When number crunchers go rogue

Now, I like my infographics.  In fact you can see a bunch of them on one of the pages on this blog, but only I saw one today that I simply cannot believe.  It was on this article and the infographic is below:

SocialMediaGlobal

I simply cannot believe that mobile penetration is 91% and that only 600m people don’t have one. Penetration and subscriptions are two very different metrics – one is the number of contracts out there, the other is the number of actual people who have phones.  I know many people with 2 or more phones (and therefore contracts) so this number to me feels grossly inflated by over-consumption in the Western world.

A similar feat of maths blindness comes in the shape of social networks.  Frig me, pretty soon we are going to have more people on social networks than people who have internet connection.  How can this be?  Simple really, if you are active on social media, more than likely you will have one account for one and one account for another so there is probably a large amount of duplication here.

The premise of the story the infographic is trying to tell I have no issue with, but it’s where they use the figures to tell an incomplete/incorrect story that pisses me off.

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Is what you’re selling what your customers are buying?

It was Theodore Levitt who first pointed out that people don’t want quarter inch drills.  They want quarter inch holes.  And that is true for any product or service.  Yet more and more, the advertising fraternity seems keener (certainly with digital media) to emphasise the drill rather than the hole; what it is rather than the benefit it provides.  This is why so many clients are discouraged by results from activity in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al. Jeremy Bullmore wrote an interesting article on this very subject back in 1997/98 and I would certainly recommend reading it (which you can do so here).

In it, Bullmore makes interesting distinctions, including:

  • Clients don’t want Research, they want insight and knowledge; an understanding of where they (and their market) is
  • Agencies sell Branding/Corporate Identity, but what clients are buying is an instantly recognisable element
  • Advertising is of no interest to client, however they are interested in having a beacon shining on their products

At the end of the day, what clients are really looking for is doing activities that help in the drive to making clients spend.  But at the end of the day, you need to have a worthwhile product/service.  Because as Dave Trott points out

In the real world, products build brands, brands don’t build products.

And as others have pointed out (this quote has been attributed to several different people)

Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.

To auto-tweet, or not to auto-tweet? Where do you stand?

The North Blog recently posted an entry about Guy Kawasaki‘s conduct and approach to Twitter and Facebook.

Whilst I appreciate Guy’s reasons for doing it – he wants to cut through the clutter and ensure people in different time zones get to see his posts and he gets more followers.  I get it, I really do. And it seems to work for him.

However, I don’t believe in it.  I don’t believe in it for a few reasons:

  1. Social is about being ‘real’ – whilst I don’t doubt that his tweets are genuine, there is an assumption that if you tweet you are there and ready for a ‘conversation’ (isn’t that the point of social media?).
  2. If your followers truly value your tweets, they will seek them.  You don’t need to pester them.
  3. You’re just adding to the clutter you are trying to avoid.
What’s your view?  Do you use automated tweets?  If you do, how and why do you use them?

Will Google+ bring down Facebook?

Unless you’ve been stuck in a cave over the last 48-72hrs you’ll know that Google has launched its Google+ project.  This is widely being seen as the real Facebook killer with its Circles and Huddles functionality.  If you’ve not seen or heard much about it, here is a short video explaining the project.

In ‘response’, Facebook has, only a few short hours ago, announced their joint partnership with Skype which has added video capabilities to its service.  Click here to see a video of it.

I’ve not actually tried either service but my first impressions are that Circles is a HUGE plus to the whole social interactions.  It is how people compartmentalise their friends and connections and now Google is offering that ability online.  I also think the Huddles functionality seems a lot better than Facebook’s.

Saying that though, I’m not actually sure that this will be the thing that sees the demise of Facebook.  With c. 600m there is bound to be some attrition but I think Facebook has more fundamental issues to take care of, namely:

  • Privacy – how secure is your data?  Why can’t you delete your account rather than de-activate it?
  • Boredom – people have been living with it for 4-5 yrs and the world has moved on, much like it did for MySpace
  • Displeasure – Facebook has done things slightly underhand, they’ve changed layouts, added new functionality which has changed the site from its original inception (selling rather than interacting)
The one thing it has going for it is that people are used to that ‘space’ for communicating, more so than they are for Google.  Also, more people have FB accounts than Gmail accounts, so they will need to create new profiles, learn new interfaces and ways of communicating.

