In two minutes


short bursts on things I thunk.

Are Social Networks Neglecting Young Users?

snapchat guy

Forever Alone Snapchat Guy

It’s becoming clear that established social networks are losing traffic for real-time one-to-one communication, especially in younger demographics.

Services like WhatsApp, Kik and Snapchat have recognised that instant communication has been neglected and are building large user bases rapidly to accomodate.

While young people (<20) do still use Facebook in huge numbers they actually spend more time on Tumblr and could well prefer Instagram and SnapChat for sharing photos.

In fact Snapchat now carries almost a third of the daily photo volume of Facebook.

social network usage Jan, 2013

Social Network Usage, Jan 2013 (Via:

I’d suggest there’s a few reasons for this shift.

Yes, Facebook has matured rapidly and in the process has lost a bit of cachet with young users. It’s worth reading Branch founder Josh Miller’s recent interview with his 15 y.o. sister if you have doubts about this.

Anywhere Mum can reach out to you and call you home for dinner has gotta start to suck pretty hard.

Besides teens just wanna be with each other as much as possible – that’s pretty obvious.

Twitter and Facebook are also incredibly noisy. There’s a huge signal to noise difference if you have a large network on either. Aside from work I’ve spent as little time on Facebook as possible this year.

Sure I could segment friends, family and colleagues into groups and take a Diaspora approach to it but I just can’t be bothered.

Which leads to my point. Many social networks are actually inefficient for how young people want to communicate.

Screenshot from WhatsApp

What’s App Gemma?

Studies have found that we allocate around 20% of our waking day to social interaction. That is our social ‘budget’.

It follows that the more people we wish to maintain relationships with the better we must be at using that budget of time.

In fact – perhaps unsurprisingly – the emotional intensity of a relationship can be defined by the frequency of communication between two people. In this scenario the time to last contact  reflects the time and effort invested in that relationship.

So frequent one-to-one communication becomes vital for those close relationships.

Broadly speaking young people and old(er – haha) people view interpersonal communication differently.

Young people view time as expansive and energetically pursue knowledge-related goals within their network. This includes in depth conversations one-to-one that allow for learning, expression and personal growth.

Communication helps to define who they are.

Older people view time as limited and pursue emotion-related goals with reoccurring (and reassuring) themes among familiar groups of people.

Often it’s enough to know who’s been on holidays, who had their first child and what gig that guy you went to Uni with went to this week. All’s well with the world.

That is where broadcast social media services like Facebook or Twitter excel for older users but perform poorly for younger users.

They are efficient for reaching a large audience within our network but not for conveying complex and detailed information.

To have richer exchanges we have to reduce reach and increase frequency of communication within the network.

It may be that over the next few years we increasingly use social networks to maintain our maxi-network, to follow news and key life announcements but skip out and use other service to maintain our close relationships with the 5-15 people we have stronger emotional ties to.

Younger users already appear to do this and probably use Facebook in very different ways (event invites, messaging etc).

I suspect they have shorter session times also.

A move away by young users would be a big blow to the large social networks. They rely heavily on traffic for relevance to advertisers and investors. They need all of our time online.

But really, I have little interest in how larger social networks might address this behaviour, rather I like the idea that we invest less of our time in one or two platforms and spread it across multiple services that perform the best at one function.

This encourages innovation, flexibility and allows for the complexity of interpersonal relationships.


Filed under: Culture, Social Media, Teh Internetz

Keep Walking…

Beyonce at the Superbowl. Hot dawg…

It’s a big day for advertising.

As halftime in Superbowl XLVII draws in it feels right to use a famous tagline to express my current thoughts on how brands play online here in Australia.

Beyonce is coming up at halftime so I have to keep this quick! Five thoughts in five paras…

1. Display advertising is stopping you from getting where you need to go.

You can’t create a meaningful brand experience in a banner. It’s that simple. Banner ads are the mall spruiker of teh internetz. I understand it’s a safe bet for conservative brands but when you look at the CPC for most of the display networks in Australia it makes your mouth go dry. Expensive wallpaper IMO. Stick with video, search and social display but think hard about the rest.

2. Content Marketing is for the best brands only.

I loved – LOVED – spots like Uncle Drew for Pepsi or the Space Jump for Red Bull last year. But when you look at the content that gets spread online you really need to be a brand that people want to hear from or one that can afford great creative and distribution. Even simple content pieces like the Dollar Shave Club or Maru’s hard work with Uniqlo required poise and bravery. If you don’t have something special, and a large online community to seed it with, you are best sticking with the basics.

