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CHAPTER 9

THE PLATFORMS

IN THIS CHAPTER I’LL TALK ABOUT WHERE THEY ARE AND WHERE THEY’RE GOING.

Debating the current state of the Internet has become as much a passion for some people as sports, music, and celebrities. For years now the five to fifteen platforms that dominate our society, whether Blogger and MySpace a decade ago, or Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook today, have been fuel for conversations around what stock prices will do, where society is going, and where creative things are happening. These hubs have become integrated into our daily lives as much as television, radio, and magazines used to be, and there’s no more interesting time to talk about them than while they still capture the consumer’s imagination.

It’s a challenge to answer questions about social platforms because in the time it takes you to utter one sentence, they’ve usually changed again. However, as I updated and elaborated upon these answers, I realized that the real value isn’t just in the analyses, but in the overall pattern that emerges. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen tech wreak enormous cultural and social change on our world, and it won’t be the last. And we’re all still here. Businesses are still being built, people are still innovating, and the world keeps turning. My hope is that reading this chapter will help more marketers and brand managers welcome change rather than fear it.

The Big Picture

imageWhat will the next big social network have to do to challenge Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?

There are two keys to the success of a social network.

1.Win over the youth market. The network that makes Snapchat feel like it’s for old people will be the next social superstar.

2.Be extraordinarily useful. Instagram was just a place to post pretty pictures until people realized it actually made them better photographers. The visual intimacy of the pictures made people feel close to other users, and eventually the social network developed to support that closeness.

In sum, if you’re trying to develop the next big platform, create something the youth of the world didn’t know it couldn’t live without.

imageWhich currently popular social media platform will likely be extinct by 2020?

The two most vulnerable platforms today are Tumblr and Google+, mostly because big conglomerates own them. For all my concerns about Twitter, I have faith that Jack Dorsey will figure out a way to make it relevant and new-user-friendly again. But Tumblr is owned by Yahoo, and despite all those politics of being independent it’s still part of a big holding company. Google has shown a tendency to cut bait if something isn’t working, no matter how much they invested in it, and there’s no doubt that Google+ isn’t working. It’s possible Google will cut Google+, retool it, and reintroduce it one day, but I think it’s a fair bet that Google+ as we know it will not be around in a few years.

imageSocial media marketing is not as dominant in other countries as in the United States. For example, in Germany a meerkat is still nothing more than a cute animal. Is it really worth our time to put content on these platforms, then sit, wait, and hope they gain traction?

Meerkat was once just an animal in the United States as well. A face book was a college directory, a twitter was the sound of a happy bird, and a periscope was that thing sailors use to see out of submarines. Every platform has potential, but it will be infinitely more valuable to you if you get there first and make your name for yourself before the masses show up.

I have plenty of cash, and yet I sit on practically unpopulated platforms. It is beyond me how some entrepreneurs who have no cash, whose only assets are raw talent and time, could possibly question the value of getting in on a platform before it has proven worthwhile and started monetizing. You’re going to cry because you don’t have enough money to compete with the big guys, but then you’ll cry about wasting your time on something that’s free? Where’s the sense in that?

The upside of being an early mover in a new platform is so much greater than the downside of waiting there for months only to find that it didn’t pop. I’ll sit on a platform and hold my breath for five to seven months when it’s not particularly valuable so that I can be there when it is. And then I can ride that wave for twenty-four months before the platform adds an ad product that makes it more expensive. So, yeah, I’d say experimenting with unproven platforms is definitely worth your time, no matter what country you live in.

That advice goes double if you’re a small business or start-up. The only assets you have against bigger, wealthier competitors are raw talent and time. So use the time from 3 to 7 A.M. if you must to establish yourself on new platforms and overindex there before money starts becoming a variable. Corporate America isn’t as nimble as you. You’ll have made plenty of inroads by the time your larger, more established competitor notices that the new platform has gone mainstream, and then in all probability it will take them a ridiculous amount of time to get approval to divert resources to it. Meanwhile, you’ll keep making inroads, getting a stronger foothold, and building your connections and brand awareness. Extract the value of the platform before its ad product becomes mature so that by the time it becomes expensive you’ll be ready to move on to the next new frontier.

YouTube

imageI make my living off YouTube and lately people have been asking what my next step is because they don’t think YouTube can last forever. I think it will only continue to grow. Should I hedge my risk by expanding to other platforms or stick to YouTube?

