Disrupting Banking? It happened in a snap

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When we think of banking, as consumers we rarely think of the complex mechanisms behind the scenes. We just think of our financial institutions as very large, powerful brands – rather than individual businesses that focus on deposits, investments, mortgages and loans, payments and clearing, risk management and insurance, broking etc. But the reality is far more complicated.

Even within one area – like payments and clearing for example – there are several different dedicated systems. From cash to cheques, direct entry and EFTPOS to BPAY and credit cards and beyond, these systems ensure that our economy ticks over day-in, day-out. And while the banking system – especially in Australia – is highly regulated, we have seen a great deal of disruptive activity taking place over the last couple of years. Innovators like eBay and its flagship PayPal have had their eye on the lucrative payments prize for some time. And with the iPhone 6, Apple is moving into the space with its Pay product.

And now, Snapchat – the massive online messaging service that turned down Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer – has stepped into the contest, partnering with payments innovator, Square, allowing Snapchat members to pay another member by sending a message with a dollar amount (eg $19.50). Called Snapcash it takes online payments to a whole new level, bypassing banks altogether.

Currently only open to Snapchatters in the USA, it requires that the member have a debit card and be over 18 years of age.

It’s an audacious move. And one that is bound to be rolled out to other countries in the near term.

But more than that – its a warning to all slow-acting executives – especially in countries like Australia where the pace of digital transformation has been abysmally slow. A recent report by Frost and Sullivan calls out Australian executives as some of the most digitally complacent in the world, leaving plenty of opportunity for smaller, more nimble innovators to sweep up market share faster than you can say Bankcard.

Looking more closely at the financial services sector, however, I see a much graver issue. Take a look at the launch announcement. Look at how it was amplified. Look at the production and messaging. And then think about who it targets and where their financial allegiances lie.

If the Boards of Australian banks are not rethinking their strategies, then the problem runs far deeper – and change will come faster than we (or they) could possibly imagine. In fact, it could happen in a snap.

Trust is Up across Australia–Edelman Trust Barometer

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One of the more useful and interesting regular reports is the Edelman Trust Barometer. Each year, thousands of people are surveyed – and the global and national results for 2014 have now been published. It’s well worth a deep dive into the information, statistics and analysis. But one of the standout observations is that “Trust in every institution is at its highest point”.

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This is particularly interesting for a number of reasons:

  • Locally we have emerged from a particularly tumultuous election cycle. While trust in government has improved – the growth in trust in the NGO sector has accelerated. We increasingly place our trust in independent organisations NOT governments
  • Business leaders and CEOs remain at the bottom of the trust heap. This may not be an issue for many organisations but for businesses that operate in high-touch environments, CEO profile can have a significant impact on a range of indicators from share price to employee morale, net promoter score etc
  • Experts are back on the favoured list – with the public increasingly supportive of experts and academics.

If – as we expect – the connection between social media / business / life becomes much more nuanced and integrated through 2014, then trust will become a much more important factor in our business, professional, personal and social lives. And for organisations wanting to remain relevant in the lives of connected consumers, that trust counts.

The question for marketers is – have you built trust into business DNA? Because now more than ever, marketing = business and business = marketing.

Pungent Granularity – Penn and Teller take on the Anti-Vaccination Conversation

Hungry? [Explored]

Social media has a powerful ability to stimulate and create conversation. But when you are planning your communications, it’s essential to know your audience. And these days, “knowing” your audience isn’t just about mapping, analysing and researching. It’s about understanding their “pungent granularity”.

Pungent granularity and the social audience

To survive in a world where consumers expect one-to-one marketing and real time business responsiveness, we need to move beyond the simple targeting of our consumers. This means responding to:

  • The three forces of self-segmentation: Before we take an action, make a decision or puts our hand into our pocket to actually transact, we make a quick personal assessment. We self-segment according to our needs (does this “thing” solve a need state that I have), behaviours (does this “thing” reinforce, challenge or shift my behaviour) and attitudes (how does this “thing” make me feel?). Marketers must understand the nuances of this self-segmentation and bring this understanding to their efforts
  • What we already know about our consumers: Whether we capture “big data” or just quickly trawl the social web, we can quickly amass a detailed knowledge of our consumers. The challenge with this becomes not one of data collection but of frameworks for making decisions and taking actions. This is where I quite love Sam Gosling’s OCEAN framework. Moving away from the MBTI mappings, he suggests that Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism can be easily assessed via our digital footprints. And in doing so, we can plan our communications accordingly

When we pull together all this information, we get a deep sense of our consumers. We know not just what they say they “like” but how this influences their actions and decisions. We understand their connections, social graph and the way that they operate in a digitally-connected world. And deeply buried amongst all this is the “trigger” – what motivates.