3. Social Media can provide a false sense of security.

There seems to be a lot of Aussie brands investing in social media as part of their acquisition activity. Chasing likes and followers through competitions and crazy deals it’s easy to equate community growth with success but  it’s been my experience social media works much better deeper into the customer journey – to enthuse and retain existing customers – than it does for customer acquisition. Brands who are established e-commerce players are the exception to this where the connection between investment in social media and sales is easier to make.

4. There is no substitute for knowing your customer.

It surprises me to hear how often digital work is done locally without any thought to what people really want from the brand. Creative or media driven activity really requires careful thought to provide value to those customers that interact with you online. Having said this, there are some local examples of work starting with analytics and data analysis that push up into above the line ideas that are brave.

5. Branding was great for the 20th century, but it’s holding us back now.

I’ve spoken to a lot of planners and brands about this. The channels open to us as marketers are now so diverse and complex that the reductionist approach taken in branding is causing a disconnect with the market. Your customer is often a sophisticated consumer of media and traverses the online space skilfully. If you are to keep pace with them it is less important that you are differentiated and more important you are distinctive. If your brand has stagnated you should be making an effort to get closer to your customers and finding out what interests them in 2013, where they really are online and what motivates them to buy with you. Martin Weigel at W+K has written great pieces on the importance of being interesting.

As Beyonce belts it out at halftime (still got it!) in 2013 I suggest you be nimble, review your methods, insights and assumptions regularly and keep walking – there is always something new to learn and test just up ahead.

Filed under: Advertising, Branded Content, Culture, Media, Planning, Social Media

Quantity Over Quality: It’s The Sub Way

I saw a Subway Facebook promotion on the side of a bus yesterday.

‘Share Your Summer to Win!’ it grinned at me.

The basic premise is you share a photo of “Your Summer” and they send you some sandwiches. Maybe.


Let’s have a photo competition

Gee I thought, not much in that really. I’m not doing much for Subway, and you probably wouldn’t even do anything for me. A pretty low value exchange.

Sure photos are a large part of the currency of Facebook, they haven’t depreciated over time but they were never worth much to begin with.

We all do it every day. It’s just not that special unless something amazing or important is being shared.

In fact 200 million photos are being uploaded every day according to Facebook.

In Australia (as a rough guide) we upload 2.5m photos every day (there are 10m of us on Facebook)

So far Subway says they have received 12,000 photos for the promotion. For the Summer so far.

And strangely, they haven’t insisted that people upload the photos to the Subway wall to get the most exposure on Facebook for the activity. They have actually split the response three ways -you can upload from their website or even just sling ’em an email.

Which goes against the whole principle of aiming to collect and curate user-generated content on Facebook for your brand. Really, what’s the point if we aren’t all collectively marveling at our Summer and the important supporting role Subway has played in the good times?

If you actually go and take a look at their wall I can’t even see any wall posts from people. And that’s the rub. If they insisted people can ONLY enter with a wall post they would clog up their own wall with an endless Summer (:D) of photos. Not too smart as it turns out.

Let’s make it hard to enter

I had a look at how easy it was to submit a photo.

Not very as it turns out.

There’s the app to connect to of course. I also got a pop-up message to say I haven’t ‘registered’ my Facebook page with Subway. And finally the sort of form you fill out to take out a bank loan or emigrate to another country.
















Must be some tasty sandwiches hey?

Anyway. Not exactly an easy entry to the competition.

What’s in it for Subway?

A simple truth about Facebook is that the most common reason to like a page is to get free stuff.

I’m not entirely sure why this is the case but I suspect when marketers realised they could do their sampling promotions and sweepstakes on Facebook at a huge time/cost saving the floodgates opened. And we just played along.

I’m actually pretty sad about it.

A direct channel to people was not used with intelligence and wit but like a spruiker uses a PA system in the local mall.

<insert cuss>

So Subway will give away a fraction of the cost of the low value brand exposure they have worked to create, the majority of people who entered will forget they did in no time and the massive tide of photos on Facebook will sweep over this promotion like a bucket sandcastle at the waterline.

What could they have done better?

I can only imagine the brief (if there was one – I suspect this was an idea tossed on the table by the agency or internal team)

Maybe ‘Connect Subway with the the Australian Summer and good times between friends’.

