The Rise of Branded Social Utilities
Marketers can't assume that consumers will flock to their microsites, however lovingly crafted and entertaining they may be. Why? Because people have other places to go, people to see. They're on Facebook, or Bebo if they're in the UK, or perhaps Orkut, in Brazil.
Some brands are realising that they need to go where the punters are and - provide something they'd actually use! Branded social applications are springing up online, albeit rather tentatively. Their success varies according to their usefulness, flexibility, entertainment value and relevance.
Forbes created a handy stock tracker application for Facebook - but made the mistake of forcing users to leave the social network for the Forbes site, prompting criticism from online reviewers.
adidas, sponsor of Major League Soccer in the US, has been more successful with its music widget, which helps fans do what they love doing - participate in and celebrate the soccer seasone. The application enables soccer fans to elect team songs, create audio messages and add them to their MySpace page.
Coca-Cola's new widget www.cokebubbles.com for Joost Internet TV lets online viewers chat about programmes. Of course, you used to be able to come to school/work and talk about last night's essential viewing, but now that every niche interest is indulged online, no one wants to talk to me about Afterworld, or Quarterlife (a web series by the guys behind thirtysomething, now showing on MySpace TV). At least I can find people who watch Heroes.
If you're a branded widgets virgin, you can learn a lot from already successful social utilities. Check out Adonomics for the top Facebook applications. They tend to fall into the following categories:
- action-based communication (poke, pinch, hug - do it on Facebook if you haven't already!) e.g. SuperPoke!
- discover/share content e.g. iLike film network
- gifting and begging e.g. Free Gifts
- self-expression e.g. Graffiti
- causes e.g. Causes
- trivia, lookalikes, fun e.g. Compare People, Quizzes, Food Fight
But bear in mind that what works on Facebook might not work on a more serious, or career-oriented network. Throwing virtual sushi at potential employers doesn't always wash.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Friday, November 9, 2007
Socrates never committed his thoughts to paper. For someone who had so many thoughts and who never let a day go by without questioning how he lived and how one should live, this is uncanny.
From what we can glean of this elusive figure from the writings of Plato and other followers, Socrates believed that we should continually question our assumptions. If ever there were a proponent of the living dialogue, the constantly evolving story, Socrates is the poster child. If he were to write down his thoughts, it would perhaps have seemed that this was the end of the story, that the answer was set in stone. Just as Socrates believed that the unexamined life is not worth living, perhaps the 'definitive' text is not worth writing.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Stories are constantly evolving online. Someone posts a blog, say, about the resurgent popularity of Lego, in play, film and executive toys, others comment and Digg it, while others copy the content and aggregate it. Still others pick up the strand and tag it, add photos to it and annotate it. Someone, across the world, thinks the subject matter is perfect for a Google Map and uses Platial to create one, collaboratively, with a friend who has an idea to make the map better. This sparks a business idea and someone creates a start-up, trading in Second Life and selling toys in the real world. And this is not The End.
Socrates was about 2,500 years ahead of his time. Just as he loved the Agora, the Athenian marketplace where all sorts of people congregated to gossip and exchange goods and put the world to rights, I believe he would have loved the blogosphere. With all its faults and typos, it's a living medium, as vibrant as a real marketplace. Everyone is present, in the same way as the Agora was the one place in Athens where all walks of life congregated, plebians and patricians, slaves and masters, men, women and children.
Socrates brought Philosophy down from the Heavens. Web 2.0 has democratised creativity and knowledge.
One criticism Socrates might have had is that the social web could do with a few more discussion leaders, to guide a dialectic (the method of question and answer that Socrates used to dig deeper into issues). Everything moves so fast online that we often don't take enough time to question and define. Crowds, we know, can rush to judgment. Sometimes intervention is required.
Socrates would accost everyday punters in the Agora and ask them, "What is courage?" then keep them talking for as long as they could hold onto their fruit 'n' veg. Some bloggers and online editors are equally adept at keeping the conversation on track. Let's apply more rigour in our discussions and keep asking questions. The blogosphere needs more firestarters, who stick around to stoke the flames.
And when that becomes too daunting, we can always take time out to Twitter about trivialities. I wonder what Socrates would have thought about microblogging?