Tag Archives: Facebook

33 Tools Every Startup Marketer Needs

I’ve spent the last twelve years working in (or as) the marketing department at start ups. In fact, every job I’ve had has been at a start up. Marketing for start ups is a lot different than big brand marketing. For one, the budgets are much, much smaller, and often nonexistent. And you’re laser focused on customer acquisition, there’s no time or money for branding exercises. Because of those start up marketing truths, these tools are focused on getting the most bang for the buck and driving real marketing results for the business.

Over the years I’ve compiled a list of tools that are must haves for marketers who are trying to get marketing up and running for brand new businesses. This is not every tool, these are not the most expensive or a list of free tools, these are the ones that I’ve found help me get a marketing department off the ground. Here are my top 33 tools that every marketer needs to run a successful marketing department at a start up.

33 Tools Every Startup Marketer Needs

Google Analytics – Start here. The best, free analytics package there is. If you configure your goals and segments properly you’ll be off to the races with web analytics. The second you launch your website, install this tracking code. If you’re selling anything on your site configure it to capture ecommerce information. That will let you get important information such as, oh you know, revenue, average order size, revenue per visitor by traffic source, all that good stuff.

Google Analytics

Basecamp – There’s one thing that’s consistent across every start up I’ve been at: everything moves at a lightning pace. Having projects, files, timelines, and to-dos in one place is critical in a start up environment. I love basecamp for marketing teams because it’s lighter weight than something more robust like JIRA but far better than trying to stay organized by email. Works just as well with two people or twenty and will help you keep on top of everything you’ve got going.

Basecamp

Campfire – Communication is everything at a start up. Campfire is a great way to keep everyone in the loop with a browser-based group chat. Teams can bat ideas around, share comps and other files via the chat room and have an opportunity to weigh in on important projects and initiatives that the team is working on. With Campfire the likelihood that someone feels out of the loop drops significantly.

Skype – If you’ve got a remote team, Skype video chat is the secret sauce to keeping everyone on the same page and connected to the team. Video chats are a quick easy way to get in synch and keep that all-important chemistry that will keep the team moving forward.

Google Apps – Save yourself the headache and costs of a Microsoft Exchange setup. Convince your IT team that they would be better focused building the product and not dealing with desktop support and networking. Google Apps: mail, docs, sites, chat and Google Plus are all incredible productivity tools that can keep the team focused on building what matters and not dealing with the nonsense of desktop support.

Dropbox – Skip FTP for moving big PowerPoints and marketing files around and use Dropbox, plus you’ll save your inbox storage for all the mail you’ll generate. It’s great for sharing comps, files, storing assets and synching important documents. Your team can start with free plans and upgrade to a Team plan when you’re ready and need the space.

Dropbox

A DSLR – Whether it’s the Canon or a Nikon, grab a DSLR and learn how to shoot decent shots of your company, product, customers and events. Bonus if it takes HD video too. If you’re going to leverage social marketing to power your business you’ll need content. And people love photos, lots of photos, and video. From shots of the hackathon to video of the product launch and everything in between, having great photos and video can make for engaging content that connects your customers to your company and has them rooting for your team from the beginning.

KISS Metrics – Google Analytics is great, but it doesn’t give you two important things: cohort analysis and user-level funnel metrics. KISS Metrics provides you with detailed funnel construction and page-by-page analysis for cohorts of users and at the user level to see how people are moving through your website. You can see where drop-offs occur and find opportunities to improve your conversion.

Crazy Egg – How is your website performing? Are people seeing the content you want them to? Are the calls to action getting the attention they need? With Crazy Egg you can see what your users are clicking on and how far they’re scrolling down the page. By using Crazy Egg you can see if you have page elements that are being ignored or navigation that is leading people astray. It’s a great visualization tool that you can leverage to up your conversion and improve the user experience on your site.

Crazy Egg

Optimizely – With a single line of JavaScript, Optimizely lets you run and deploy A/B testing on your site in a snap. If you’re running marketing for a start up, one thing is certain, you don’t really know what your customers want. From headline copy, to button color, to page layout and more, Optimizely lets you collect the data and find the best combinations to drive conversion. And, you can deploy it on any page — landing pages, home page, product pages and in the conversion funnel, you can learn and optimize with Optimizely.

Optimizely

 

Facebook Power Editor – Facebook ads are cheap, plentiful and provide a quick and easy way to test your start up’s value propositions, messaging and offers. But how do you do all that testing? Facebook Power Editor. A Chrome extension, it lets you upload ad variants via Microsoft Excel so you can test hundreds of versions of ads in hundreds of different targeting configurations. With a monthly spend of just $1,500 you can leverage Power Editor and put its functionality to work in helping you find what really resonates with who.

Google Adwords – Another great tool for start up marketers. Even if paid advertising isn’t part of your early plan (i.e. you’re hoping press and social word of mouth drive the business) AdWords is a great testing ground, just like Facebook ads. You can test messages, value propositions and calls to action to see what resonates. If you find a particular message or ad unit that converts at a higher click through rate you can take that winning message, value prop or call to action and test it in a broader setting across your site.

MailChimp – There are dozens and dozens of email service providers (ESPs) out there. But MailChimp’s dead-simple user interface and affordable pricing makes it a no-brainer for startups. Plus A/B testing, autoresponder capability, API integration and more, MailChimp can grow as your business grows. Plus the Chimp? Adorbs.

Mail Chimp

WordPress – You’ll need a website and there’s a good chance that you’ll want a blog to keep people up-to-date with what you’re working on. WordPress is a great first step to get your marketing website and/or blog out there. Obviously, if you’re building a consumer facing web product, then you’ll be launching you’re own site based on whatever tech the product is built on; but when you need to get a blog or marketing site up in a hurry, WordPress is a perfect tool to get the job done.

Adobe Photoshop – As a marketer in a startup it’s likely that you’ll be doing not only the marketing, but you’ll be kicking in to support the design team, and if you’re building a product, you may have to fend for yourself creating marketing materials so the designers can focus on the product. Photoshop can help you crank out things like landing pages, email marketing templates, production graphics, ad units and more. The more you can roll your own graphic needs the more you can get done while letting the designers do their thing on the product side.

Final Cut Pro X – If you’re launching a new or novel web service, mobile app or something else brand new, it’s likely you’ll need an explainer video. Video is a great way to demo a product, capture interest, generate press and drive new users. Of course you can pay for it; or you can shoot it and make it yourself. Plus tutorials, how-tos, customer testimonials, demos and more all look better on video. If video is going to be a key part of your marketing strategy you’ll want to be able to polish it up quickly and easily. Final Cut Pro X will give you everything you need for just $299.

