We live in a world where first mover advantage is more powerful than ever before. Those willing to make moves early have unprecidented potential for success, and we are entering a period where failing to adopt new standards means being left behind. We’ve come a long way from the early days of the web, and its easy to forget how primitive things once were. Having a web presence once meant merely having a website. Fast-forward to the present and companies are now expected to connect with their customers via multiple networks, maintain modern web aesthetic, and constantly monitor for relevant new platforms. So where are we headed? Mobile.
I can say with confidence that mobile is the greatest market opportunity we’ve ever seen. Bigger than radio and television; It’s here to stay, and we have yet to even scratch the surface of what’s possible. Consumers now wield tremendous power in their hands, and first impressions are becoming a majority mobile experience. Providing native mobile content is no longer optional. It’s necessary. Whether via mobile friendly responsive design or a native app, as a society we have come to expect aesthetically pleasing quality content - no zooming required.
Looking beyond the status quo, it’s obvious that tablets and phones are merely the foundation. Application limited devices, as well as a few innovative new platforms on the horizon have just started to expose the bold future ahead. Nike and Jawbone both have wearable fitness tracking devices already on the market, and Google is expecting Glass to be on shelves by the year’s end. While Apple’s approach to developing iOS focuses on heuristics and ease of use, Glass brings mobile to another level all together and takes aim at limiting distraction. From changing the way we interact to optimzing efficiency, the potential of new mobile platforms is huge.
Native content and markets provide fresh, often innovative ways to interact with a large and easily accessible audience. For companies and brands, this is a massive opportunity - to connect with customers, gain exposure, and capitalize on emerging technologies. Recognizing relevant platforms early in the game is powerful, but often requires the realization of future value before ROI is realistic or apparent. Blockbuster or Netflix? Your choice.
Nike - Fuelband
Jawbone - UP
Google - Project Glass
We’ve done a lot to improve on the openness of online conversation in the past few years, but there still remains a growing issue of finding signal over noise. While it’s never been easier to find information, searches are often lacking, and sorting relevant, meaningful data from the rest of the haystack can be painful. Meaningful online conversation is just now taking shape, and isn’t nearly where it has the potential to be. I’m talking about the type of conversation that inspires, brings people together and has the ability to make lasting impressions.
Twitter did a lot to innovate in this arena by allowing us to exchange short bursts of 140 characters or less. Hashtags made information searchable, and for the first time the online community experienced a real-time connection. People with common interests could now effectively discuss relevant topics and track recent developments. Where Twitter falls short though is in its ability to build meaningful conversation within the platform. Many conversations started on Twitter end up taking to email, the web (articles), or some other social platform. Links within tweets are coming to be a sign of what I believe is an evolution in online communication. Twitter has become the messenger service where people go to share, but not discuss. My conclusion here is that we are much more connected than ever before, and people want to have deeper, more meaningful conversation.
Despite this desire, current major platforms haven’t allowed for the best discussions to take place. Perhaps due in part to online conversation being too open. In a recent episode of Foundation, Kevin Rose interviewed Dave Morin of Path. While discussing their development process and policy changes in their 2.0 release, Dave dives into an interesting backstory of why they initially limited the number of friends a user could have to 50. Summarizing what sounds to be much more complex social behavior research, they found that as humans we are capable of managing around 50 stable personal relationships. He defines these as the “people we trust.” As a service based around sharing (ex. a more personal Facebook), this was the group of people that Path wanted to market to. Interestingly enough, I see a similar relationship in online conversation and aspects of creating meaningful discussions. Everybody has that personal group of people they trust, and within a given niche field there is also a group of people we are willing to trust. We may not be the authority on a topic, but credibility and reputation are earned regardless. The open nature of the internet has allowed us to share every aspect of our lives on an unprecedented scale, but it has also allowed us to get easily lost in the noise. Listening to every voice in a crowded room and trying to pick out the one you’re listening for is an easy way to get a headache. This is the route online conversation has taken, and it’s time for some re-thinking and organization. Here are two companies to keep an eye on:
Branch - A small company of eight whose mission is “to empower people to talk about the world around them. — To bring the intimacy of a dinner table conversation to the openness of the internet” Users create discussion threads (“branches”) and can invite other users to join.
Medium - “It’s not too late to rethink how online publishing works and build a system optimized for quality, rather than popularity. Where anyone can have a voice but where one has to earn the right to your attention. A system where people work together to make a difference, rather than merely compete for validation and recognition.”
IFTTT is a service that lets you create powerful if, then statements connected to your favorite social web services. One awesome thing I’ve discovered this will allow you to do is create a screen saver from Instagram liked photos.
IFTTT allows you to link your dropbox and instagram accounts. After setting everything up, any liked photos are automatically saved. Through the magic of dropbox, these photos will automatically sync to your mac anytime you’re connected to the internet.
OS X Mountain Lion has some great photo screen saver defaults to choose from. Just link the instagram/liked/ directory in your dropbox and you’re set.