The “trigger” is the kicker

Take a look at this fantastic video featuring “illusionists and entertainers”, Penn and Teller. It’s on the subject of vaccinations. It’s forceful and NSFW (with a few F-bombs scattered throughout). The language is direct, the message clear and in your face.

But will it achieve what it is intended to do?

Unfortunately, I don’t believe it will. The motivation here – not of the creator – but of the viewer is triggered by the same level of frustration shown by Penn. Those who are pro-vaccination will be keen to share and validate their own position. Those who are anti-vaccination will reject the facts, figures and approach outright. The frame is out of focus for the second group – and the argument will be based on the framing of the data as a way of disputing what is “true”.

This is why wheeling out big data will also be challenging. While the Mayo Clinic clearly states:

“Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven’t found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted.” Mayo Clinic – Childhood Vaccines: Tough questions, straight answers (here)

… many still view this sceptically.

But if there really is a desire to change the point of view (or point of belief), behaviours and attitudes of anti-vaccination folks, there is a need to more deeply understand them.

Hungry? [Explored] Riccardo Cuppini via Compfight

Social Recommendation in Action

Jawbone Up

I like marketing and branding, but I have always been more interested in action. In movement. In change. And how we make decisions in a digitally connected world.

I like seeing the way that words, image (and sometimes) music, can set a ball rolling.

And this is precisely why social media is fascinating. Take today for example. I had been thinking recently about my lack of exercise and had been looking for a way to break my own personal deadlock. A random tweet on the subject resulted in a relatively quick outcome – I went from thinking about fitness and a solution like the Nike Fuel Band to the purchase of a Jawbone Up in hours.

How did this happen? Take a look at the Storify below to see.

Now tell me, do you make decisions this way? Are brands listening in? Do you think they care? They should.

Pitch the Future–Young Social Innovators in Action

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You know what it’s like when inspiration hits … an idea galvanises in your mind like a bolt of electricity, sending your pulse racing. And the more you think on it, the more you feel your nerve fibres tingling.

But what happens when you tell someone about your idea? Your mouth dries. The words tumble out one on top of the other … you get tongue tied, excited and afraid. What happens if someone steals your brilliance? What if your idea is no good?

Now imagine, that you are taking your idea and pitching it to a room of strangers. Imagine that this idea is a deep seated passion and could have a real social impact if successful. And then imagine pitching your idea against four other people just as passionate about their idea as you are about yours.

Pitch the Future event at the Vivid Ideas Festival last night. Check out the story as it unfolded below. And who won? You’ll have to follow along to find out!

Putting Experience Back into Customer Experience

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Yesterday I wrote about the importance of reading mean tweets. It’s a post about the rough and tumble nature of online conversation and what can happen when you step out into the gaze (and full throttle voice) of the social web. And then today, almost on cue, comes what BuzzFeed calls the most epic brand meltdown on Facebook ever.

It began with an appearance on Gordon Ramsey’s reality TV show, Kitchen Nightmares. As you can see from the footage from the show, the episode did not play well for the owners of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona.

No doubt, BuzzFeed did a great job of amplifying an already hot story. But a story can only take you so far. It needs to be stoked. Fed. It needs to be cultivated, fanned and coaxed to become a raging fire.

And that’s exactly what is continuing to happen.

With each comment on Reddit, Yelp or even BuzzFeed, for every tweet and mention on Facebook, owners Samy and Amy step into the breach to fan the flames of this conversation. They continue to take brand experience to a new level with each and every comment or tweet. Take a look at some of the Facebook comments and conversations captured on the BuzzFeed page by way of example.

I am always fascinated at the way that people behave under pressure. Some deal with scrutiny gracefully. But not all of us are able or willing to. And I admit, I was drawn to this unfolding drama … to the flaming tentacles that lashed at every passing message. And then suddenly, the kraken appeared and I became part of the story. A small moment where the story was not part of someone else’s drama, but part of my own.

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And I must admit I was a little flattered. To be singled out here, on the other side of the planet, for my limited cameo appearance. But all jokes aside, there are salient lessons here – not just about social media, crisis communications and brand management.

What intrigues me is that certain point where the social media experience eclipsed the brand experience.

I can already imagine this restaurant becoming a Mecca for an inverted kind of customer experience where diners choose to expose themselves to the Samy and Amy experience unplugged. It has happened before and can happen again. But maintaining this level of performance comes with a cost. And there are precious few who can continue to operate at that level indefinitely.