Final Cut Pro

Google Alerts – You’ll want to keep an eye on any press, blog or comments mentioning your new venture. Set up a free Google Alert with your brand name and any variations that may exist (e.g. a space between two words in your name, even if you write them together). Extra points for setting up alerts for the founder names and competition to keep a better picture of what’s going on with your brand and in your space.

TweetDeck, HootSuite – Google Alerts can’t monitor everything, and if social marketing is going to be a key component of your marketing, then a more powerful Twitter monitoring and management tool will be handy. I love having a separate monitor setup with HootSuite to keep an eye on people talking to the company, answering customer support, engaging in conversations relevant to the brand and more. TweetDeck is a bit limited in its new release, but HootSuite is just one of many full-featured Twitter clients that can be an important way for marketers to stay connected on the platform.

SEOMoz Pro – SEOMoz Pro is the secret weapon for many online marketers. It’s packed with useful tools and information. You’ll get search monitoring tools to measure your organic keyword traffic, social measurement tools to see how effective your social programs are, and tons and tons of education on how you can build visibility for your company with search engine optimization and social marketing.

SEOMoz

Hacker News – Simply the best news source for the latest and greatest in the technology space. If your company is in the startup world, you just can’t afford to not read it every day.

Inbound.org – Like a Hacker News for online marketing full of great insight on search engine optimization, social marketing, conversion rate optimization, online testing and lots more. If you’re looking to get educated on the latest in online marketing, Inbound.org is a great place to start.

Inbound.org

Verify - Sitting around a table arguing about design is healthy, up to a point. Then it’s better to get the design out there and see if anyone outside the building really likes it or not. That’s where VerifyApp comes in. You can put up a page, email, add, or mobile app comp and ask Verify users to choose a favorite between two designs, recount what they remember after seeing your landing page and more.

Verify

Bit.ly Pro – If you’re using social media marketing there’s no better way to track clicks then to push all of your links through bit.ly Pro. It’s a great way to get analytics on what was clicked and what wasn’t so you can see which content has the most interest to the social audience.

Litmus – Litmus is an email marketer’s dream. It lets you send test emails to a single email address and then Litmus renders them in each of the main email clients. You can even select which clients to include in your test. It’s brilliant for ensuring that your email looks great in the email clients that matter to you, in the browsers that your users use. See an email in Gmail in FireFox, Chrome and IE. See how it renders on the iPhone. Busted HTML email is amateur hour — make sure it looks good before you send it.

Balsamiq Mockups - Wireframes aren’t just for the UX designers any more. Marketers should know how to use and communicate with wireframes. Need a landing page? You should be able to wireframe out one to use as conversation starter or requirement with your designer. Need a Facebook tab, a pricing page, or a blog? Pick up the tools and learn to do it yourself, it will go a long way toward saving time and giving your designers and devs more information on how to approach a marketing project. Balsamiq is great because it’s easy and because the wireframes looked sketched, which makes people feel like they aren’t as formalized, yet they still communicate your requirements.

Balsamiq Mockups

Survey Monkey – There’s no better way to learn about what’s working that to talk with your customers. Regular surveying is a must. Survey Monkey is a cheap and effective way to survey your customers. You can create surveys quickly and easily and go as long or as short as you like. If you’re not surveying your customers you’re doing it wrong.

Unbounce – If your design team is too busy on the product to worry about marketing projects then you might want to consider Unbounce. Unbounce lets you create great landing pages on the fly. If you know some HTML and some CSS you can crank out some great looking landing pages without having to get sprint points to get them done. Win!

ReTargeter - Personally, I think display advertising is for suckers in a startup, but if you’re going to do any display ads, they should be retargeted ads. ReTargeter and Google ReTargeting ad programs let you target display ads back to people who have been to your site. It’s a great way to appear bigger than you are, and to remind your previous visitor to come back soon.

Retargeter

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+  - I can’t write about all of the social networks, but obviously if you’re a startup you’ll take all the free marketing you can get. I’m not going to go into detail on these, because there are literally hundreds of books on the subject. Hundreds. My recommended books post is coming up after this.

Salesforce – Whether it’s Salesforce or some other CRM, it’s helpful to have a database of prospects that are tied to marketing campaigns that allow you to follow up with, measure effectiveness and see progress tracked back. Especially good for marketing teams that need to support sales staffs and for product sales that have a long sales cycle, such as B2B sales. Without CRM you’re under performing in the sales department, guaranteed.

Join.me - Need to share a screen with a potential prospect or business partner? Join.me makes it dead simple. Just send them the join.me link and they’ll see your screen in real time. Great for marketing folks who have to support business development efforts with product marketing and/or training. Also great for demoing press and bloggers who you can’t meet in person.

join.me

ZenDesk – Say it with me, customer service is marketing. Great customer service can lead to excellent word of mouth, which leads to more business for you. You know this, I know this; but if customer service doesn’t fall in your domain you need to champion for a help desk solution for your customer service team to ensure that your marketing effort is focused on growing the business, not fighting fires from unhappy customers.

OLark – If you’re trying to sell something online, there’s no better tool than live chat. It’s great for answering questions and giving users the confidence they need to make a purchase. It’s also a great way to learn about what visitors questions and fears are before buying from you. It’s marketing gold, because you can turn that feedback into content and design that addresses those concerns and converts more visitors to customers.

olark

So there you have it. Some of my favorite tools for startup marketers. They represent a strong set of technologies that can help you get any marketing department off the ground and run it for the beginning stages of the company. These tools work for a company of just 3 or 4 people and scale upwards of 100 (and beyond in many cases). Sure, there will be some that are overkill in the beginning, so wait on those, and there will be those that won’t scale with the organization, so just graduate from them when it’s right; but in all I’ve found these tools invaluable in the startup environments I’ve been in. As a marketer, you’re doing everything from customer acquisition, to email marketing, to social, to supporting customer service and business development, to product marketing and more. With these tools you’ll be able to do your job better and help your startup grow.

I know there are hundreds of tools out there, which ones did I miss that you’d add to the list? Share with me in the comments.

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46 of the Best Facebook Page Timeline Cover Images

Facebook announced the new timeline page design for brand pages last week at the Facebook Marketing Conference. The new Facebook page design gives brand pages the same timeline layout as user profile pages, with a few additional tools to help them manage their brand on the site. One of the most valuable changes to the pages is the ability to create a powerful branded presence by smart use of the cover art used on the page. Here are 50 of my favorite brand pages and their cover images as of today. If you’re looking for inspiration when setting up the timeline view of your brand’s Facebook page, you’re sure to find a few ideas here.

