A Business Technology Place

The role of social media

My news reader brought me an interesting post from Mike Elgan at ComputerWorld this week; Why Google+ is the place for passions. I identify with Elgan’s commentary because that’s how I use Google+ today as well. My circles include Digital Marketing, Georgia Tech, Technology, and Ubuntu. Communities and old-fashion search are other ways to filter content. So is it a place for passions? Absolutely. While I have friends that I converse with at times on Google+, it’s mostly a destination for me to absorb content related to interests. Sometimes I think of it as a visual and interactive RSS reader.

What drives our social media usage?

Some people I know have completely avoided social media sites. They don’t use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Other people I know use multiple sites. As with anything in life, we make decisions about where we’ll spend our time. It’s getting tougher to decide, because the digital age has multiplied all of the sources that compete for our attention each day. For me, it’s all I can do to keep up with work and family obligations during the work week. My social and digital media usage is increasingly becoming a weekend activity. (Thank goodness the little Roku box gives me a digital outlet during mid-week exercises!)

What drives our usage of social media sites is content and interaction. The various platforms deliver content and interaction capabilities differently. Look at the social media sites in 2014. They’ve evolved to communities that appeal to specific audiences. Our interactions on sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn might include common set of people. But even if it does, the content of the messages and our degree of interaction are different on each platform.

Why does social media matter?

Take the role of social media in our culture and compare it against Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There are elements that fit in each of the three top tiers: love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. I translate that to mean that social media can make a difference in our lives and those we communicate with. For example, our participation in social media can help us get through tough times, provide for others in need, contribute to causes, receive instruction for problem solving, share a joke, engage in debate, and learn new skills. Sure, you could argue that some social media use is superficial. That’s true of all our interactions in life whether through electronic media or not. The bottom-line is that social media is interwoven in elements of human motivation and needs.

Oh, by the way. If you haven’t looked at Google+, it’s worth a few minutes of your time. Golden retrievers and disruptive technologies are a few of things that interest me.

(Image credit – http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/4453/Twitter-In-Real-Life-The-Follow-Back-cartoon.aspx)

What I did for a close shave

I fell for a Facebook advertisement.

If you are a man, you’ve probably seen the ad on Facebook for the Dollar Shave Club. I finally gave in to the temptation tonight and I’ve ordered a supply of the 4X option. I never thought I would let Facebook influence a purchase, but it happened. The allure of the product was too strong and the investment risk is minimal. I’m hoping for the best.DollarShaveClub

Let’s do the numbers.

For starters I typically get over one month from the same blade with my current marketing hyped multi-blade cartridge. I do this by keeping the blade dry between uses. After a shave, I make sure to dry the blade by shaking-out excess water and using a towel. Then I store the blade pressed against a silica moisture packet. If you haven’t tried this then I encourage you do so. It’s the secret the blade marketers don’t want you to know.

With my existing blades, I can buy 8 cartridges for $26. If I get 4 weeks (conservative with my drying method) from each cartridge then that is 32 weeks for $26.

For the 4X option in the Dollar Shave Club I will receive 4 cartridges per month for $6. So for 32 weeks (8 months) my investment is $48. That’s almost 2x the cost as just buying a cartridge locally. However, I’ll have 32 cartridges in that span of time. If I cancel the monthly subscription after 8 months. I should have 24 remaining cartridges in supply which is enough to last me another 2 years!

Thinking of it another way my cost per cartridge (also my cost per month) with my existing method is $3.25. With the Dollar Shave Club my cost per cartridge after 8 months is $1.50.

Of course this assumes the product works.

I bet the blades will be fine. I still can’t believe I fell for a Facebook ad. But I’ll do anything for a close shave. Or maybe I just like squeezing another buck in my favor. Kudos on the product marketing by Dollar Shave Club team.

If you want to check out their options and start your own trial then follow this link.

 

Update July 13 – 

I looked more closely at the Dollar Shave Club site today and noticed they have options to lessen the frequency of delivery as well as an option to pause delivery. This is a great feature for customers like me who may want to extend the life of a cartridge beyond a week.

Finding social rhythms

We have limits on the number of digital profiles we can keep active.
I have six digital profiles that I use regularly for various purposes. Here’s the list in no order of significance: Blog site, RSS reader, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. My activity on each varies from week-to-week based on a variety of factors including my schedule and purpose of communication. I’m not closed minded to changing in the future. But at this point in time those are the areas that comprise my digital life.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect six digital areas are far more than most people try to maintain. I’m not active on Pinterest or Instagram or (insert your favorite site not listed here). It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy learning and exploring, but my capacity to participate is limited by my other choices.

Our digital participation is subject to change.
I think we all gravitate towards the spaces that give us the most value. By that I mean, a place where we connect with people and information. This is a place that we can consume information that provides knowledge and benefit to us, but it’s also a place that allows us to contribute information back to the space.

We may create profiles and try them for a time before abandoning the profile for something else. Twitter is a good example. I see abandoned profiles all the time. Many have created a Twitter account to see what it’s all about but have never contributed any information on their own. LinkedIn is another good example. One could argue it’s a professional expectation now to have a LinkedIn profile. But most people don’t use LinkedIn for professional activity such as networking, knowledge share, or research until they are actively pursuing a job.