The guy who asked this question, Matthew Santoro, has more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube.

I’d venture to say he knows what he’s doing.

Always follow your gut and do what you know. If you’re putting up content and blowing up on a platform, go with it. And if you’re wrong and the platform starts to crater, it’s not the end of the world. Early in my career I loaded my videos exclusively on Viddler. Once YouTube came out it didn’t take long to realize going whole hog on Viddler was a mistake and I made the correction, jumping to YouTube. As long as you adjust in real time, you can’t go wrong.

imageWhy do you rarely recommend YouTube in your digital recommendations despite the 1 billion active users per month?

I’m not good about admitting to mistakes, mostly because I honestly don’t believe I’ve made that many in my career, but this is one of them. I think YouTube’s value is so obvious, second only perhaps to Facebook, I just forget to push it. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to do The #AskGaryVee Show was to increase my presence on YouTube.

Twitter

imageIs there value to following thousands of people on Twitter, or should you only follow those who bring value to you?

Everyone likes to be noticed, especially by someone they respect or admire. I freaked out when former New York Jets player David Nelson followed me on Twitter, and I’m always amazed by how much it means to people when I follow them, even though I’m only on the celebrity Z list. I’d like to see more people worry less about the value they gain from their followers and more about the value their engagement provides others.

I initiate a lot of strategies toward increasing my reach—what I call the length game—but when I’m on Twitter, it’s all about depth. I want to give people what they want, and if they want engagement or time or attention, I’m happy to provide it. That’s why I film The #AskGaryVee Show, too; it gives me a chance to go deep and detailed. It’s not always easy to go deep, because we’re busy running companies and living life, but it’s crucial to building that relationship that will make all the difference when your customer is ready to buy.

imageI understand that marketers ruin everything, but is Twitter’s latest algorithm change going to damage user experience and the essence of Twitter?

When Twitter announced it would be following Facebook’s lead and switch to an algorithmic feed instead of a chronological one, a lot of people predicted the end of Twitter. Because that’s what always happens when a platform makes a change—the die-hard users cry and threaten to take their toys and go home, and then whaddaya know, they stick around and adapt. So long as Twitter continues to offer value, it will keep its user base. The experience will only be irrevocably ruined for those people who are irrevocably put off by the 7–10 more tweets that appear in their stream.

Have you ever dated someone who’s drop-dead gorgeous only to discover he or she is not that nice? Maybe you broke up with that person right away, but a lot of people wouldn’t. They value the beauty so much they keep going out with that mean person even though he or she is mean to their friends and hurts their feelings. It’s only once the value of the beauty no longer outweighs the nasty disposition that they quit the relationship. Of course that process would probably speed up if another drop-dead gorgeous person, this one with an awesome personality, were to come along. The second that something loses value to you, you stop paying attention to it.

So will Twitter’s switch to an algorithm that tries to make the deluge of information on the platform more relevant to users kill the platform? Only to those people who don’t value everything else Twitter does for them.

imageI don’t understand why I barely see @garyvee in my Twitter feed, but you’re all over my Facebook account.

Because Facebook has done a better job with its data and makes sure that what you see is relevant to your interests. Twitter is a busy, busy place, and it’s exceedingly difficult to get noticed there anymore. Hence the changes to the algorithm. Believe me, if you’re not seeing me in Twitter, it’s not because I’m not tweeting away.

imageWhy is Twitter so much like a wall in a public bathroom?

I would argue that it’s not. Anonymous apps like Yik Yak offer far better opportunities for people who want to make statements and take positions they might not want the whole world to know are theirs. I’m always far more scared of the people on Twitter who say scary sh@t and don’t even mind showing their faces than the people who hide.

Snapchat

imageWhy are so many people afraid of Snapchat, especially marketers?

Because most people want to do what they already know. Ninety-five percent of digital and social agency marketers have never even tried to use Snapchat and don’t understand how it works. It’s not like other apps; it moves left to right instead of up and down, it has the Discover tab. It’s weird. And they’ve read in the headlines that it’s the app that lets the fourteen-year-olds send naked photos to each other. They have not taken time to figure out if there’s a way to adapt it to suit their purposes. And that, in a nutshell, is why most marketers suck.