Where will this go? Who knows. But it is a brand performance that few will forget in a hurry.

It’s Not Risk. It’s Gaining Trust

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We often (still) hear stories of businesses and individuals fearing social media. And if you listen closely to what is being said, you will hear the fear. You will hear anxiety.

And when you hear about those folks who brave social media – who push the envelope within their organisation, you will hear them talk about managing risk. Engaging stakeholders. Dealing with the randomness.

But this great TED Talk by Amanda Palmer reveals a new way of thinking about this.

What if, rather than managing risk, we were to think about “gaining trust”. What would that mean for the way we approach our customers, audiences, stakeholders and employees?

And how would it change what we do.

IMG_9400 bluedance via Compfight

Free Your Instagram Photos with FreeThePhotos

NatGeo

Remember when Flickr was cool? It has the no-brainer business model of $25 per year, in-built community functions like sets, groups and connections, and it helped manage copyright through various licensing arrangements. And the open API meant we could do cool things like

But then it lost its way.

Yahoo! stopped telling us about what they were doing and why. The diehards continued to post their images to Flickr but many others, attracted by easy-to-use apps, newly emerging and vibrant communities and a hipster ethic switched to Instagram, or Path or even to Twitter to share their photos.

When National Geographic suspended their Instagram account, it got serious

Over the lasts couple of days, I have written a couple of pieces analysing Instagram’s change of terms. It would be naive to think that Instagram did not expect a backlash of some sort, but by dumping the early adopters, they are opening the door to a more mainstream audience. The backlash then becomes a form of earned media, creating a social media news story that jumps into mainstream news consciousness.

National Geographic suspends Instagram account Of course, the beatup around photo ownership is actually not about intellectual property – but about the influence we each hold within our social networks. Social judgement’s a vital and highly prized element in a digital campaign, and the change in terms from Instagram opens the door to a level of granular automation that perfectly compliments the shift to real time bidding and automated digital ad targeting via systems like Facebook Exchange.

But when big brands who have made a significant investment in building communities within Instagram take a stand, it’s time for the rest of us to take note. National Geographic’s single image announcement boldly features on their Instagram page – making it clear that the terms of use scheduled to take effect in January were not to their liking.

Next step – migration – Google+ or Flickr?

Now at this time of year, we can expect people to be taking MORE not less photos. And we will be wanting to SHARE them with our friends, families and random social network connections more than ever! So what is one to do? The obvious suggestion is to migrate photos to another service, close your Instagram account and find a new network for your photos.

Google+ has been recommended by some, with its Picasa-based system. But Google has yet to crack the non-tech feel to most of its systems and this is a major barrier to entry for the average non-tech Geek. My choice would be Flickr – and as I have a long standing account, it’s really a non-contest.

Free your photos

If you want to follow me over to Flickr, you can do so using this great new site – free your photos. It takes the pain out of the download and upload process.

  1. Visit freethephotos.com
  2. Visit Instagram.com and login
  3. Visit Flickr.com and login (these steps make it easier)
  4. Login and authorise your Instagram account
  5. Login and authorise your Flickr account
  6. Click the Free Your Photos button

freeThePhotos2It takes a while, but you can set the site to email you when the process is complete. Then it’s just a matter of using the bulk management tools on Flickr to sort through and arrange the images.

But is there a replacement for my Instagram app?

And of course, if you are looking for an alternative iPhone app to Instagram – one with filters and auto uploading etc, Flickr have just released one for iPhone and one for Android. There are also dozens of community sourced Flickr apps for Android available here.

Marissa Mayer will be loving Instagram’s early Christmas bonus

Judging by the number of new connection requests coming through from Flickr, it would appear that there is some shift already taking place amongst my network. Our natural inclination is to establish trusted connections within a new network early. So not only does Flickr benefit from new members, those members are bringing their community strength with them.

Instagram may have unwittingly delivered an early Christmas present to Marissa Mayer at Yahoo! But let’s see what the new year brings.

HT @JohnHaydon

Instagram Dumps Early Adopters for a Shot at the Mainstream

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1344924671 When Instagram burst onto the scene with its mobile only platform and funky photo filters it came armed with a secret. It wasn’t just about the photos.

Sure, the vast range of photo filters were appealing. They provided a layer of nostalgia for the Gen Xers raised on Kodak round edged photos and soft focus pastels from the 70s. Some filters created a more edgy feel, displacing the photo border and accentuating the top end of the colour spectrum. They made the amateur photographer feel empowered, even if the filters sometimes degraded the photo quality. What we lost in quality we made up for in consistency of image, framing and in the ease of digital cropping.