The brief to consumers to share your Summer is just so broad as to be indistinguishable from any other photo on activity on Facebook.

It doesn’t stand out

It doesn’t show your commitment to Subway

It doesn’t create a volume of content on Facebook that spreads through networks

etc etc

And also…

It’s a tenuous connection to make between Australian Summers and a New York sandwich chain. I’m not sure we’ll make that connection in our minds from this activity.

I think perhaps a better idea would have been to go after the hardcore Subway customers.

I’m sure they are out there, eating Subway almost every lunchtime.

Maybe there’s even a few thousand of them in Australia.

If they created an idea that these people could have engaged with, that inspired them to spectacular online and offline deeds I think that would have made a bigger impact on the individual friend networks on Facebook to create interest, new likes and PR or whatever Subway deems success to be.

The Xers out there will remember Triple J’s Beat the Drum activity from the 90s.







If you don’t, the basic idea was to drum up support for Triple J by running your own campaign to get Triple J exposure in your community (or beyond).

There were some pretty spectacular entries over the years from true Triple J fans.

Here are some entries from 2004 when the campaign was still in the market


Put that in your pipe Subway Australia.

That’s what committed fans will do if you create them and activate them.

Even if you just took 500 of the biggest Subway fans and asked them to do something special with the chain – extreme deeds of loyalty for extreme rewards for these select few – that would get much better cut through on Facebook than a few photos here and there.

If young adults have 237 Facebook friends on average and they are over-represented as a demographic in Subway’s top fans, your top 500 Subway fans likely have a network to reach of over 100,000 Australians.

Subway would you rather have 12,000 (less than – split response remember) photos of little value sprinkled into the 240m photos Australia has uploaded so far this Summer on Facebook or 500 hardcore fans going to great lengths over Summer witnessed by a combined network of 100,000+

It’s a question of volume vs quality.

So then…

If there are any social media marketers reading this, please take one thing from this post.

Aim for quality to achieve cut through. It’s that simple.

If social media is to be worth a damn today and tomorrow it has to be more than test ground for hackneyed promotions, product dumps and giveaways.

If you keep on with this you’ll be cutting your own throats. Really.

Let’s progress.

We are creating digital exhaust in staggering volumes. Forget GB of data and get used to PB, ZB and YB.

Trying to create ripples that spread through large networks is only going to get harder in a growing ocean of data.

So pick a smaller target and make a bigger impact.

You’ll be glad you did.

Filed under: Campaigns, Social Media, , , , ,


Sharks hate it when you poke their eyes. Sometimes.

Filed under: Social Media, Uncategorized

Amber Case Interview [part 2]

From a recent interview with tech visionary Amber Case for Byte Into It on Triple R. This part has lots of interesting points on the future of social services and ubiquitous computing.

The first 15 seconds are poor quality (some Skype to YouTube bug I have) but all good from there. Check it out.

Filed under: Social Media, Technology, UI, Websites, , , ,

Check it out! Foursquare knocks off Facebook.

"Missed it by that much"

The earth moved for me just a little this morning.

I’ve had my head in other stuff so I was staggered to learn that Facebook has withdrawn it’s Places services from it’s mobile application.

In a statement from Facebook it suggested people are sharing their location across all parts of the service so a dedicated feature was becoming redundant.

I have followed location-based services with interest over the past couple of years. I think sharing where you go and who you are with is one of the sharpest aspects of social media. It’s simple, it’s about discovery and socialising and if the service is up to it, it’s about leaving your digital breadcrumbs across your town and the globe. The meta layer across the globe is building and will be used in exciting ways in coming years.

I jumped into Foursquare with gusto when it arrived. It was different and the game aspects appealed. It lost it’s shine a little when others were slow to adopt it and when brands showed little interest in making use of it. “You’re the Mayor? So what.” That sort of thing. I’m tinkering with SCVNGR but that might not build to much in Australia without some wider adoption and clever work from brands.

I was actually disappointed when Facebook announced its location offering last year and more so when it announced (inevitably) that it had overtaken Foursquare in traffic volume. Facebook does mass well and stifles niche and difference where it needs to.

So big ups to Foursquare and a dedicated location service with a difference. This news signals that specialist social media services can survive and even flourish beyond the reach of Facebook. It signals we need diversity in our online diet and we have the capacity and attention to sustain a wide and deep online ecosystem.