Not because they’ve rejected Snapchat per se, but because the suspicion and reluctance with which they approach it is the same they have for every new app. It’s why they’re late to the party every freaking time and then spend an inordinate amount of money and effort scrambling to catch up once they get there.

Marketing today is for the forward thinking, the brave, and the young at heart. If you’re scared to innovate, you’re too old for this and you stink.

Facebook

imageWhat are your thoughts about Facebook’s ban on like-gating?

I think Facebook is maybe one of the worst PR companies in the world. At the end of 2015 they made a move that will help ensure that when people like a brand, they really do like it and aren’t just liking it to win a prize or get some more points on a video game. The only people who should have been upset about this are those with no imaginations and no confidence in their brand. Making sure that users are seeing things in their feeds that they actually want to see is good for everyone.

imageMarketing to the next generation through Facebook is on par with putting ads in the Yellow Pages. Facebook is dead. What’s next?

Facebook is so not dead. If anything, it’s just starting to grow. I’ve made the mistake of counting out a platform or service prematurely. In 2003 I predicted that SEM and Google AdWords was dead, when in reality it was just starting.

I’d say that Google search is destined for Yellow Pages obsolescence. You used to have to go to Google to look up what you wanted. Now it’s all just coming to you, not on the right side of your desktop but in your actual feed. If you know how to target and create content properly, your consumers will have a constant reminder, in the best way, of how relevant your brand is to their lives.

imageI don’t get it, Facebook. You decide to not show my book page to people. Do you think a lack of success will make me give you more money?

I wish people would stop complaining about the cost of doing business on Facebook. It is like any other medium in the world. TV channels aren’t going to run your ads for free. The post office isn’t going to ship out flyers and advance copies of your book for free. This idea that because Facebook started out as a free social network it has to continue giving away organic reach is crazy. It’s one of the most efficient ways to deliver content to people in the world. You don’t think that’s worth a little money?

To anyone who feels he or she has a legitimate gripe, by all means use the free alternative to Facebook to alert people to your brand or book or business. That would be email. I’d love to see you get results even close to what you could do with Facebook. You can rant and rail against the cost of Facebook, but in the end you’re just talking to yourself, because Facebook doesn’t care. Nor should it.

imageWill Facebook video become a rival for YouTube as a monetized video platform?

It already has.

Some viewers noticed that I started uploading #AskGaryVee shows straight to Facebook instead of attaching a photo linking to my website or the YouTube video. I did that because posting natively is always the way to go. I like to say that I don’t pay attention to data, but what I should say is that I don’t pay attention to data unless it tells me something important. And Facebook has some of the best data out there, including some that tells me if I upload my videos natively, about 20–30K more people see them than if I link to YouTube or my website. On top of that, Facebook now shows view count so I can build brand with perception in the same way as I build it on YouTube. It allows me to embed videos on other sites. I’m eliminating friction and making it easier for more people to see my content, which is valuable. And providing value is always what I care about the most.

So I suggest that those of you out there doing YouTube shows should start doing Facebook shows, too. Now, of course, the caveat here is Facebook video requires a budget. It’s worth it. The dollars go on a long way; with the precise targeting we have available through the platform, you are sure to reach an audience with an interest in your subject matter.

At the time this question was asked, in March 2015, I predicted that six months later my primary embed would be Facebook videos over YouTube videos.

I’m not saying you should give up on YouTube. It’s still extremely relevant and important. But if you’re creating content for YouTube, throw it up on Facebook as well. Not with a link to the video—you won’t get the reach you want that way. Remember, native is the way to go.

I actually think this will be good for YouTube. Competition breeds innovation, and YouTube has been pretty stale for half a decade now. It might be motivated to push for some quality innovation soon, which will then probably compel Facebook to innovate some more as well. Everyone could win, especially us marketers.

imageThree seconds count as a view for Facebook video—moderately misleading metric, or incredibly bullsh@t metric?

Marketers have got to stop valuing width over depth. Is three seconds of pre-roll view on Facebook more bullcrap than people buying views on YouTube as pre-rolls? Those on YouTube are actual ads whereas Facebook is putting them in feeds.