Community was the secret sauce of Instagram

But Instagram was more than just a fun way to take photos. For many social network early adopters, it was a sanctuary from the noise of Facebook and Twitter. It allowed people to curate small communities of like minds, where networks of dozens, hundreds and in some cases, thousands, of people could share photos, tips and engage in in-the-moment sharing, collaboration and discussion.

And as the platform was engineered around mobility, it had built-in location awareness and sharing, so that closed networks of connections could create a sense of context around the digital interaction. Moreover, with push awareness, users could be updated on any interactions with their own images, comments, likes, loves and so on. It brought a human dimension to the digital experience. It was a sense of community and all the goodness that comes with that sense of belonging.

Facebook’s billion dollar acquisition changed the Instagram game

When Facebook purchased Instagram back in April 2012 for about $1 billion, it was only a matter of time before something changed. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg focused on synergies, announcing:

For years, we’ve focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family … Now, we’ll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.

But throughout 2012, Facebook has also been under pressure to prove its IPO valuation. And Instagram was a canny move, because it brings a ready made market.

Changing Instagram’s terms of use

Facebook are well-known for pushing the limits of user privacy. They started with the now failed Beacon. Then they stepped back and made a claim over all user generated content published on the social network. After a series of protests, Facebook modified their claims, but still succeeded in shifting the boundaries on user privacy and content ownership.

Taking a leaf out of the Facebook guide to user engagement, Instagram have now updated their terms of use which are due to come into effect on January 16, 2013. Buried within the Instagram site, these terms provide for the following “rights”:

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Saying goodbye to the early adopters, welcoming the mainstream

In making this move, Instagram is sounding its own death knell. It is signalling the end of the relationship to those who care about (and understand) the complex nature of web privacy. These “early adopters” were the founders of the Instagram community and fuelled its growth.

According to the diffusion of innovations, early adopters are vital in bringing new technology to the mainstream audience. Without the support of the early adopters, new innovations fall into the “chasm” and never reach wide acceptance within a community.

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But the early adopters have done their job now and as Instagram says goodbye to them, it is opening its arms to the mainstream. The early adopters have bridged the chasm and are shifting their focus away from community building to monetisation.

Facebook’s lucrative double whammy

Facebook’s billion dollar investment has not only eliminated a competitor, it has opened a lucrative new revenue stream. Extending the existing Facebook photo sharing functionality (for which it was already a global leader) by integrating the Instagram capabilities will help drive further online usage.

The change in the terms of use will provide new revenue by allowing Instagram to license your photographs, name and images to content hungry third parties.

The shift from users to customers

Many have suggested that Instagram, as an alternative, should charge to download their app. But this would change the nature of the relationship. At present, Instagram has a strong community of “users”, but charging would make those users “customers” – and that in turn would compromise the business model.

As it currently stands, Instagram’s “customers” will be those “third parties” – brands and businesses who are interested in the vast quantities of content being produced by Instagram’s users.

Instagram may re-jig the terms of use with slightly more generous concessions based on user protest, but users should expect that the direction to be maintained.

So what happens to the early adopters?

They’ll move to a new service. They’ll rediscover Path or re-evaluate the new Flickr app. Perhaps they’ll warily move to the new mobile Twitter app with in-built filters.

But saying goodbye to the early adopters is not the end of the world. It’s the start of a new mainstream story. And many of us will only care when we see our own images splashed, out of context, in some other place on the web. But by then, that will be too late.

For many, privacy and “intellectual property rights” over our own image is happily traded for the benefits offered by social networks. But the choice is individual – and the challenge we all face is to be informed. And it’s bound to become more challenging in 2013.

Trust is Up for Financial Services’ Connected Consumers

Trust is Up for Financial Services

While the retail sector continues to flounder, the Financial Services industry seems to finally have cottoned on to the digital business opportunity presented by social media.  A new report published by ING shows that frequent social media users (ie that lucrative and market-making early adopter segment) view social media as being as reliable as other online media.

Moreover, social media goes beyond simple information dissemination. The report indicates that “financial information posted on social media changes opinions, preferences or behaviour more often”. Clearly, as we have noted previously, our connected consumers are discovering, debating and deciding what to purchase and when independently of our marketing funnel.

Financial services leaders will increasingly need to develop and execute strategies that reach, engage and transform their relationships with their connected consumers. The impact has been felt in 2012, but the power will grow through 2013. Is your company ready?

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