We develop social rhythms based on the platform and content.
Maybe you don’t think of it that way. But we are all creatures of habit. I know I try to find a rhythm for producing and consuming digital content. It’s a challenge and requires dedication each day. As I see it though, my digital lifestyle is about learning, thinking, and growing. Even though contributing content isn’t directly related to my compensation at work, keeping an expertise and knowledge molds my thinking and knowledge for work activities.

Here’s some examples from my routine:
* My RSS feed is like my newspaper. It contains profiles of information sources that I want to read regular updates. Some of them are media outlets while others are blogs from individual thought leaders.

* LinkedIn is a always-on professional networking forum. I can keep track of my professional connections changing jobs, adding skills, or sharing pieces of information.

* Google+ is like combination of a RSS reader and discussion forum. I’ve created circles based on topics and when I view the stream from an individual topic it’s like reading a RSS feed. I’m finding that Google+ is more rich with discussion about topics than a typical blog or media publication. Much of the value of Google+ comes in reading and participating in the comments after each post.

* My blog is a my thought sandbox. I use the blog to record my thoughts, practice writing, and experiment with digital publication.

Platforms may come and go. But our basic need to communicate doesn’t change.
Regardless of what digital platform(s) we use or how we use them, we are driven by a need to communicate. “Social media” is just a term to wrap around social creatures. Maybe the current platform we use is discontinued in the future. But we’ll find another one to use because of our basic need to communicate ideas with one another. How much or how little we contribute is based on our rhythm for consumption.

I’m always searching for ways to stay in rhythm or to develop a more complete set of habits in my life. Let me know what works for you.

Brazil tops emerging markets opportunity index again

Consultant A.T. Kearney’s 2012 Global Retail Development Index (GRDI), is published to help retailers create global sales strategies. It ranks “emerging” countries based on a set of variables to give retailers a measure of attractiveness for international sales. The RDI focuses on mass merchants and food retailers.

I know some people don’t like the term “emerging” for various reasons. But no single replacement term has gained widespread acceptance. Even the wikipedia entry for “emerging markets” acknowledges the lack of a replacement term.  So I’ll stick with it as a term that identifies areas undergoing rapid economic growth.

The 2012 GRDI once again lists Brazil in the top spot, so I was curious about the state of digital and social media measurements from Brazil. In march of this year, comScore released a report on Brazil digital network usage that showed tremendous growth. A large contributor to the online growth in Brazil is the usage of Facebook. The report says that “Facebook surpassed Orkut in December 2011, taking the lead as the top social networking destination in Brazil with 36.1 million visitors, up 192 percent from the previous year. Facebook also became the most-engaging social networking site with visitors averaging 4.8 hours on the site in December 2011, up from just 37 minutes a year ago.”

My take on this is that these emerging markets provide some economies of scale for marketers seeking expansion. The intellectual capital for how to use digital platforms and how to share content stays constant. But the cultural norms of usage and appeal will be different. So all the challenges of operating in a different market at the product level remain the same. The GRDI index is just providing a measure of opportunity. Marketers still have to plant the proper seed in the soil. Happy harvesting.

The next paradigm shift in news delivery

Let’s stop using Facebook as the measuring stick for other social sites.
Say what you will about Google+, but Google continues to support and promote the platform as a connection tool. This week they announced improvements in the mobile application that makes it more visual, easier to use, and creates mobile inter-connectivity with video hangouts.

I don’t think we’ll ever see another social platform with the same number of eye-balls as Facebook. But it is with Facebook that Google+ is most often compared. That’s unfortunate, because only measuring a social platform by the number of users and the time spent on the site is short sighted. We really need to look at the social site in context of what it offers, the connections it makes, and ultimately if it fits into a revenue model for sustained viability and relevance.

This post isn’t about Google+, but it supports a feature that is creating some important changes.
Hangouts. In simple terms it’s a multi-point video chat that supports up to nine people. That’s pretty cool for friends looking to converse or families looking to connect. It’s a feature right now that separates Google+ from other social platforms.

But there are other uses for Hangouts as well. Here’s a discussion with Google product managers about features in a software application. Mitt Romney was the first US presidential candidate to use a Hangout for a town hall session and President Obama has used hangouts as well. So politicians and businesses from multiple industries are starting to use hangouts for touch points.

The news media continues to adapt and evolve with digital media as well.
I’m intrigued by the changes in the news media industry to connect more with readers/viewers in the information age. Earlier this year I wrote about how social media is affecting the news media, But now I’m noticing that media outlets are beginning to use live interactive video with viewers to create a new level of engagement.

The New York Times is experimenting with Google+ hangouts to discuss global issues and other news topics and Patch.com is experimenting with live chats and uStream channels. This is the beginning of another paradigm shift in the news media industry as the readers and viewers of the media become part of the news story by participating in discussions and offering their opinions and observations on topics.

Proactive news agencies are already starting to adapt and experiment as “readers” become “viewers” online. It’s those viewers now that won’t just receive the news, they’ll take part in delivering the news. Think about that and go get familiar with a digital hangout.

Disclaimer: I freelance for Patch.com although a different patch site mentioned in this article.