In his short story “The Aleph,” Jorge Luis Borges recalls an experience he had gazing into an aleph. He describes it as “one point in space that contains all other points. The only place on earth where all places are—seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending.” This fictional story regards the aleph as a both a gift and a curse because it gives the gazer a chance to see and know everything on earth. That is what social media has developed into today. Through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and countless other sites, we now have the opportunity to see all—to see into people’s lives and to see the world like never before. Social media has opened up the unimaginable universe. Like peering into the aleph, checking your newsfeed or your Twitter timeline provides insight into everything in our world, from every angle—simultaneously, infinitely.
The aleph is significant beyond Borges’ short story. Its symbol is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is literally a part of the word “alphabet.” It is venerated by Kabala and other mystic traditions that put value on an aleph as the pursuit of truth. Like the aleph in these ancient traditions, social media is the means by which we seek truth in modern times. From companies to customers, from artists to fans, from friends to family, and from your PC to mine, we can now paint a more accurate, “truer” picture of the people we interact with via social channels. Social media offers us an endless amount of communication that is continuous and extremely transparent. Through following people, companies, bands, etc. on social media, we can see who their friends are, what interests them, where the have been, where they plan to go, their religious, and political stances and a plethora of other information that we otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.
"Aleph Sanctuary" - Mati Klarwein
Thanks to the advances of social media technology and the massive amounts of information these sites are processing, we have transitioned into the age of the “recommendation.” There are logarithms, programs and software that can now introduce you to more people, places, and things based on what you already like and your physical location. You can discover when concerts and art festivals are happening in your area, what news is breaking, and what song will go well with your mood for the day. Other sites will recommend vacations spots, restaurants, lawyers, and doctors. Heck, these sites can find you a job or an employee—all out of the comfort of your living room! This age of “recommendation” is giving us options like never before and it is shocking how incredibly accurate the recommendations are.
As our technologies grow and progress, we must accept that our lives are no longer veiled in secrecy. You can be a pessimist and see this as an intrusion on your privacy, but if you are receptive to this information exchange, the possibilities are endless. The more you share, the more people will share with you. The more you follow, the better recommendations you will get and the more useful social media will be for you. So instead of being wary of this connectivity, you could revel in the endless possibilities of this aleph. It will undoubtedly open your world to bigger and brighter things while introducing you to more people and experiences you would have never had an opportunity to access before.
— Jake Annear
When I first joined Pinterest, I was like any other social media user. I was excited to try a new network, prepared to link my pins to my Twitter and Facebook, and to create content that would be shared. Though I was initially thrown off by the columns upon columns of wedding gifts, recipes, and fashion I saw on my first log-in, I now can easily find things that I'm interested in and spend a minumum of one hour per day on the website. Thanks to Pinterest, I click on images that link to pages I would have never seen from a Google search. I feel like the creators of Pinterest knew exactly how to keep my attention. Because pinning only take a couple of clicks and is the site's main encouraged behavior, one user can easily pin and re-pin a lot content in a matter of minutes.
(Easily one of my favorite pins. Don't lie, you tried to eat your screen)
One day while looking at my activity, I noticed that a brand that makes recipe books repinned the above picture onto their dessert board. After looking through the board that it was pinned on, I discovered a whole new world of food images that linked to new recipes I’d never seen before, and I immediately clicked the ‘Follow’ button. This certain brand got me. I fell into the strategy of a great marketer.
I've noticed that a few major brands have also joined the Pinterest ranks, and they have quickly set the trend for marketers to follow in order to receive engagement and increase their referrals, all while gaining likes and followers.
Some best practices that I’ve seen are:
1) Properly name boards and fill the description with appropriate keywords. Name your boards after the pins that it will represent. If the name of a board is "Ice Cream Creations," I’d expect to see images of large sundaes, shakes and floats. Babble’s board titles have names that clearly represent the pins that will be found within each. When a user clicks on their ‘Outdoor Play & Getaways’ board they’ll see a bunch of outside activities that users and their children will enjoy.
Pinterest’s search option is very specific. It won’t go out of it’s way to find corn by-products for a user. A search for corn recipes will return pins, boards and people that contain this keyword.
2) Don’t only self-promote. Pinterest is a social community, so the key to growing is to be social; in other words; make it a two-way conversation. Comment on and share other user’s pins that relate to your brand. Starbucks does a good job of this. They have entire boards dedicated to things that have nothing to do with Starbucks. This can give a level of transparency to the brand to show that a company is more than just the products it creates. This outreach can lead to a follow for that particular board or your entire page. A brand can search for their keywords to find users, boards, or pins to follow or re-pin.