I think you’ll agree that with the new timeline changes for brands, a powerful Facebook presence starts with great cover art. Sure, some companies might not have the money for professional photography, but there are some great examples below of small businesses who have creatively found art work that works in the space and does a great job of branding their business.

These page cover photo dimensions are 815px by 315px. Profile images are 180px by 180px. And remember — all business pages will be upgraded to timeline by March 31, 2012. So get your cover art ready, and take advantage of the new Facebook page layout.

46 of the Best Facebook Page Cover Images

surfrider

Surfrider’s Facebook Page connects with fans of the non-profit, and puts its audience and focus front and center.

starbucks facebook cover photo

Starbucks does a great job of showcasing the beans, the start of any great cup of coffee.

Barack Obama facebook cover photo

Barack Obama’s Facebook page is excellent and it starts with this photo, which quickly shows that Obama gets (and is) one of us.

nike facebook cover photo

Nike uses the cover art to promote their new product line – the Fuel band.

redbull facebook cover photo

Red Bull‘s cover photo perfectly captures the brand essence through its connection to extreme sports.

Coca-Cola tells the brand history with its Facebook timeline, and the cover photo creates the overriding brand experience for the page.

spiderman facebook cover photo

The Spider-Man franchise is back, and this cover art teases the upcoming reboot.

chevy volt facebook cover photo

The Chevy Volt showcases its primary USP with a great shot of the vehicle plugged in, in front of some nice greenery.

the bachelor facebook cover photo

I don’t watch The Bachelor, but you get the gist of it pretty quickly just through the cover photo and profile picture they use. They also update it week after week with key scenes. Nice touch.

captain morgan facebook cover photo

Captain Morgan brings the iconic pirate to life and cleverly matches the profile image with the bottle label to break the hard line between the cover art and the rest of the profile.

american express facebook cover photo

Membership has its privileges is communicated clearly with AMEX’s Facebook cover photo.

alamo drafthouse cinema facebook cover photo

If this cover photo doesn’t tell you what you’re in for, I don’t know what will. Plus, Kenny Powers? Win!

herbal essence facebook cover photo

Herbal Essences showcases its product line with their Facebook cover photo.

louis vitton facebook cover photo

Louis Vuitton uses the cover photo as an invitation. Remember, the Facebook terms of service prohibit brands from putting messages such as “Save 40% now” or “Like Us!” in the cover photo.

livestrong facebook cover photo

Livestrong has a fresh take on its iconic yellow band.

smirnoff facebook cover photo

Smirnoff drinkers make their own great nights” comes to life for their audience with their cover photo.

fanta facebook cover photo

Fanta has a game going right now and uses the cover photo area to promote it. They’ve lost some characters, and only Likes will bring them back.

modern family facebook cover photo

The characters of the hit TV show Modern Family are captured perfectly in this shot used for their Facebook cover photo.

chevy sonic facebook cover photo

Chevy’s Sonic performed the first kick-flip done by a car. If you didn’t know that, you’re not the target audience for the Sonic. Chevy does a great job capturing that awesome feat with their cover photo.

verizon facebook cover photo

Verizon goes the user generated route for its cover photo, showing off a picture snapped on one of its devices for its cover photo.

amy's ice creams

Amy’s Ice Creams does a great job showcasing their product and adding some brand whimsy while they’re at it.

brookfield homes facebook cover photoBrookfield Homes San Diego has a clear call to action and a visually interesting welcome for potential home buyers.

butterfinger facebook cover photoButterfinger lines up the profile image and cover photo to create a fun visual break with the hard borders of Facebook’s cover photo area.

the today show facebook cover photo

The Today Show is all about the personalities of the show — the Facebook cover photo is no different.

mcguire real estate facebook cover photo

McGuire Real Estate uses a stunning shot of downtown San Francisco to create a powerful Facebook presence for potential home shoppers.

 Ben & Jerry’s Facebook cover image is simple and right on brand with their other collaterals.

The Magnolia Bakery whets your appetite with the delicious confections they sell. You almost want to press your face up against the screen like when you were a kid walking by the window.

HSG Accounting is a great example of what you can do without a professional photography or incredible images. Find a great-looking shot on iStockPhoto or similar and crop it in an interesting way to create compelling cover art.

Assassin’s Creed uses a stunning shot from actual gameplay — nice.

People leaves no doubt to its value proposition. Want celebrity news? Read People. Simple.

Jive Time Records showcases their awesome selection of vinyl. A place that any High Fidelity fan could get lost in for hours.

ColdPlay‘s image is all about them and portrays them in the way that their fans expect and appreciate.

Tiffany is all about diamonds and little blue boxes. So is their cover photo.

Tide uses the cover art to introduce a new product to the Tide line.


Nespresso uses an alluring image with satin sheets that speak to the brand promise of a smooth, sensual coffee drink.

SportsCenter gives you a look behind the cameras, putting you in the director’s chair — right on the set.

Doug Bend is another great example of a small business without professional photography find artwork that speaks to their business and brand.

Canlis does a great job showcasing their property. That inviting image is just calling visitors to come and join them for a meal.

The Vow‘s page puts Channing Tatum front and center in a shot filled with dramatic tension.

Old Spice stays true to the branding of it’s campaigns. Explosions and tigers, oh my!

The New York Times gives you a look inside at the people who make the country’s most esteemed newspaper.

Burberry puts the latest runway look front and center with something right out of your favorite fashion or lifestyle magazine.

Toyota connects with the emotional side of owning a car. It’s not about the car, it’s about the lifestyle, the freedom of the open road with your best friend.

Verrado, a community outside of Phoenix, sets the scene with a tree-lined lane that has hometown written all over it.

Sports Clips

SportClips not only puts it’s USP front and center, it shows it in action, too.

The beauty of the Centerpoint on Mill development in Phoenix is captured in a perfect evening shot, showcasing the work and the possibilities of the development.

 

Disclosure: I’ve worked with Brookfield, Verrado and Centerpoint on their social marketing strategy.

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Ecommerce on Twitter. The rise of tcommerce?

pepsi twitter brand pageAdAge has an intriguing article about upcoming enhancements to Twitter brand pages that include sweepstakes, contests and ecommerce. The report is purportedly confirmed by multiple, unnamed Twitter executives. The commerce part is particularly intriguing, especially in light of Jack Dorsey’s dual involvement in both Square and Twitter. But what would ecommerce on Twitter look like? Is this the start of t-commerce? Is it the next wave of social commerce? Will it be as uninspiring as fcommerce (Facebook commerce?) Of course this is all speculation, but the nexus of mobile, frictionless payments and real time is a compelling area to explore a new way to find, share, promote and pay.