I don’t care about width metrics. Any brand start-up using the number of views it receives to gauge its success doesn’t realize that tech can game that game. I’m looking at the engagements, the comments, the click-throughs to the product. If I am paying attention to something like number of views, I’m taking the width at width value. If I want 800K people to see my face, and they do that, then I consider those three seconds I just got to be worthwhile. It depends what you’re trying to accomplish.

imageMy little sister has Insta and Snapchat but has no interest in Facebook. What do you think the future holds for Facebook?

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is an assassin. There’s a reason he bought Instagram and there’s a reason he tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion—he wanted the teens. I doubt Facebook is going to get them, though. Instagram is going to become more like Facebook, but if Facebook keeps crushing it, it should be able to hold on to the thirty-five-and-older crowd, which of course is an enormous business. Over time the population will diminish, but I believe Zucks is going to keep going after that youth market. Facebook missed Snapchat, but it bought Oculus, and I’m sure there will be more. Don’t ever count Facebook out. It’s going to be the infrastructure for over-the-top TV, or free Internet, or the best phone we’ve ever seen. Just you wait.

eBay

imageDo you think eBay will become irrelevant if they don’t innovate?

My friends and I were predicting the end of eBay back in 2005, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. I think until there is an alternative to eBay in the world, they don’t have to worry. I loved the old eBay—I taught AJ to be an entrepreneur by going to garage sales and showing him how to sell his finds on eBay. Now eBay sells so much new product it’s more like Amazon, and people are frustrated with the new fee structures, but there really isn’t anywhere else to go.

There is a billion-dollar opportunity in a new eBay, one that exclusively deals in used product the way the old eBay used to.

Blogs

imageBlogging doesn’t seem as popular as it was a number of years ago. Does it have a future when everyone is “renting” social media space?

No one talks about email, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Same with blogging. It just goes without saying that if you’re in business, you’ve got a blog. If you’re putting out content on social networks, you’re blogging. Bloggers used to have to use SEO to get people to come to their blogs, but now they can simply bring their content straight to their readers. It’s a huge improvement over talking to yourself and hoping you can get someone to come along and pay attention.

Now, does that mean that personal websites are irrelevant today? Not at all, especially when a lot of brands are reassessing the idea of “renting” social media space after all. If you’re putting your content on a site that you cannot control, you lose ownership of that content. This has proven catastrophic to some brands when Facebook’s ever-changing algorithms wreak havoc on their carefully planned Facebook campaigns. So many are redoubling their efforts on their sites, and offering their social engagement as the gateway drug to get people there.

People’s attention is short and unfocused. They are more than willing to consume; they’re just not as willing as they used to be to leave platforms in order to do it. It’s perceived as too much trouble—until they spot something that makes it not. And that’s when you’ve got them. If you’re going to retain control over your content and drive people from social networks to your website, your storytelling, which may have already been good, has to get even better. You’ve got to get smart. Really smart. And that’s something to embrace, because raising the bar on one’s work has never hurt anyone. Ever.

Instagram

imageNumbers of monthly users aside, do you think Instagram is actually a larger social network than Twitter?

The media made a big deal out of the fact that in 2015 Instagram reached 300 million monthly active users, surpassing the number on Twitter. They made it seem like a platform’s number of users can predict its success and staying power. But while obviously the number of users is one indicator of how a platform is resonating with the world, it’s not the only one. And it’s not even the most important.

Instead of how many users are on a platform, we should all focus on how much attention its users are paying to it. Which platform is more valuable, the one that’s always on in the background but rarely looked at, or the one that has users’ full attention when they’re there? That’s the big difference between Twitter and Instagram right now.

Twitter has a serious noise problem. Six years ago, I had less of an audience on Twitter than I do now, but I could send a tweet and get more engagement because that audience was paying closer attention. The amount of information and users on the platform is so intense that it’s hard to make yourself noticed, much less engage. On the flip side, no social network in the world right now has more of its users’ attention than Instagram. When people are there, they’re 100 percent there, looking at each photo that passes by. In some ways it’s even got more depth than Facebook, because there aren’t all the distractions that can come with the emotional ties there, like spotting ex-boyfriends and avoiding family drama. Instagram isn’t winning because it has more followers; it’s winning because people are there to wholeheartedly consume content. It’s not just in the background.

When people want real-time information about what’s going on in the world, they still run to Twitter for the conversation and live updates. But until Twitter figures out how to control the fire hose of content that hits people when they’re there, Instagram is going to be a better place to engage with consumers because you have a better chance of being seen. That’s why I’ve moved so much energy toward Instagram myself. I still love Twitter, but survival of the fittest doesn’t just apply to the animal kingdom. If Twitter doesn’t evolve, and soon, it’s going to die.

imageHow will Instagram evolve in the future?