I will be joining G+.  I would love to relinquish Facebook (with or without the advent of G+) but unfortunately the rest of my friends are Facebookers and use it to organise get togethers so, for my sins, I am still there.  But my activity is virtually zero.

I don’t think it will be the death of Facebook.  They will be impacted quite badly, but they will be around (and making lots of money) for years to come. However, they need to truly understand how people want to interact with others and their part in that process.

Why can’t we be friends?

Back in May I went to Portugal on holiday.  My time there coincided with a school reunion.  Having left Portugal at 13 I’d not seen many of these people in the intervening 20 years. However, I decided to go, both through curiosity of what my friends/school looked like and part through a desire to assert my Portuguese-ness by re-connecting with some Portuguese people other than family and old family friends.  It was also an opportunity to show my wife and kids a part of my life that they’d not seen before.

I’ve also just finished reading The Day I Turned Uncool by Dan Zevin which talks about the changes that occur as you move into adulthood.  One of the chapters of the book deals with friendships and how and why you lose touch with people (perceived lack of time, lack of common interests, relationships and kids).

It got me thinking about how social networking is affecting our friendships.  And what I think is this – we now have more ‘friends’ than ever, but to me many are just superficial, voyeuristic and purposeless.

I’ll admit, when Facebook first started my aim was to get as many friends as possible but as I started to see what people were updating and the new features Facebook brought in (which exacerbated the problem) it felt even more so.

I know this sounds harsh but I think everyone divides their friends into friends & acquaintances. Friends, you care about and want to know about.  Acquaintances, you don’t mind seeing them and saying hello every once in a while. Unfortunately the ratio tends to be 1:15 or so in favour of the latter.

I still think Facebook is great for getting in touch with people you’ve not seen in a while, but do I really want to see the video that someone likes of two kittens falling from a chair? NO!  I’d rather just say “Hi, let’s organise a reunion!” and leave it at that.  I don’t want to know the ins and out of their mundane life (I have one of my own thanks very much).

So I’ve dealt with it by cleansing myself and my wall by un-friending a fair few acquaintances whose updates I don’t care for.  If I wish to get in touch with them I will go through my ‘real’ friends.

Is iOS5 really a game changer for Twitter?

A lot is made of Apple‘s recent announcement that their latest mobile operating system – iOS5 – would incorporate a deep integration with Twitter. See example articles here and here.

In the battle between Facebook and Twitter as the poster child for the social world this is huge news, but will it really answer Twitter’s key issues.

I love Twitter, so I don’t want this to sound like I’m a twitter-hater, but I think we need to take a pragmatic look at what Twitter needs and what iOS brings.

Over the next couple of paragraphs I will iterate what I see as being the key things this deal will bring.  Feel free to disagree with me and pick holes in my arguments.

For full disclosure, thanks to a developer friend I have iOS5 with its Twitter integration.

  1. Brand awareness – I would hazard a guess that most people are aware of Twitter, what it is and what it does, so not sure that this deal will really accelerate or enhance that.  What it will do is increase…
  2. Registered users current numbers suggest that Twitter has around 200m users.  This deal will have a massive impact on the number of registrations because the sign-up process is so easy.  I would expect that the user base for Twitter will grow by around 50% over the 12 months after launch.  However, number of people registered to the service was never really the issue for Twitter.  Their issue is…
  3. Usage – the average Twitter still doesn’t use it very often, a massive percentage not even hitting double figures.  The Apple deal should increase that  purely because it is so easy to tweet – only 2 clicks away. This is a huge step forward because Twitter’s monetary value is directly linked to usage.
  4. Business model – Twitter (and most social networks to be fair) have struggled with this one.  Their original vision did not incorporate how to monetise their ‘invention’ should it take off. Widening the user base will help Twitter in that they will have more eyes (and wallets) to attract.  They will also have more information through which to make their intelligence and targeting better.  But, from my experiences so far there is a critical piece missing…
  5. User Experience From what I have seen and experienced the Twitter integration is only outward.  To get updates from those you follow you still need to access a Twitter client. This makes the experience very egotistical because (via the integration) the communication is only one way – and that’s not what social networking is all about.  Perhaps they could integrate Twitter into their new Messages service (whereby you could select some/all of the people you follow and get their updates on the Messages).

The lack of notification of new messages feels like the piece that is missing to make this the real game changer that Twitter and Apple want it to be. Ultimately time will tell.  I think this is a great development for Twitter but there are still some kinks to iron out.

What do you think the deal will bring to Twitter (and Apple)?