Here’s a bit from the article:

Launched in December, the pages show the brand’s Twitter feed and images, but Twitter plans to add experiences, including e-commerce, contests and sweepstakes, according to three executives familiar with the matter.

The product will allow app developers to build experiences on Twitter, much the way they do on Facebook. The features will be contained within the brand’s tweet timeline, a departure from the 140-character limit of a tweet or images and videos that can now displayed. While no date has been set for the release of the product, Twitter has been telling clients to expect it this year.

What Would Twitter Commerce (tcommerce?) Look Like?

Location

Location-based deals are nothing new, see Foursquare, Loopt and the rest, but Twitter has an audience orders of magnitude larger than those services combined. It’s not hard to imagine Twitter using your location to push out deals via your stream that are relevant to you from businesses near by. A deal from the local deli while you’re checking Twitter from the CVS next door could be just the motivation you need to pick up lunch while you’re out.

Deals are also a great incentive for users to follow brands on Twitter. The most successful brand pages on Facebook have far more fans than similar brands on Twitter. And there is plenty of research out there that shows that people follow brands on Facebook for deals and specials, so it’s not much of a stretch to see how deals could help brands build larger purchase-oriented followings on Twitter.

Real Time

Location isn’t the only opportunity. The flash-deal model also works with Twitter. And there are plenty of good case studies on how short-term deals work well on Twitter. The Dell Outlet Twitter account being probably the most visible/memorable. The ability to deploy ecommerce opportunities quickly and to a captive audience is a powerful concept, if executed well. It’s easy to see how Zappos could deploy a deal on the shoes that a celebrity is wearing on Oscars the red carpet. Combining a deal with a promoted Tweet around a popular hashtag is a way to reach a very targeted audience in a much faster and more relevant way than an email 24 hours later, when the moment has passed.

Frictionless Payments

The one catch of course is the payment gateway for all of this. Clicking from a Tweet to a payment page, to fill out a cumbersome ecommerce form is not going to get the job done — particularly in the mobile world. This is where a partnership with a company like Square and the wallet technology makes a ton of sense. Having secure, one-click-type payment ability will be the key to adoption and use of tcommerce payments. Being able to see a deal, and take instant action without the friction associated with typical ecommerce could be the thing that makes tcommerce really work.

What About fcommerce?

There has been a lot of skepticism around social commerce, particularly with the closing of several high-profile storefronts on Facebook. But there is little reason to think the tcommerce would suffer the same fate as fcommerce. Why? Because fcommerce was nothing more than ecommerce jammed into the Facebook chrome. As long as Twitter looks at the experience holistically and unique to the service there is no reason that it has to be as uninspiring as Facebook’s first attempt.

Twitter thinks about it’s platform in a much different way than Facebook does. Facebook is a utility, the plumbing of the social graph that anyone can build on, regardless of the effectiveness of what they build. Twitter is much more in control of the user experience and what is and isn’t allowed in the service. This control means that any solution is their solution, and mobile, real time and commerce are all areas of expertise for Jack and team.

Tcommerce revolution?

Deals and brand offerings are pretty superficial. What if we think bigger. Could Twitter replace Western Union? Could sending money be as easy as sending a Tweet? Could you donate to a cause through a trending hashtag? There are issues to unravel with these scenarios, but there isn’t any reason to think that they’re not possible at some level at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Of course, this could all be smoke. Twitter could just let brands promote the deals they have on other services. There could be no true tcommerce solution. An integration with Square could be years off, who knows. But it is fun to think about, and it could be a whole new mobile, real time, frictionless way to send money to anyone.

Image via AdAge.

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MetLife’s new ad, featuring Schroeder, is more than just a rich banner – it’s an interactive experience and game that encourages the user to play the keyboard to help Schroeder successfully play a mini concerto in what looks like Carnegie Hall. It’s a brilliant way to engage with users and keep their attention for more than a split second, and the scoring and social sharing ensured this unique experience went viral.

You can view a video of how the ad works here:

This is easily one of the best banner ad executions since the I’m a Mac banners that also ran on the NY Times home page. It must be the high dollar cost of the ad placement on nytimes.com that brings out the best in banner creative.

If you missed the ad, you can play the game on Facebook, or catch it on March 1st on People.com.

 

Brilliant MetLife Ad

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Facebook Ups Its Ad Game

Facebook is clearly focused on revenue ahead of its IPO. The massive social network has been hard at work innovating on it’s platform – it’s ad platform. Over the last few weeks there have been a slew of changes rolled out to advertisers with announcements of more right around the horizon. Is this a coincidence? No way. Facebook needs to ramp up its revenue capability as it enters the public market. Investors will demand fast growth for the multiple they’re going to pay, and Facebook is laying the foundation to grab as many ad dollars as possible with these new changes.

New Ad Units

Leaked Facebook documents show new Facebook ad units coming and old units sunsetting as Facebook attempts to find the ad units that drive more engagement (clicks) to pay off better for advertisers who are looking for measurable results. The new social units are actually already live on the site if you’re in the developer preview. I’ve grabbed one from my Facebook feed below.

These new ads, say Facebook, are poised to drive more clicks and actually work better than standard ads. I’m inclined to believe them. I’ve run a ton of Facebook ad experiments and I can tell you, in no uncertain terms, that the social ads work better. But that’s another post.

More Ads, More Places

Facebook has been thinking more about how it can leverage the most popular parts of its platform to drive more impressions for it’s ads. When it launched the new version of the photo viewer, it reworked the layout and bumped up the visibility of the ad units. You can see between the previous version and the new one how much visual priority has been given to the ads now, and yes, there’s even an extra ad unit in there for good measure.

That extra ad unit may not seem like a big deal, but when you take into account that 200 million photos are added to Facebook every day (6B/month) and that those photos are viewed on an average of some multiple of that, you’ve just added a ton of new inventory (and CPMs) from your platform to sell and monetize. It’s a big change.

Old Photo Viewer

Facebook's previous photo viewer

New Photo Viewer with Two Ad Spots

Facebook new photo viewer

We should not be surprised to see this ad creep continue to show up all across the platform.