It’s evolving now; it’s just somehow it manages to do it in a more subtle way than Facebook does, and therefore elicits less angst from its users. One thing is certain: If Instagram were ever to layer Facebook’s targeting capabilities on its platform, it would become one of the great ad products of our time.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it transcended mobile photography and started developing smart photo tech, like the best new smart camera or maybe contact lenses that could take Instagram shots. Why not? CEO Kevin Systrom is a thoughtful leader who cares not only about his product but also about his audience. I bet he’ll take the platform into an interesting new space, and without ruining it, too.

imageFacebook and Twitter make it easy to manage separate pages and accounts, but not Instagram. Is there a way to successfully use one account for all three things without it being sh@t, jumbled and ineffective?

It’s easy to forget that Instagram is really, really young, and young platforms need time to work out their kinks. Before business pages existed on Facebook I had to use fan pages, and it was a pain in the ass. But I sucked it up because that’s what you do until the platform evolves or responds to its users’ needs.

imagePeople who write essays as their Instagram captions—what the hell are they thinking? We’re there to look at pics, not read endless sh@t.

You are. But plenty of other people like the long form on Instagram. You do you and create your own experience. But don’t be surprised if you start to see more and more of this kind of thing. There is a growing opportunity, and if it works, other people are going to start trying it themselves. Platforms evolve; that’s just the way it is. In fact, as of this writing, I am finding myself more and more attracted to longer-form text on Instagram.

imageLike, why is my dad following me on Instagram? Like, no, that’s unacceptable.

I have bad news. You are going to see your dad following you on every social media platform that hits scale—for the rest of your life. That’s how this stuff works. The youth establishes the community centers, and then everyone else follows.

imagePeople ruined the artistic intention of Instagram. Like now people try to sell refrigerators on it. The fu@k?

What do I always say? Marketers ruin everything. People will try to sell on whatever platform has the public’s attention, and clearly it’s Instagram’s time. If it becomes oversaturated like Twitter, they’ll move on to the next one.

imageInstagram posted that they’re going to start advertising on the timeline in the United Kingdom. More than 6,300 comments protested that they’re going to ruin it and threatened to leave the platform. Your thoughts?

Different strokes for different folks. A lot of video hosts wouldn’t let someone precede a question on the air with a nine-second self-promotion, but I do because I love to reward people’s hustle. Not everyone using Instagram cares whether ads show up or not. And of those who say they do, I’m willing to guess that they’re just venting, and will ultimately be too lazy to follow through on their threat to leave. Do you know how many Americans said they would move to Canada when George W. Bush was reelected, or Obama? The gap between what we say and what we do is pretty big. I’m willing to bet that if you went back to that Instagram announcement and clicked on the people who said they were quitting the platform, you’d find that most are still there. The number of things we say versus the things we do is pretty big. Go back to that post and look at how many people have posted pictures since swearing they were saying bye-bye to Instagram. My guess is quite a few. Instagram will find its rhythm the way Facebook did, and it will be a nonevent.

imageI am wondering what you think of Direct Message on Instagram. Is it an untapped resource?

Don’t go where you’re not wanted. DM is like texting—it’s private, and a place where no one wants to be marketed to. I hear anecdotally that most of the conversations happening by DM are flirtatious and maybe even inappropriate. Few people are following anyone they don’t want to follow, either, so an unexpected DM from you would feel more like a spam intrusion than it might on a different platform. Stay away.

Podcasting

imageWhat’s your take on podcasting? You’re playing in the space, but not all in. Not worth it yet?

The only reason I’m not all in right now is I’m too busy, but I think it’s a tremendous opportunity. People can consume your content while driving the car, jogging, or riding the train. They don’t have to stop what they’re doing and they don’t even risk getting hit by traffic while they cross the street because their eyes aren’t focused on screens. And podcasts are probably easier for more marketers to do well. Besides, I’m particularly strong on video, so it makes sense for me to put my energy there (focus on your strengths, remember?). Since video can make a lot of people self-conscious, podcasts are an excellent alternative.

Pinterest

imageAs a man I find it extremely hard to accept that other men use Pinterest. How do I get over this bias?

