often than not, a professional or academic opinion is taken as a personal attack. The existence and acceptance of Godwin’s Law (despite its being pedagogical or rhetorical) is proof that such histrionics in reaction to opposing ideals in the digital sphere is commonplace. In fact, if ever there was a space that required more objectivity, it would be social media. The levels of passive-aggression are simply beyond measure. What is more, rational discourse around any topic is nigh-on impossible. Ad hominem arguments abound and what should be a debate (or at least a conversation) becomes a bunfight, fraught with the tactics employed by pre-schoolers in a playground screaming match.

So why does it matter if people unfriend/unfollow/unsubscribe to you? It doesn’t. Well, at least it doesn’t matter to you. What it means though in the greater scheme of things is that as people choose to surround themselves with likeminded individuals (and by likeminded I mean thought-clones), they shut themselves off to opposing or differing points of view. Essentially, this places them in an echo-chamber where all they hear is their own opinion being amplified exponentially. This same echo-chamber eventually intensifies until dissenting voices are shouted down and vilified for disagreeing before being expelled from the group. No, it’s not melodramatic. It’s mob mentality. And as we all know, the stupidity levels of people in great numbers can and should never be underestimated.

Back to the point of departure though. Sure, I’m now a few followers down on Twitter. Now, these are people who’ve decided that my reaction to a situation didn’t sit well with them and despite the (I hope) mutually entertaining time we’ve had on the platform, that’s enough to sever ties. And that begs that we question the strength of these ties in the first place. Issues of engagement, loyalty, authority and efficacy come into play. I’m not questioning the relationships between myself and the followers. I’m questioning just how strong the ties can be if they’re built on this platform.

I tend to believe that no engagement out in the digital world can replace real-time interaction. Sure, it can augment an existing relationship and it can initiate the genesis of relationship but it can’t sustain one. Not alone, anyway and out there, the dynamic of a relationship is even more fragile than you would expect. In marketing terms, it’s the symbiosis between these two environments that can create, build and sustain a relationship.

Ultimately though, the current outlook of the social media world is one based on tribes of people who really don’t want to engage with others who don’t subscribe to their way of thinking. In fact, the more correct way to describe people out here would be as sheep or fish or any other creature with a herd mentality. And that is sad because now we’ve done the complete opposite of what social media was intended for. Instead of bringing us together, it’s amplified our differences and our dislike for things that are different.

The question is: can we reverse this or is social media just an amplification of our own base natures?

Uncharted 3: The Quest For Facebook…

So I wasn’t going to start blogging until the end of the month, what with January generally being a quiet period at the beginning of the year.

And then Playstation and Uncharted 3 hit me with what must be one of the coolest Facebook activations I’ve seen in ages. Basically, it’s a mini-game that you can play within your Facebook profile. Check out the screenshots.

Game start screen: sand in your profile. That can't be good

Shoot the bastards in the featured images section! What happened to my LOLCATS!?

Kill the bastards to get the secret code (which is different everytime, hater).

Use the code to open the safe behind your profile pic. Internet

Toss a spanner into the works (not as easy as it looks).

What’s really cool are the small touches in the game, like getting the gun from the Uncharted 3 game ad on the right and Nathan Drake’s messages on the wall. Another really cool addition is the Google Chrome plug-in for this game. Install the browser plug-in and play the game on your profile by clicking icon in your browser.

To check it out for yourself, head on over to the Playstation page in Facebook.

As far as I know this is the first digital brand activation to take advantage of the revamped Facebook profile. This kind of activation is really forward-thinking and as agencies look to gain leverage over their competitors, the upper limits of pervasive technologies must be explored.

Anyway, this is too much awesome – and definitely a BRANDSLAM. A good start to the year.

Norte: Saving Your Relationship…

It’s Friday! Whoop! Whoop! And I know a lot of you are planning a big night out on the town. For some of you, this weekend could cost you more than just a drinks bill. It could mean the end of your career and maybe even your relationship…

Dramatic much? Not really. With the advent of camera-phones, geo-location networks and social media sites (not to mention the face-detection vibe from the good folks over at Facebook), getting caught in  compromising situations is fast becoming the norm. And despite our best efforts to keep a low profile, a Facebook profile makes it REALLY difficult.