Facebook Mobile Ads

With more than 400 million of it’s ~850 million users accessing Facebook via mobile, and with no current monetization opportunities to capture that audience, it’s a no-brainer that Facebook will unveil mobile ads at some point soon. You just can’t have that type of traffic to a site that you can’t monetize. I’m sure that’s the busiest team in the entire company.

Facebook also acquired a mobile payments company recently. And if they can strike a payments deal where they take a cut, it could be lucrative for them, and a model they’re very familiar with already (see Facebook credits.)

More Tools for Advertisers

In addition to the extra ads and new ad units, Facebook will continue to innovate to make the ad professional’s life easier and their campaigns more successful. Facebook’s treasure trove of data on users is becoming easier to tap and target with recent changes to the ad editor which has become much better at making suggestions for interests as you type. Users of the Facebook Power Editor can now mix and match broad based categories and precise interests, which let you target say small business owners who like search marketing (like the AimClear guys did.)

When Will the Ads Be Too Much?

The big question of course is when is enough, enough? An ad that shows you a funeral parlor when Facebook knows you’ve just lost a relative is going to be far too creepy and turn off a bunch of users. I’m sure there’s some healthy debate going on between ad sales and the product teams about where, when and how to best leverage the platform and drive revenue. Those debates have likely picked up since the S-1 filing.

One thing is for sure, unlike Twitter, Facebook has fully embraced it’s destiny as an ad serving platform. We won’t be paying a subscription any time soon, but we will be seeing more and more ads. The big question is when will it be too much? Will it be the ads that chase the users away? Or will we be perfectly content being served ads for merchandise of our favorite teams and tools that are built for professionals like us?

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Facebook Store Failures? Blame the Retailers, Not Facebook.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Bloomberg reporter Ashley Lutz filed a seemingly damming story about the failure of Facebook as a commerce platform by highlighting retailers who have closed their Facebook stores after a lack of success. Unfortunately the article fails to address the most important question, which is: did the stores fail because they’re on Facebook, or did they fail because they were bad stores? Lutz’s juicy, link bait title and high profile retailers make for compelling reading, but by only focusing on the platform, she completely ignores the role of the execution of the stores as a factor in their lack of success. And this is a big miss.

Facebook Stores are Where eCommerce Stores Were in 1997

If you’ve studied or used Facebook stores as they exist today, you know one thing for certain: they’re not very good. The experience isn’t unlike trying to shop on the original Amazon or eToys. It’s mostly clunky, and lacks the polish and refinement of today’s ecommerce sites. Worse, most Facebook stores represent nothing more than catalog pages from existing ecommerce sites shoe-horned into the Facebook chrome.  They are completely substandard around many best ecommerce practices including navigation, calls-to-action, ability to get product details and images, speed – the list goes on.

Many of these retailers, including GameStop, JC Penny and others, in their rush to get on the F-commerce train, launched stores that were doomed because the user experience was sub-par. The expectation that people would put up with a poor shopping experience simply because they were in the cozy confines of Facebook is where the real failure is – and not with Facebook.

In addition to a poor user-friendly shopping experience, few, if any of these sites took advantage of the benefits of being on Facebook. Many stores failed to integrate personalized recommendations, information about friend’s preferences and previous purchases, and any number of other social proof elements available on Facebook that could’ve helped these stores succeed.

These stores are truly the v1 efforts of F-commerce, and so we should not be surprised that they’ve failed. The failure of early Facebook stores doesn’t mean Facebook is a poor commerce platform, just like the failure of the first ecommerce stores proved that the Web was a bad platform for shopping.

Facebook Calls for New Ways of Shopping

Just like we’ve seen in 15 years of ecommerce, there’s a lot to learn and figure out about commerce in any new context, and old methods aren’t going to necessarily translate to a new medium. We should expect the same in a Web-to-Facebook transition, too. And until retailers get beyond the convention of ecommerce ported to Facebook, they’ll continue to fail. Their fine-tuned ecommerce paradigm will continue to falter in Facebook, which is a completely different medium. Just because Facebook lives on the Web does not mean that shopping on Facebook is the same as shopping on the Web.

Facebook Shares Responsibility in the Failures

For as much as I’ve blamed the failures of these stores on the retailers, Facebook must assume some responsibility for these failures. The Facebook chrome is unforgiving and difficult to work with for applications like shopping carts and store catalogs. There are few tools or special functionality built into the Facebook platform or API that make shopping on the site more valuable or enjoyable than shopping elsewhere.

Imagine, for instance, having the ability to shop with a friend on a Facebook store as easily as you can listen to a song with your friend on Facebook using Spotify. This is just one of many, easy-to-conceive ways that Facebook could make shopping easier on the site – not to mention the troves of data for recommendations, the social connections to leverage for social proof, etc. etc. The possibilities are limitless – and for their diversity all have one thing in common – none have been done well (if at all).

Until Facebook makes changes to make shopping easier and more interesting, retailers will continue to treat the platform as nothing more than a curiosity, and one that doesn’t have the same potential as the Web. When Facebook decides to focus on the online-shopping experience, and subsequently delivers tools to retailers that really leverage the platform is when we can expect more success.

Let Zynga At It

If there’s a company that understands the Facebook platform and how to best leverage it for commerce, it’s Zynga. The company already accounts for 12% of Facebook’s revenue, driven by virtual gifts and credits purchased for it’s host of viral games. There isn’t any reason that Zynga couldn’t turn it’s sights on creating a social ecommerce platform that made shopping as fun and engaging as it is to raise virtual cows. And whether they do or don’t get into ecommerce, the lessons of their success should be heeded by any retailer looking at F-commerce. Leveraging social connections, game mechanics and the other benefits of Facebook is what will make F-commerce an eventual success.

It’s Early Days

With the current shortcomings of Facebook stores it’s no wonder people opt for the brand website over Facebook. And while it may be an intriguing story to write when a few big brands shutter their v1 store-fronts, it’s important to look at all of the reasons for failure, including the user experience and the changes needed to make shopping on Facebook worthwhile. Hopefully this article will get Facebook focused on improving the tools for retailers so that there are new, innovative ways to shop rather than just replicating ecommerce on Facebook. But it would be a shame if brands took an article like this as any type of analysis that would suggest that they abandon Facebook as a potential platform for commerce. The potential is there, but it is, early days again.

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Facebook Product Changes Aimed at Maximizing Revenue

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Brands love being on the Facebook platform. With Facebook reaching 3 out of every 4 Internet users in the US, it’s been a great way to reach customers where they’re spending their days. And the best part? It’s free. That combination has been a powerful driver, bringing brands and marketers on to the platform, with companies forsaking their own websites, driving traffic to Facebook to gain new fans. All with the hope that this new opt-in-lite “fan” asset will be a longterm winner, creating new customers and revenues. But two recent seemingly-unrelated changes on Facebook may signify the party is almost over, and that Facebook will be coming for it’s cut of the pie for the privilege of connecting with customers on Facebook.