Quit being a jerk. If you’re targeting 15–19-year-old guys to sell them sports equipment, then maybe you don’t need to be there, but if you’re a man who is trying to market or sell or storytell or create awareness to women, you do. Your BS bias is not helping you.

imageThere is buzz around Pinterest advertising and they are slowly letting in business accounts. Are you optimistic?

When this question was first posed, Pinterest had just launched an ad service called Promoted Pins, which not only serves pins featuring your product to people their demographic data tells them might be interested in buying it, but also allows you to target them based on items they have searched. It’s early Google AdWords all over again, which is a big, big deal.

I was the first person to sell against the word wine back when Google AdWords first launched. I bought it for five cents, and it was nine months before anyone bid me up. Google became huge, and I reaped the benefits. I saw similar results with Pinterest almost immediately.

With Pinterest blocking affiliate links and introducing a “Buy” button on pins, it’s positioning itself as a major e-commerce contender. Back when I answered this question, I predicted that eighteen months from that day I would come back with an update. But I might as well tell you now: For better or worse, nothing has really changed. At the time of this publication, Pinterest has moved fairly slowly, so there are no new major updates to discuss. I still feel bullish, though, and still confident that when people understand that it’s a search engine for visuals they’ll figure out how to use it. If, however, Pinterest continue to be as slow as they have been for another six months, I’m going to start to get concerned.

Kickstarter

imageWhat are your thoughts on using Kickstarter to start a business?

Oculus Rift did it, raising $2 million to put out its first prototype, and later sold to Facebook for $2 billion. Lots of other people have tried to do it and failed. The difference? The founders of Oculus Rift built a great business. So yes, it can be done—if you’ve got skills. None of this stuff works unless you have the talent to execute.

Ello

imageWhat do you think of Ello?

Hundreds of people have asked about this ad-free social network that promises not to sell personal data. It sounds so great, but what’s the business model? You can’t make a profit on free.

A lot of people say they resent social networks like Facebook selling their data. But you know what they hate more? Paying for them. From what I can see, people don’t mind ads when they don’t look or feel like ads and bring us some sort of value. I think that’s where Ello is going to have to go.

Listicles

imageWhat’s your opinion on listicle sites?

Many of my friends and contemporaries who loved growing up reading the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal bemoan listicles, but I think they’re great. The past is the past, and now people want their news fast, colorful, and pithy. BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and Gawker have built tremendous businesses around listicles, using them to explore everything from racism to the challenges of motherhood to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The problem, as I see it, is they’re being overrun. Too many lists like “12 Things the Cat Did While It Ate Its Food” are crowding out the valuable content that people used to count on.

It’s the same argument we had over reality TV or daytime game shows. There’s a huge misunderstanding of how these things work.

What do I think of listicles as a business? In October 2012, twenty-four months before this question was asked, I would have said it was a phenomenal opportunity. At the time I discussed this topic on the show, I thought it was superstrong. As I write this book, almost a year later, I think it’s a pretty good idea. In two years, I’d be careful. Listicles will follow the same path as all other media, in that the best opportunities arise when a platform is new, and it loses value as more and more people pile on.

Email

imageDo you think email will be more or less relevant in the next five years?

I think it’s so important I’ve put it at the top of my marketing strategy. Email open rates may no longer be 80 percent like they were back when I was selling wine in 1997, but that doesn’t mean email is dead. See, people used to sign up for emails without thinking twice, the same way we used to click thousands of likes on Facebook. As time went on, we started being more selective. That means that if someone takes the time to sign up for your emails, you’d better deliver quality content. If you succeed and prove to people that they will like opening your emails, your email open rates will be high. You just have to deliver on your promise to provide amazing, exclusive, relevant content.

The other advantage of emails? You own them. You’re in total control of the creative and the distribution, and you don’t have to worry that your platform is going to make a change that alters whether the consumer who opted in receives it.

I think as long as people have email accounts email will be relevant. It won’t be as valuable as it once was, but it will still be a player.

Reddit

imageWhat are your thoughts on Reddit? Is it even social? Is it useful?

Reddit’s big advantage is that it has a solid community, which means the brands and creative shops that can make their content natively “Reddity” should see excellent returns. But as with all platforms, if you barge in there without bothering to learn the language and fail to understand why people come to Reddit, you’ll get nowhere.