Enter Norte, a beer brand with a novel solution to this ever-increasing problem…

Ho’s and douchebags everywhere can now rejoice in the fact that as long as they’re drinking Norte from a bucket, they’re going to be in the clear. Now your relationship and your career will always be safe, even if you don’t deserve it.

Hats off to Norte and Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi. This is a killer idea and if it actually gets rolled out, it’s going to be a winner.

The Death Of The Blog?

A few years ago, I blogged about the death of the blog (click here to read that post; opens in new window). It was spurred by a comment made by Jason Calcanis, an authority some would say on this kind of thing. At the time, I disagreed vehemently with the opinion of Messr. Calcanis. A blog is nothing more than a website after all. Sure, it may not be designed by an actual web designer and the content may not be award-winning but it’s nonetheless a website. As such, to declare the death of the blog was to declare the death of the website. And as you can tell, websites are still pretty popular.

For now…

This blog post is not to recant my previous view but rather to discuss the possibility of the evolution of the blog. Actually, that’s not right either. It’s more of a mutation. And it’s in the form of Google Plus.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of blogging full time on Google Plus. As it is there are few restrictions and quite a few advantages to that kind of mid-range blogging.

First, the advantages. The biggest one is definitely that it’s free. No cost to you to set up.

Then there’s the post length. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, there doesn’t seem to be a really punitive maximum on the amount of characters you can use in a post. In fact, this entire post was copy/pasted in G+ to test that theory. No issues, there.

Google Plus also allows you to use one account to speak to multiple audiences. So you could blog about your thoughts on astrophysics and reach out to people like Stephen Hawking AND blog about talking to your plants, while reaching out to people like HRH Prince Charles…without crossing the streams or boring people to death. Sounds a little like magic, right? Targeted content aimed at targeted audiences. And because it’s on YOUR G+ page, they connect with you on the levels you decide they should.

Got images? Videos? Audio? Google Plus supports ’em all. And Google owns YouTube, so run your content out of your own channel.

Google Plus supports sharing, +1’s and comments, so if your content is any good it’s going to grow wings. And of course, there’s the little issue of SEO and Plus being Google’s baby. It’s a slight advantage, no?

What’s G+ got going against it? In line media is not supported yet (as far as I can see), but that could be because I’m linking media and not embedding it. The pages aren’t customizable. I suppose the closed circle thing could also be an issue for discoverability but good content always wins out, right? Well, sometimes. And there’s the issue of privacy. Sure, G+ lets you control who sees your information but you can’t be 100% anonymous unless you hide behind a company name. And that means THE MAN can find you if you decide to step out of line.

Essentially what I’m saying is that we could be looking at a change in the way people blog in the future. I think that Google Plus in its current form is the taster, the teaser if you will for a bigger plan. Maybe in future, customization will be based on a paying model. And why not? It works in online gaming. And Google may develop in-line media support later on, along with a whole bunch of bells and whistles to rival the major blogging platforms available now.

And if that’s the case, is this the first visible step to Google owning the web? More importantly, would you buy it?

Nowhere To Hide On Google Plus…

Been watching the debate around Google Plus and the service’s refusal to allow pseudonyms or aliases. And everyone’s frothing at the mouth about this, with words like “invasion of privacy” and “lack of safety” being tossed about.

I’ll wager a lot of people on that other identity service known as Facebook use their real names, for their network of friends and colleagues to be able to identify them. A lot of those people also make use of Facebook’s (often confusing and mostly futile) privacy settings to control the information they share.

What’s the difference between that and Google Plus? Nothing.

This just reminds me of when geo-location services launched and everyone was all “OMFG! Now bad guys will know when you’re not home and PWN you and steal your cat! WTF!? ROFLCOPTER!”  Well, how many reported crimes do you know of have geo-location services as part of the tools used to commit those crimes?

Anyone got an answer? Didn’t think so.

And if you still have an issue with Google Plus using your information like it does, then here’s an extract from an interview Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt had with NPR  in Scotland:

Regarding people who are concerned about their safety, he [Schmidt] said G+ is completely optional. No one is forcing you to use it. It’s obvious for people at risk if they use their real names, they shouldn’t use G+.

And I agree. We’ve already signed away our privacy to Facebook for Facebook Connect and the “advantages” it brings: Facebook Credits, Facebook authenticated blog comments, online advertising... OK, maybe not the last one. At the very least, Google is going to do the same.