The first change rolled out week’s ago to much fanfare and debate. The new Sponsored Stories. The Sponsored Stories product lets brands promote organic mentions, reviews and other shared information by users of Facebook, gaining guaranteed visibility for the item that may otherwise have gone unnoticed in the river of the hidden-by-default “Most Recent” news items. Most marketers loved this idea, because trying to get your items into their much more visible “Top News” feed is an art and science that has yet to be figured out completely.

With Sponsored Stories, Facebook gave brands a way to pay to get that extra visibility that everyone wants, in a consistent and guaranteed way. It was pitched as a boon to advertisers who wanted to stand out among the noise, and already, brands like Levi’s have lined up to take advantage. It was a smart move for Facebook in terms of wooing advertisers, and an innovative way to drive revenue.

But, then, just a few days ago, Facebook changed what users see in their news feeds. Switching the default view of the feed to “Show posts from: friends and Pages you interact with the most”, hiding tons of content that could’ve previously been visible to the user under the old settings. Of course, there are some obscure controls at the bottom of the News Feed that let you customize and restore the “Show posts from: All of your friends and pages”, but really, how many users even know they can change the global settings on their news feed, let alone know that something’s been changed for them that’s materially altering their experience on the site?

And this is punch #2 of the 1-2 product punch for Facebook. Because with a new, more restrictive filter on the News Feed, plus a new vehicle for driving revenue with Sponsored Stories, Facebook is making it harder and harder for brands to get organic mentions in front of casual fans – the exact people they want to reach and engage with on Facebook. It’s a shrewd and calculating move. Cut off organic access quietly, shortly after trumpeting a new, innovative way to get more visibility. And I predict that as brands see less engagement on their organic posts, more and more are going to be considering the Sponsored Stories as the de facto way to ensure key messages hit their target audience on the site. Driving tons of new revenue to Facebook.

But how will this sit with the advertisers who have been lured into a false sense of security where now the only way to leverage Facebook is to pay whatever the going rate is? Will brands feel taken advantage of now that their organic updates are less effective and the only way to the customer is through the Facebook sales department? Or will brands just merrily pony up cash to reach more people on Facebook, counting their number of fans like chits and assuring themselves they’re building a permission-marketing asset?

What do you think? Did Facebook intentionally roll these changes out together to drive more revenue? Or is one just a case of improving user experience by reducing clutter and the other a new ad model? That’s the benevolent angle I guess – but not the one I’m betting on.

It remains to be seen; but either way, the trap has been quietly set, and Facebook is counting on reaping a ton of cash from access-starved marketers who, now addicted to connecting with their customers for free on Facebook, will pay the going rate to keep feeling the love.

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If Context Isn’t King Yet, It’s Certainly the Heir Apparent

Google announced at Le Web that they are working on providing search results without users needing to search. Path has limited your social graph to 50 people. Facebook is working hard on its groups, lists and messaging features. Google has tried to buy Groupon and Yelp. Amazon invested $175 million in LivingSocial. Twitter recently launched People Like You. Companies like My6Sense, Curated.by and Storify are popping up everywhere. Jason Kottke and Frank Gruber have two massively trafficked web sites, where they primarily link people to other content. What do they all have in common with one another? They all are an attempt to bring context to an ever-more crowded, noisy and cluttered world.

Context Restores Value to Connections

As the Web gets more connected and crowded, the concept of connections have diminished in inherent value, quickly become commodities. Not sure you agree? Here’s a quick test. Go to LinkedIn, find a co-worker, and ask them about one of their random LinkedIn connections. Chances are they can’t tell you where that person works or remember how they met them. Same thing on Facebook. In the race to connect many users have destroyed the value of their connections by treating them all the same (a limitation of the networks when we first joined.) And when we can’t easily distinguish one connection from another we run into all sorts of issues, from diminished connection with those we really want to stay connected with (I can’t tell you how many of my brother’s status updates I miss, replaced with a steady diet of random weak tie updates) to privacy issues (why can’t I treat my coworkers differently than my former fraternity brothers?)

Context helps to restore the value of these connections by parsing the important ones out of network. All connections are not the same, and should never be treated as such. By helping users provide context to their connections networks like Facebook are hoping to restore the utility of smaller, stronger connections that have been diminished by unwieldy, weak-tie networks that pervade social networking sites.

Facebook has been hard at work with groups. Which allows users to create smaller, intimate groups based on particular connection attributes (family, work, interests,) aka context, that creates more value and brings more utility to the network. I can now connect with and share things with my family members, like photos of my son, easily and privately within the group structure. Something I couldn’t do before very easily. By allowing me to add context to my network I’m able to get more out of it on Facebook.

Path takes a different approach on a similar dynamic. By limiting your connections to 50, they’re ensuring that your network consists of strong connections only. Strong connections create greater intimacy, privacy and add an immediate layer of context that governs how the service is used. My Path is two people right now. Me and my girlfriend. And that’s perfect for me. Because our Path is our photo diary. I don’t need to share it with the world. Path’s forced context creates a quiet, intimate space, much like the Facebook groups does. Path adds another layer of context via its primary functionality. Being almost completely app-based, Path combines the context of location and mobility with privacy and photos. Those layers of context create value for the user. Which leads us to location as an important context.

Context Drives Local Discovery and Commerce

The rush to local buying sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe and others heralds the arrival of the local context layer being successfully applied to the Web. Yelp was the early pioneer, building social elements onto the local context layer on the Web. Google, Amazon and countless other Web companies are dying to crack the local commerce nut. And now, by applying the local layer to the social web it seems like we’ve reached a tipping point of moving local commerce online. Google gets the importance of connecting social context to local context. That’s why they were happy to shell out $6 billion for Groupon. Amazon gets it too, which is why they invested $175 million in a company with only ~10% of all group buying web traffic.

The local and social context layers drive commerce because it finally connects where we live with what we do and who we know on the Web. And the results are staggering and this connectivity is only beginning. And it’s not just group buying, it’s what every location based service, like Foursquare and Gowalla are trying to solve in their own way too.

These context layers added to online commerce drive confidence and intimacy. It makes the universe of possibilities smaller, more relevant and easier to act on. The context is the key to local web commerce.

