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evolution_of_man

In previous articles we studied the evolution of the Internet Society.  Our theory is that an internet tool, when it first appears, is like the cast of a TV show; its personality isn’t very well defined at first.  But as time goes by and viewers start watching the show, the characters’ personalities take on new proportions (have you ever compared the first episodes of Friends to the final ones? Joey undergoes a constant ‘dumbing down’ process as the series progresses.)

As more users watch what’s happening on Twitter, it’s character is taking on new proportions.  For example, Twitter has recently released a feature in which you can follow lists. Sure, this is something avid users have been wanting for a while and is indeed a valuable add-on, but what’s most revealing is how this small functionality basically defines a little better what Twitter is exactly for – Twitter as an aggregator of links related to common interests for a user (a.k.a. the Internet Yellow Pages).

Lists basically allow a user to gather their followed users into, well lists. These lists can be followed individually or you can add all the users to the regular timeline as you always had on Twitter. But the most interesting thing is that you can share your lists and a user can choose to follow the exact same list. It means you are no longer following a person – you are following a theme or a topic. Which leads us to the point – what if users stop following other users because they have relevant content and start following a list where what matters is what the list as a whole broadcasts and not the individual valor of the broadcaster himself? Twitter becoming less a “What are you doing?” and more a “What is your group doing?”. You can probably still measure the interest rating of a user by his following/followers ratio, but now you have a new metric – how many list are you part of? What are those lists about? Why are you part of the list? And are you an active member of the list or are you there for aggregation purposes?

Sure, Twitter lists are useful. But what strikes us as an interesting study is the shift from the human islands of Twitterland to Content Continents built by the content the users generate. After all, we live in a Content Society.  And in this realm, Twitter just took one more step from plain generalist micro-blogging into a fully defined Social Network that can be set completely apart from all the others by focusing not on apps, photos or moods, but by content sharing in its purest form.

Not a new video, but an interesting one to check again.

I love the design on it and I think that the message is pretty clear (and something we keep talking about on the TW) – DO YOU HAVE, AS A BRAND, HAVE ANYTHING INTERESTING TO SAY? That’s the main question you should make before spending your consumers’ time and attention.

Augmented reality is booming as new advancements appear every day. This one really blew my mind yesterday:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb0pMeg1UN0

Sure, Augmented ID by TAT may raise certain privacy issues, but the fact is that we can probably set a privacy rule such as a per request access to the information (bluetooth like) that avoids everyone having access.

Aside from that, this is really cool!

Everybody is (or should be) familiar with the KISS principle (keep it short and simple). It is widely applied throughout communications, marketing being no exception. It basically points out that things should be kept to a simple level as complexity only adds an unnecessary experience layer to the scene. This is also true for Online Marketing – the more complex the experience is, the more prone are you to losing your visitors. This applies to banners, sites and even social network interactions.

If you work in the online arena, then a lot of your clients have already come up to you and said, “Well, let’s go into [insert Social Network here]” – most likely Facebook now – and has tasked you and your team to strategize what the brand should do on Facebook. If you are going into a a group logic or just a fan page with some static information, then you should probably think about doing something more. However, if you are creating a more complex interaction, like a browser game or a new tool that you hope will be really interesting for the users, then you’ve got a lot of work ahead. The KISS principle will be your friend when figuring out what you should do, but I’ve got a new rule – the SSS Rule.

The SSS Rule simply stands for “Simple”, “Sharable”, “Scorable”. And it will help you evaluate your ideas before you take them to the client and even support them when you do your presentation. Let’s look into each of these:

Simple – No news here. KISS said to keep it simple. I’m telling you to keep it SIMPLE. The time people spend in Social Networks, although growing, is unbelievably fragmented. From tool to tool, game to game, post to post, users are prone to lose their attention in a very short time span. It’s a stresstetainment consequence. So if you want your tool to survive it has to be really time efficient – only requiring a little while to understand and about 1-5 minutes of the users time maximum. Beyond efficiency, keep in mind it also has to make them come back for more. One such example is Mafia Wars. With more users growing every day, Mafia Wars takes up to a few minutes each time you go in. But it always makes you come back in a few hours to carry on your game.

Sharable – Social Networks are all about sharing – and they make it easy to do it too! All you have to consider is that the tool has to have sharing potential – be it because it’s a natural mechanism such as the ingredient exchange in Restaurant City or because sharing it broadens the experience like adding more neighbors in Farmville.

Scorable – This is probably the hardest to explain. To keep users coming back for more, Social Network tools should create competition in an indirect way (e.g. a score or level that challenges users to develop new skills and ‘up their game’). Not only does competition open up more functionality in the application, it also becomes a status of its own. Consider the quiz craze on Facebook. What makes users crazy about quizzes like the Flixter Movie Quizzes is the fact that they see the results of their friends. This is what I mean as Scorable – it give a score or it contains an evaluation or evolution metric inside the application.

There you have it. The SSS rule will help you conceptualize and evaluate any application you create for a Social Network. Keep in mind, some applications might only fulfill two of the criteria such as Sharable + Simple; as one of the S’s might be more important to your target than another. Ultimately it’s up to you though, where you want to position the brand in the SSS matrix. In any case, using the SSS Rule will help you evaluate where your social application stands and what should you improve or not.

social_shopping

Alvenda Inc., a Minneapolis-based startup, has innovated the e-commerce scenario by creating Banner Based Stores, display advertising materials that pose as a online store for their clients — an innovative and definitely different approach towards e-commerce as it allows a store to be where the consumers are instead of trying to drag them into their website which has to be done by gaining their confidence, getting them to visit you and having a really good product.

So now they’ve decided to go one step forward by developing fully functioning retail stores in Facebook. Facebook already has a currency that is used to buy virtual gifts and is slowly evolving into a semi-Pay Pal system that allows more complex offline shopping to occur – but the fact is that in order for the e-commerce capabilities of Facebook to evolve, companies have to find a way to play with all the capabilities Facebook has to offer at the moment and build up a proper E-Commerce strategy with real added value for the Facebook-using consumer. This has to be done, of course, taking into account the nature of Social Media and the seriousness (or lack of) that it has in the eyes of the consumer.

And in comes a rather recent concept – Social Shopping. Shopping is by nature a social act. Shopping online always had a few issues – the fact that you can’t see the actual product (not solvable) and the fact that you can’t exactly take your friends or family to help you choose. So Alvenda is bringing a solution to this second fact by bringing the shop to where the consumers are and, if they properly use the tools Facebook has, they will enable users to share their shopping or wishlists with other users directly on Facebook.

The sheer potential of the Social Shopping is still far from explored. While brands can look at this with some skepticism, marketers should to be able to design a strategy that, if necessary, can look into a first dwelling in Social Shopping. A very basic and test-oriented dwelling, of course. Like in any new tool, the first approach should be cautious but not too basic.

Let’s see how Alvenda’s approach to Social Shopping works out. We do not expect massive results at first and we know that some cards might be playing against them – not many users consider Facebook as a Shopping Mall and still look at it more as a toy than a serious website. But take this into account – the nature that the Social Network is acquiring goes beyond a profile page and more into the building of an online persona where more users each day invest more time. Not only this, but more brands and companies are building microsites for promotions inside Facebook. So the odds for Alvenda’s are pretty good – let’s see what happens…