What I’m trying to say is that if you have an issue with Google Plus, you have an issue with Facebook. And let’s be honest, both of them are businesses that need our information to remain afloat. You need to decide if you’re going to remain anonymous or if you’re going to suck it up, throw on your big people pants and take responsibility for your own information online.

So what’s it going to be?

Mello Yello Brings Back The Good Ol’ Days…

Mello Yello recently relaunched its brand under the campaign “They Call Me Mello Yello”.

What’s interesting here is the commitment to engagement.

When Mello Yello’s marketing agency BFG Communications found a consumer-created Facebook Page for Mello Yello, they contacted the owner and helped turn it into an official brand page.

That’s a far cry from the more common knee-jerk “LET’S THREATEN TO SUE THEM UNTIL THEY TAKE IT DOWN” approach.

The Facebook Page features a Retro Smooth Photo Generator, which enables users to transform a photo of themselves from “not so smooth” to “smooth,” using a hipster-feeling photo filter.

It also has other hipster retro features. Not groundbreaking but still imperial tons of fun.

Mello Yello did two things right here.

First, they did their research.They knew their fans were loyal even decades later and took advantage of nostalgia.They didn’t try to rebrand or reboot. They just mined the goodwill that already existed.

Second, they sincerely engaged their consumers from the outset. It would have been textbook to launch another fan page. Instead, they engaged an existing ambassador for their fan community – and turned him into a leader.

Altogether, the Mello Yello experience shows that personality, content and responsiveness can be a winning formula in the battle for hearts and minds.

The end result: Mello Yello far surpassed their initial target of 10,000 fans by the end of 2010. The fan-number now sits around 78,000 with 80% of them being 24 or younger (not just those who remember the brand from the 80’s).

LESSON: If your consumers are congregating in one place, don’t try to lure them to another place. Fish where the fish are.

Check it out over here

Is Apple Trying To Kill Facebook?

The WWCD has sent the expected ripples through the Apple fanboy community. Now that the dust has settled, there may be reason for the rest of us to pay more attention to the latest updates in Apple’s world.

Essentially since the launch of the iPad, Apple has been accelerating its development in both hardware and software, driving the convergent device uptake by its market. And with rumours floating around abou the phasing out of the iPod in favour of the iPhone, the last of the Apple non-covergent devices in the stable seem to heading for extinction.

So what does all this mean? Well, at first glance not much: a range of user-friendly exponentially cool advancements, the kind of stuff we’ve come to expect from Apple. From a different angle: Apple is trying to kill Facebook.

Farfetched?

Here’s a scenario: with your iDevice, you won’t need an app for Facebook, because your app will be your presence on the network. This network will in all likelihood be content-run via the iCloud as a series of connected apps, so whenever you snap a pic, record a movie, update a status, whatever, it’s instantly delivered to your friends (because they’ll have your app or at least be connected to the cloud). Of course, apps can catch as well as throw info, so your app will talk to your friends’ apps, getting data and making sure you’re up to date. Throw in iMessage that allows you to message anyone in your network with any iDevice (can your hear the screams over at RIM Blackberry?) and your end result is an Apple powered social media network that’s accessible only through your Apple device.

On another note, Apple promises brands that the people who see their iAds will at least be able to afford it. It’s not just targeted advertising. It’s targeted advertising within a targeted market. And where Facebook serves up tiny classified-style ads, Apple offers fully interactive branded experiences. Of course, you know that the same scenario that applies to your network applies to branded apps: the content you want delivered when you want it.

The biggest advantage to Apple though is that they make hardware and their platform runs only on their hardware. So you need to pay to play. Now a lot of folks may call that a barrier to entry but Apple is firmly in the zeitgeist, with an amazing amount of credit in the global hearts and minds bank. Also, their stuff just works – and their TVC propaganda campaign didn’t hurt at all.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like Apple is lining up  its forces for an attack on Facebook’s territory. What will be interesting is how the (world’s only?) social network reacts to this challenge. That’s not to say Facebook is sitting still, with announcements about making Spotify and movie rental services available via the platform being made with huge fanfare. Yeah, it’s not going to happen overnight but if I’m right, this is the first open act of aggression in what has thus far pretty much been a cold war for your attention and your wallet. Who are you going to side with?

Let the games begin.