Context Drives Content Discovery

Information overload is old news. I’m not even going to rehash the problem; but suffice to say words like “curation” don’t get worn out in information-poor environments. We are swimming in a sea of content. The majority of content, even more so than connections, has become commoditized to a point of uselessness. The advent of publishing technologies has helped content explode, but the tools to deal with this over-abundance are now just starting to get traction. Whether it’s My6Sense which learns what is interesting to you based on your past consumption, or a tool like Storify which lets human editors pull out and arrange Tweets into coherent conversations and storylines, they are trying to serve a massive need for context applied to our content.

Twitter is also trying to up the value of your Tweet stream by pointing to people who are like you, that may up the signal in a stream that is hard to cobble together one connection at a time. I can tell you from experience that it’s hard to craft an inbound Tweet stream of value at any scale. This is a big problem that Twitter needs to solve to help grow the service and make it relevant for less sophisticated users who don’t have the expertise, time or inclination to curate a group of people they follow that gives them the best experience they can get on the network. Twitter is trying to bring context to who you follow and what your Tweet stream looks like in response.

It’s not just machines and services either that are applying context to the content white noise. The ability to curate content, to create and apply an interesting and consistent context filter, is becoming more valuable than the content creation itself. People like Jason Kottke, the folks at Brain Picker and Boing Boing (among others,) are known, and valued, more for their ability to filter, surface and bring context to the endless firehose of content than of their ability to create it. They are the new editors of the Web. While mainstream print and network news have lost relevance these new editors are picking up the reigns of their offline counterparts, and providing much needed guidance to an audience that struggles just to keep up with the torrent of content, good, bad, farmed and malicious.

In a world where we find our own news, we are now in desperate search for our own editors. The software, companies and people who can create context for us that was lost when we ditched network TV for the blogosphere and statusphere are the ones that are creating new value for us on the Web. We’ll see more software like My6Sense, more context-driven M&A like Google and Amazon, and more Jason Kottke’s and Frank Gruber’s as we look for better ways to apply important context to the content that continues to come, like a never-ending avalanche down the hill. It will be these people, software and companies that will thrive and that will win in the next wave of the Web. Because more than great content we need great editors. Content’s days as King are numbered. Context is the new heir apparent, and the overthrow couldn’t happen soon enough.

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Marketing’s New Frontier: The Facebook Stream

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

I first heard the idea of Stream Marketing in this AdAge article, where the author explored how brands were marketing with Facebook status updates. The article looked at Oreo and other big brands who had figured out that the mundane updates were the ones that got the most engagement. And, by virtue of the Facebook social graph, also the most exposure and attention for the brand on the social network. Stream marketing is the practice of optimizing your outgoing status updates to get the most engagement (and therefore reach) with each one. It’s about being intentional in the stream, and cultivating your brand persona with well timed, and executed updates. As a social marketer, it’s imperative that you go beyond the network-presence level of social marketing, and get down into the front lines, update by update, to maximize the brand’s presence in the stream.

Stream marketing is the next frontier of online marketing. Many people and companies talk about using social marketing; but how many are actively thinking, planning and optimizing their stream marketing? It’s a huge, open field with few boundaries and rules for the road; and lots of debate about what is, and isn’t good marketing in the stream. But what does it really look like? Let’s look at that AdAge article:

As it turns out, many people in social networks don’t want to talk about your product, they just want to talk. We’ve long known that inserting brands into social-media channels requires a conversational touch, but many are surprised by just how conversational. There’s increasing evidence that the most-effective kinds of marketing communications on these websites are simple, random, even banal statements or questions driven by the calendar or the whim of a writer that may not have anything to do with the brand in question.

What are you doing this weekend? What is your ideal vacation? What’s your favorite movie or book? On Veteran’s Day, BlackBerry posted a simple holiday-related message that received nearly 8,000 likes and more than 500 comments, many of which consisted of veterans thanking the brand and posting their PINs, allowing others to contact them via BlackBerry messenger. Reaction to that update far outpaced other recent ones concerned with products or tips.

The key here is the conversational element. Being able to create a dialog around your brand or product is what drives the spread of your brand through Facebook’s social graph. Facebook’s algorithm, called EdgeRank, uses the number of comments, likes and shares of an item to determine what bubbles up to the user’s Top News feed – the default view of the News Feed for most of Facebook’s 500+ million members. Items with many comments and likes get seen by more people, driving the virtuous cycle of the viral spread of the message to your fans’ friends, and so on. Without any engagement those status updates just fly by, in a river of noise, unnoticed.

Facebook knows that brands and marketers are paying attention to their stream marketing efforts, and have started adding some rudimentary, yet valuable, stats underneath status updates visible only to the page administrators. Now with each status update you can see the number of impressions received by the status update as well as the percent feedback received for each of these posts. Now marketers can start to really see what is connecting with their fan base, and not just throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

The impressions number is important because it’s representative of the number of how effective that message was at propagating through the social graph of users. Getting content into that Top News feed is the best way to reach people on the network, and so the number of impressions can be used as a proxy for how effective that update was at achieving that goal. The feedback is a critical number for obvious reasons. The higher the feedback, the more engaged the users are with the brand around that update. You get all sorts of benefits from that. You have more awareness, you can drive action that’s tied to a KPI, you may get more affinity/loyalty, and you also get the Edge Rank boost as mentioned above, driving that status update into the Top News feeds of your fans’ friends and creating the opportunity to gain new fans, and build greater awareness with people not already connected to the brand on Facebook.

The status data from Facebook isn’t real time, but it is fast enough to let you make some smart decisions very quickly. For example, looking at a recent client’s feed, we realized that their fan base was very engaged around Mad Lib-type, fill-in-the-blank status updates. In fact, they were performing at 4-to-1 compared to other updates. So we made a recommendation to mix more of those types of updates into the stream. The result has been more engagement around more status items, which is exactly the goal. Of course, we also cautioned them not to overdo it, as you don’t want to exhaust a fun outlet for fans; but it was a way that they could shift their stream marketing ever so slightly to get better results.

Stream marketing requires a mix of planning and thought combined with the ability to rapidly respond and shift based on what’s working and what isn’t, all while keeping with the brand voice and persona. With such a fast-moving environment it’s easy to get off brand in a hurry, so it’s important that the people managing your stream understand the brand voice to the core and have a working playbook of ideas, themes and do’s/don’ts that keep them on brand in this fast-paced environment.