(This is a Starbucks board)
3) Use good quality images that don’t directly promote. Pinning images that contain all your products with a white background that links to a page where a user can buy them is boring. People want to see how they will use your brand’s product in their everyday life so that they can see how they can benefit from it. Chobani pins images of mouth-watering food that link to recipes that use their products. Users don't want to see images of Chobani's different flavors, so the company became creative and displayed other ways to promote Greek yogurt. Additionally, Pinterest is an image-focused network, so the most aesthetically pleasing pictures will command attention.
4) Add contributors that share common interests. Brands can let users add pins to their boards. Of course, they should make sure that they are pinning images that relate to a particular board first before they're given this permission. Whole Foods has a number of boards that use several users. Brands can also use this tactic for contests as well.
5) Put a Pinterest link on your website. If a brand is serious about growing their Pinterest following, they should add a ‘Follow Me’ button to their website in a prominent position. You can find a button on Pinterest’s Goodies page. Adding social buttons creates exposure for the brand's presence on social networks, and gives users a more in-depth look into who you are as a brand. That's the true essence of all social media.
There’s no doubt that Pinterest has massive potential for reaching users of all demographics. It’s up to marketers to figure out how to use it best for their brand.
-- Sean Clark is a blogger and social media enthusiast. Follow him on Pinterest.
From gaming and social video to personal money and time management, there is indeed a mobile app for everything…or so it may seem. Today’s mobile applications are cheaper and easier to build than ever before. This growth has primarily been fueled by the rapid innovation in mobile technology, which is predicted to soon replace Web 2.0 altogether. With that said, what elements will comprise the successfully viral mobile apps of tomorrow, and who will create them? In varying degrees, future viral apps will embody the five integral elements listed below.
(1) Solve real problems
The viral mobile applications of tomorrow must aim beyond solving small problems. Historically, web applications (including mobile) spread quickly because they addressed our basic individual needs, such as human connection (Facebook, and LinkedIn), knowledge of our immediate surroundings (Foursquare), and discovery of our personal interests (Pinterest, Spotify, StumbleUpon).
It should come to no surprise, however, that there are huge problems affecting billions of people daily—problems much bigger than being the next “Instagram for video.” Although these issues may be quite complex, it is possible that the capabilities afforded by emerging mobile technologies and social media actually could make the mobile apps of the future the missing pieces to the puzzle.
(2) Deep Design
It is becoming increasingly common for mobile and web app founders to consult with UI/UX designers before partnering with actual developers. User experience is everything, and its nuances can make or break the success of an app. Pinterest, for example, utilizes technology that isn’t that much different from Tumblr’s—both are microblogging platforms. Pinterest’s pin board design, however, is a simpler, more intuitive way to display what can seem like an overwhelming amount of information.
Mobile apps, in particular, are operated on devices designed for touch. This requires developers to think ergonomically in designing apps for fingers and thumbs. Whether on the run, in the kitchen, or waiting in the airport, understanding how, where, and when your target audience uses your app is needed for proper design.
Flipboard is an example of a mobile iPhone and iPad app that has brought a familiar element of touch back to the publications we consume. Users “flip” through pages of a digital magazine by swiping their finger over the screen in way that resembles flipping through its paper counterpart.
No longer is design an afterthought to a product’s development. Design has the capability to completely alter the definition and use of a product and set the tone for its relationship with the user. Those who build tomorrow’s viral apps will be visual decoders of sorts—gathering and visually organizing information in a way that is appealing, simplified, and engaging while fully recognizing the relationship between the user and mobile device.
Upon establishing the purpose of the app and approaching the design of the user experience, the following elements are also key:
(3) Instant utility via simplicity
How long does it take the user to realize the core benefit of the app? Are there tasks or processes that could be simplified? Apps will differ in complexity based on their purpose and target audience, but simplicity should be achieved in the app wherever possible, whether it’s reducing steps to complete a task or finding a way to accomplish a specific thing that was once quite complex. Much of what makes Instagram engaging is the app’s ability to apply a number of beautiful visual effects to a photo without the need of a comprehensive photo-editor.
How often would anyone want to use an app again, and who would do so? Successfully viral apps typically give users a strong reason to come back by fulfilling an important or unique task, and/or by finding a way to engage with users like no other app does. Angry Birds is amongst thousands of other games in our mobile marketplaces, but its simplicity, comedic storyline, and variety of harder levels encourages users to come back for more.
Is this an app that users would likely share with others? The app can be interesting enough for users to share it on their Facebook Walls, or the app can have extended social functionality. Draw Something is an example of a sharable app by its ability to bring two people together (either friends or strangers) for a friendly drawing competition. Via a simple and engaging utility, Draw Something built a social gaming experience around something that many people already love to do—draw and doodle. Ultimately, developers must understand the extent and the means by which users will engage others with the app.