Now, of course, once brands start having an impact on Reddit, the platform’s die-hard users will accuse it of selling out. They will threaten to leave. And then I think they’ll get over it.

Google +

imageWhy do you continue to use Google+?

Because it’s there. It’s definitely a failure, but there is still a niche of early adopters who use it. I have an audience there, so I give them content. Why wouldn’t I? How much effort does it take to post a video and check in with a few people who like my stuff? I respect that community and want to serve it.

Can we please try to remember not to think about social networks as all or nothing? Invest in the hugely successful ones, of course, but don’t turn your nose up at the others. The members of those communities are consumers, too. Would you turn away their money if they wanted to give it to you?

Yik Yak

imageWhat are your thoughts on the marketing opportunities in Yik Yak?

If you’re marketing to the 18–22-year-old college demo, you need to be there. The challenge is: How do you market yourself or your brand when it’s a place that values anonymity? You could use humor, like “I hear the chef at Burger World is hot . . . ha ha, it’s me.” The trick is to be authentic and not spammy. It’s a tough one.

Meerkat

imageWhich industries do you think will leverage Meerkat the best? Who is their target user?

Plenty will, but I think it will prove particularly useful to retail, entertainment, and sports. Can you imagine the QVC 2.0 opportunities? I could schedule a show from 6 to 9 P.M. where I sell and talk wine. Sponsors could jump on live sports events. Or you could charge money for special shows. I’d happily pay $2.99 to watch a live street-fighting match.

Twitter’s acquisition of Periscope hurt Meerkat for sure, because it allowed for a seamless transition between the apps that Meerkat didn’t have. Twitter users can see embedded images and even the ability to watch live streams in feed; Meerkat pushes a tweet out on your behalf that is nothing but text and a short link. Obviously Periscope has the advantage (which sucks for me because I invested in Meerkat).

Yo

imageWhat do you think of Yo’s new updates? Can businesses use them to communicate to customers?

At the end of the day, communicating with your audience is the number-one thing you should be doing at all times. If you think the Yo app allows you to do that, be there.

Tech

imageHow will the world change in 2018 once the Apple Watch has probably become a vital part of everybody’s lives?

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the phone will be trumped. And it doesn’t end with the Apple Watch. Smart tech is coming not only to our wrist, but to our collar, our sneakers, our hats, maybe into our actual bodies. And don’t be surprised if we return to our communication roots. Our main form of communicating across distances used to be letter writing, then it was the phone, and now it’s through our thumbs, but who knows, we might start talking again. I’m invested in a company called Cord Project that’s bringing voice messaging back into play. It could happen.

imageDisney’s MagicBand: How do you see this space evolving? What do you think about the necessity for these online/offline bridge technologies?

Smart, wearable technologies are going to eat up the world. Everything will be smart. All of it. Your shirt. Your pants. Your underwear. Your socks. As your coffee gets cold in the cup, it will tell you, “Drink fast! It’s getting cold!” Don’t believe me? For an actual present-day example, look no further than Amazon’s new Dash Button. It’s not on the level that we just discussed, but you have to agree it’s pretty damn close.

All this is coming in the next ten to thirty years. Wearable tech allows things that are physical to go so much further in the digital world. We are always looking for ways to represent our physical experiences in a digital space: posting photos to Instagram. Tweeting about a concert. Facebook statuses. The next natural step is for the digital to enhance the physical experience. That’s where Disney’s MagicBand succeeds.

The MagicBand is a wristband that allows you to do everything from open your hotel room to purchase a hot dog to enter the parks. It also gives Disney an extraordinary layer of data and ammo. It lets visitors recall steps during the day so they can create their own personal timeline. It pushes out content and unlocks new virtual features. In addition, it finally cracks open a path to efficiency, one of the biggest goals for every retailer.

One of the biggest frustrations for any visitor to Disney is the long lines and how hard it can be to navigate from one end of the park to the other. The MagicBand fixes that. Disney can see where people are getting stuck and where there’s open space, and use technology to encourage people to head to the underused area, for example by relaying through the band that there’s a code they can unlock over at Splash Mountain that will give them a coupon for a free ice cream. The technology actually speeds up the flow throughout the park. Disney can directly affect purchasing behavior by giving people reasons for spending more time in a space, thus perhaps creating more occasions to shop, or exposing them to two or three additional hot dog stands until they finally realize they’re really hungry, and improving their mood because the lines aren’t ridiculously long.