It is the evolution of marketing from editorial calendars to playbooks. Let me use a football analogy here. In most football games, a team has its first 15 or so plays scripted. That is, right out the gate, no matter what, they’re going to run 15 plays and see what happens. These are based on their best research and planning, and allow them to test their theories about the opponent, etc. This is very much like a standard editorial calendar. Here are the items we’re going to go to market with, because based on what we know we think they’ll get the best response. But after those 15 plays are done, it’s time to go to the playbook adn call plays based on the response of the opponent.

The same is true in stream marketing. You can start with a strategy and an approach, and you can even stick to it at the start; but then you need to start adjusting and responding to what is and isn’t working if you’re going to have success connecting with fans on Facebook. And much like a football team, marketers, copywriters and community managers can call a play, but whoever is driving the feed activity is the Quarterback, and they need to be able to audible into other plays and strategies based on how their fans respond. From the AdAge article:

“When you have ad agencies or copywriters writing your Facebook copy, it ends up being promotional in nature and if you’re not inspiring feedback no one’s going to care,” said Sarah Hofstetter, senior VP-emerging media and brand strategy at 360i. “You can only talk about your product so much. Balance that with you’re not trying to be their best friend, you’re trying to achieve some marketing objective.”

So how can you be effective at stream marketing? Here are a few tips:

  • Create a strategy and approach to stream marketing that fits with your brand and brand voice
  • Create a rules of engagement document that outlines what is an isn’t on brand for status updates
  • Set a soft editorial calendar for the first handful of status updates to learn what does and doesn’t resonate with your audience
  • Create engagement opportunities by asking questions and using fill in the blank statements
  • Use the stream insights provided by Facebook under each item to see what works and what doesn’t work, and refine accordingly
  • Create a playbook of ideas for conversation starters and status updates that your community manager can go to at any time to engage the fan base
  • As with any online marketing effort: test, learn, refine, test, learn, refine, repeat ad infinitum.

By effectively marketing in stream you can “inspire feedback” driving the virtuous cycle of extended reach across the network, leading to better results and greater return for your Facebook investment.

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Photos are the Love Letters of the Social Web

Instagram, Hipstamatic, Path, the list goes on and on. Photo taking, editing and sharing apps are gaining momentum right now as more and more people use quick photos to communicate with their friends and family. Years after Flickr and Facebook reinvented the photo as a shared, social object, these new apps are transforming how we communicate, from short text-based status updates to candid, interesting photos. Some people are wondering why these photo sharing apps are so en vogue right now, but I think the answer is pretty simple – people want more than text to express themselves. As the on-board cell phone camera technology has improved pictures have become a more viable and attractive way for people to express themselves online. With our new cameras and better upload ability photos have become the new love letter for the web.

We’ve talked about the “statusphere” since the dawn of Twitter. Short text bursts were our our only option if we wanted to participate in the social web. But they were lacking. Sometimes, words just don’t do it. Text is great for relaying information, facts, quotes, etc. but photos are a much more emotional. They not only serve an information need, they serve an emotional and phatic need as well. These facets are often missing in text form, or if they’re there, aren’t nearly as profound or effective.

So now, instead of typing what we’re doing, we’re sharing what we’re doing visually with these apps. Our phatic expressions previously text-based, are being replaced, and in a hurry. The rush to join Instagram and the rest of the photo sharing/taking apps is a direct response to this emotional void that photos fill that text just can’t touch.

For example, I share photos with my girlfriend throughout the day. We snap pictures of what we’re doing, our kids, our workspaces, our shopping carts, our friends, and more. These aren’t award winners and they won’t end up on the mantle; but they’re a powerful way to say “I’m thinking of you. I wish you were here. I love you.” A picture of my son coloring is far more emotionally engaging than a text message that says “we’re coloring,” and that is what makes the photo sharing so appealing to us as users.

But there’s another thing going on here. Because people could MMS well before Instagram came along and they could share on Flickr and BBS’s long before that. And I think the secret ingredient is the filters that come on these apps. Because when you take a photo you’re documenting an event; but when you add a filter to the photo you’re adding a mood and personality to the moment. You’re marking it for posterity. You’re able to add what the camera can’t see. You’re making each picture special. And that last step is what makes sharing so interesting. In some way, you’re able to idealize the moment, and that makes sharing far more interesting for both the sharer and the recipients. It isn’t just cold reality captured by an unforgiving, inhuman lens. Rather, it’s the scene as it appeared in your mind (to some reasonable approximation anyway,) and you’re able, in some small way, to share your life the way you see it.

And people love this. Because it’s their editorial touch on the reality captured by the camera. And it lets them put their voice into the picture. The picture and it’s alterations say as much about the person as anything else they share.

This ability to alter the mundane into something special resonates with users again and again and again. We see this behavior and rapid adoption whenever a company can add an extra layer of meaning on top of an everyday item. For example, it’s not Starbucks coffee, but what the coffee and logo say about the drinker and how it makes that person feel. It’s the design of the Mac and the aluminum casing and what that says about the person holding the laptop.

And now these photos are capturing and conveying that same idea. It’s not the photo necessarily, its presenting the moment the way we choose to represent it, and what that says about us and who we are and the life we choose to lead. The photos are love letters to the people we love and care about and to ourselves. They make the mundane significant and add importance to what we experience, big and small.

Idealizing these moments is what makes these photos the love letters of our time, and what makes these apps so popular.

There are important ramifications for this change in behavior from a business and social media strategy standpoint as well. As more people share and engage around photos brands will have to find a way to participate in this preferred way of sharing content online. The Daily Beast reported that photos and videos get more interaction on Facebook than text updates. Images and videos get more comments and likes than text updates (on average,) which puts them in more Top News streams and in front of the customers they’re trying to reach. How can brands adapt to this? By sharing more photos and video of course – photos with an emotional appeal that resonates with their customer base.

It goes beyond just social sharing though, and has much broader implications for product design and development. How do you let your customers express themselves in a way that resonates with them, that helps them depict an ideal/romanticized version of their world? How do you give customers lightweight ways that they can take the raw product and add their idealized filter to it to make it truly one-of-a-kind, truly theirs? How can you help your customers portray not just their reality, but the reality in their mind’s eye?

Increasingly we are able to share more about our lives via text, photo and video. And increasingly we can craft and present our lives to be displayed perhaps not as they are in the harsh light of objective reality; but in the idealized vision of our own emotional lens. And products, like Path, like Instagram, that give us the ability to capture that state and to share with our loved ones and the world that our life is filled with interest and wonder and love are the ones that will continue to succeed in the social space. They say photos are worth a thousand words. In an age when people proclaim that SMS, Twitter and status updates are killing our language, these photos show that expressing our love to those we connect with and care about is healthier than ever.

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