It is a good day.

Filed under: Social Media, Websites

Is our vibe on Instagram Better Burgers or Flame-grilled?

Nudists into fashion: influential but not buying much stock

Eric Fisher has done an amazing set of data visualisations for Flickr photo tags from cities around the world.

They show the travels of locals and tourists in cities like London, Sao Paolo and Melbourne.

In some cases both groups will tread the same trails (Rome for example) but in others they keep to themselves (San Diego).

It strikes me that while we build cities, we don’t actually live the city for the most part. We have our own villages within the city. We go to certain places for food, different places for fun maybe other places all together for exercise and communing. But they are the same places over and over for the most part.

In fact, mobile carriers will tell you they can predict where you all are right now with an accuracy of 93% (without checking).

I’m OK with this. I like the idea of a village within a city that you know, and you can leave any time to dive into some part of the greater city.

What I don’t dig is being treated as citizen of that city by brands as if that’s the most they know about me. Or that I live in Victoria, or Australia. I’m putting as much benign data into social networks as I can in the hope that brands will scrape it and use it to make our exchanges easier. I am here. I think this about that. I’m excited by this. But I have to say, aside from the Number 96 tram I haven’t been hit up recently by anything/one of interest.

I suspect many people looking after the big accounts out there are too busy chasing numbers to think at a village level.

I understand those pressures. Pump out the links, photos, prizes and competitions and hope it sticks.

But don’t pretend thinking isn’t required.

Thinking back to when ‘tribes’ was a buzzword and tribes were easier to spot online it was important to reach people 20, 50 or 100 at a time. It was painstaking work to reach all BMXers who lived in Doncaster or Yummy Mummies into Pole Dancing (OK that was actually fun). You had to think about who was into this band or where to find 200 people who were up for Weird Pizza.

Now there are bigger budgets, integration reaches all the way through to the Instagram account (so hot right now you hear at the water cooler) and the Director of Social Media drives a 7 series. But I don’t often see smarter work as a result.

In fact this may even be stifling creativity as ideas now come from way, way down the corridor in some instances. Some people may as well switch on the bot and head home early.

If I was a CMO or Director of Strategy I’d go for being well known/respected in 5 good villages in every city over 10,000 Facebook fans bought with movie tickets or free coffees every day of the week. If not, you may as well just take the long lunch and act like you know.

So as cool, interesting social media is done by cool, interesting people (some knob at Cannes said that) make an effort to keep it diverse, interesting and relevant to people. Go out and meet them again. Ask them what’s new in their life, export and interrogate your data more often, mash up mini-communities in new ways and look for new villages altogether (Hipsters into playing sport on the weekend?).

Go looking for people in the village again.

Filed under: Social Media

The Attention Economy and Total Filter Failure














I’ve been poking around in new media theory again and came across a fantastic read on microstyle in The New York Times on the need for great short content.

These days if you can’t say it in 140 characters or a Facebook ad you won’t reach a large part of your audience. This much we know. (The role of long content is for another post).

What many content producers, media outlets and individuals often ignore is that we only have so much time to consume, process and act on content each day. With the rapid and wonderful democritisation of media some of us forgot to stop to ask ourselves “should we publish?”

While young people are super-consumers of content, getting through almost 11 hours in 7 hours, many people struggle simply to keep up with the headlines each day. Add email, mobile calls and texts, tablet use, social media and face-to-face conversations and it’s easy to imagine filter failure on a pretty regular basis.

The Attention Economy is a simple principle. Herbert Simon summed it up neatly:

“…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

I don’t know about you but I’m running through my daily budget of attention earlier and earlier each day.

There are ways to combat this of course: smart filtering of your information inputs and managing your ‘listening levels’ is important. But that’s really not enough.

I spoke to the rudely smart Amber Case last week about the future for content curation and she suggested we really don’t need more tools for gathering and sharing information, we need better ways for connecting different types of information.

It’s true. If I see another twitter handle sharing ‘what’s on in Melbourne’ I think my filters will explode. Maybe a service that connects free time in our friend’s Google calendars with events we have common Google+ Sparks for? That sort of thing.

So my aim in the next week or two is to look at smarter, better ways to limit the content shared and make it more useful when it is.

If you’ve seen any great examples of this, I’d love to hear about them.

Filed under: Social Media,

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