Wearable smart tech feels the same way social networks and the Internet felt to me in 2005–2007. It’s going to infiltrate everything we do. I’m telling you, the smart beard is coming soon.

Traditional Media

imageWhat are your thoughts on Facebook advertising on television?

I’ve always said that social and traditional media should play Ping-Pong, working together to extend stories and pique people’s curiosity with fresh content. And I’ve also said that my beef with traditional media isn’t that it doesn’t serve a purpose, but that it’s overpriced for the limited audience it reaches.

Except for when you’re actually trying to reach that limited audience.

A small company probably shouldn’t spend a lot of money on TV because it can get far more reach by building stories that spread through word of mouth on social media. But today Facebook has 1.8 billion users—it already has everyone’s attention. The only people it can’t reach are the people who balk at using Facebook, namely the 13–15-year-olds, and the senior citizens. Like, the 70–90-year-olds. The kids don’t watch much TV, but the seniors are there. The TV ads are still overpriced, but you can absorb that cost when you have a market cap of $225 billion.

Facebook isn’t the only one going old-school. Airbnb launched a print magazine. Warby Parker, the online prescription eyewear vendor, and Birch Box, a monthly cosmetics subscription service, both opened brick-and-mortar stores. Why? Because there was an audience there and they wanted to make sure to reach it.

Don’t ever lock yourself into one strategy or platform. Use a healthy mix that optimizes your reach. And though everyone has to market in the year we live in, it is possible that your year still includes traditional print and TV.

imageI just bought an indoor billboard company. How do you feel about advertising in the bathroom?

An ad placed smack above a urinal or on the back of a bathroom door is a great investment—unless you’re doing it in a year when people read their phones when they pee and no longer look at the wall above the urinal or the back of the bathroom door. You’ve got to think about the attention graph. Where is people’s attention going? That’s where your marketing should go. It’s not that marketers shouldn’t put their ads in the bathroom; it’s just that the value of urinal and bathroom signs isn’t nearly as high as it was even three years ago.

No matter what you’re selling, you’ve got to pay attention to the attention graph, not just how it looks now, but how it will look in the foreseeable future. Phone culture and wearable tech opens up tons of marketing opportunities, but it makes us vulnerable, too.

imageWhen will social marketing spending be bigger than television commercials?

Maybe in about two decades. These things take time. Let’s remember that the Web has been around since the mid-nineties offering banner ads and email and Google AdWords, and none of that made a dent in TV. I think television advertising today is in the same position as newspaper advertising a few years after Craigslist took off.

The DVR and Netflix have chipped away at it, and social is going to bring it to its knees. Eventually ads won’t look like ads anymore; they will all be natively interwoven into the platforms, and we’ll consume them without even knowing it.

image

SCOTT WYDEN

@SCOTTWYDEN

http://scottwyden.com

imageDo you have suggestions for me and other photographers about other ways to drive local print sales?

To me, physical goods don’t just disappear in a digital world. Obviously we’re living through a transition in all industries, but the fact of the matter remains that at the time I was writing this book the media was reporting that about a trillion photographs would be taken by the end of 2015. At the end of the day, every business needs to respect the supply-and-demand curve of what’s happening in the marketplace, and people are still going to go into physical stores, and hang physical pictures in their houses. Now, I’ll be totally honest, I’m kind of surprised we’re not further along with digital picture frames, but tomorrow Apple may decide that their next natural move is the iFrame, and then we’ll all have thirteen of them in our homes, and away we go. As someone who respects the market, if that happens, well then . . . tough luck.

I think what you need to do is focus on capturing the great pictures. What doesn’t go away is the iconic shot. You need to focus on the product that can be delivered both physically and digitally.

And finally . . .

imageIf you created a social media platform, what would be the key feature and why?

I love restrictions. I think they force us to be efficient and creative. So my social network would only allow you to post one piece of content—blog post, video, audio, whatever you wish—every twenty-four hours. Imagine how that would keep the volume down and raise the quality bar. You’d have to think hard about what was truly important to your consumer, and at the same time your consumer would know what was truly important to you. I think it could be a billion-dollar idea. I’m not in a position to do it. Who else wants to try?

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