Although there isn’t a clear-cut formula as to what embodies a viral mobile app, the ones that are viral have varying degrees of the above elements. Entrepreneurs, developers, and brands should find innovative ways and approaches for their apps to encompass these elements. In the words of Forbes technology contributor, Eric Jackson, “Fortunes will be made by those who adapt to and invest in this new greenfield [mobile applications]. Those who own the future are going to be the ones who create it. It’s all up for grabs.”
-- Thomas Varner
By what means should a company communicate a message to their target audience? Companies typically tackle this question by considering both influencer and advocacy outreach programs. Influencers possess the power of visibility. They have a fan base and following in the thousands (if not millions), which gives them the ability to sway consumer behavior by carrying your brand's message to a massive audience. It is important to note, however, that an influencer may or may not be an advocate, so to what extent can an influencer generate natural loyalty and support for your brand or product? This is where the advocate comes in. Advocates are individuals who are loyal and enthusiastic supporters of the brand or product within their communities, and they will passionately praise, support, and defend your brand, even when the company isn't there, without any expectation of an incentive. Through social media, brands can manage influencer and advocacy outreach programs to generate both visibility and loyalty among consumers.
As you might expect, influencers have used social media to identify and organize their fan base online to establish a digital presence. These individuals may have thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers, RSS subscribers, etc., and utilize their immediate access to a large audience to give visibility to a brand or product. The relationship between a brand and an influencer, however, is almost always built on incentives, such as free products for review, or some other good or service of value. The brand will provide this incentive in exchange for the influencer's support, hoping that the influencer can generate enough awareness and demand to increase sales.
While advocates may only have a few hundred Twitter followers and Facebook friends, they actively and voluntarily praise the brand (both on- and offline) to affect change among the people they have relationships with. Strong advocates typically support a brand or product based on the lifestyle they live and the interests they have. For instance, a local fisherman or the mother-next-door of two infants may loyally support a specific line of fishing rods and diapers, respectively, because it accommodates or enhances their lives.
The influencer may have an advantage over an advocate when it comes to communicating a message to a mass audience. However, a collective group or network of advocates can be just as powerful (if not more powerful) than an influencer: today's social media tools allow advocates to actually become influencers! Through platforms like Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook, people with similar lifestyles, interests, and values are able to connect like never before. Within these online networks of similar people, there almost always arises a "leader" who serves as (1) a representative of that community to the outside world, and (2) a gatherer and sharer of relevant information within the community. Using social media tools to stand out in fulfilling the two above roles, these leaders in turn become the influencers for their respective audience of fellow fisherman, housewives, video-gamers, and sports-fanatics who follow them on social media. One example is John Prolly, who turned his passion for cycling into a blog/digital epicenter, Prolly Is Not Probably, for fellow cycling enthusiasts and associated cycling brands. Another example is Kevin Ma, a lifelong sneaker-head and the founder of the fashion and lifestyle blog, Hypebeast. Hypebeast is a go-to resource for fellow enthusiasts of fashion, music, art, and creativity, and can make or break an underground fashion line or artist on the rise.
People may debate whether an advocacy or an influencer program is more important, but they are both vital in their own ways. Given the above dynamic, companies can use social media to identify the core values, interests, and lifestyles of their target audience, and in turn, empower them with the tools necessary to not only be advocates, but leaders, and thus, influencers amongst the rest of this audience--in essence, allowing these influencers to facilitate visibility and loyalty for your brand.
An example of this strategy is found in Kotex's Pinterest campaign. Using Pinterest, Kotex identified the most appreciated items from a select group of fifty women relative to their target audience, and made fifty personalized gifts comprised of these items. The fifty women were notified via a Pin on Pinterest that they each received a gift from Kotex, but would only receive it if they repinned the gift. Once the women did so, the gifts were sent, and almost 100% of them shared about their gift via Pinterest and other platforms, resulting in a robust conversation of about 700,000 impressions. In this case, Pinterest gave the power of influence to a select group of similar people, to bring visibility and advocacy/loyalty to the Kotex brand. The women selected were (1) representative of a larger body of people, and (2) collected valuable information (in this case, exclusive access to a gift) to share with other similar women.
Although it is a relatively common strategy to hire a cultural icon to provide visibility and be an influencer for a brand, it's best not to underestimate the power that advocates can have. In addition, it is not a good idea to only use influencers (who may not be advocates) to generate loyalty for your brand. Using social media, we can understand the desires of our target audience like never before, and use that information to identify and construct advocacy programs, by empowering these natural advocates with the tools necessary to spread awareness amongst other potential advocates. Thus, through awareness, creativity, and market generosity, your unheard advocates can be your biggest assets.