TREND-AFRICABefore moving to London, I spent four years living in Nairobi, Kenya. A few years back, while getting ready for an anniversary weekend, I distinctly remember receiving a phone call from my boyfriend’s brother (who was in London) asking whether we were safe. Immediately confused, we started scanning the internet to see what happened. Minutes later twitter posts appeared about a terrorist attack at Westgate Mall. The date was September 21, 2013. At the time, it did not surprise me that Twitter had the news before anyone else. But looking back, I see it as a clear signal of the rising influence of social media throughout Africa, a trend that only continues to grow.

It would be a stretch to say Twitter is used by every Kenyan, or that Meru grandparents are posting regular pictures of their kids on Facebook. But since the first tweet was sent from Kenya in 2007 to receiving its own local feed in 2013, over 5 million tweets have been sent from the country. Twitter is the third largest social media platform in Kenya with Facebook dominating and Linkedin a far second. Over 4 million users in Kenya, (around 10% of the population), make Kenyan social media a force to be reckoned with. These online users represent urban populations with growing pocket books, and a thirst for information from around the Globe. Of course, Kenya is one of fifty four African nations with online chatter, and while social media has not penetrated all nations on the continent, the numbers continue to rise. So what does this emerging social media trend in Africa imply for the future of online marketing and communication? Here are a few interesting insights I picked up from the Kenyan market.

  1. Mobile is king. We hear this everywhere, but it is even more relevant in nations like Kenya where development has skipped the personal computer all together. I took a ten hour bus and forty five minute motorbike to visit my friend’s family in rural Kenya near Lake Victoria. While they had no electricity on their compounds, guess what, they had cell phones! The police station nearby had a shop where people could pay 20p to charge their phones. Ninety-nine percent of internet usage in Kenya comes from mobile devices. Personal Computers are too expensive, and electricity is too scarce. As CNN says, not only is Africa a mobile first continent, but it is a mobile only continent. This means mobile marketing is the way forward, and in markets like Kenya, think Facebook and Twitter communication. Not everyone has a smart phone, and Kenyans often access twitter and Facebook via SMS. Safaricom (the largest mobile provider in Kenya) answers immense amounts of customer service via Twitter. In these formats, online chat is available via SMS, a necessity in a country where not everyone can afford smart phones. Realizing this, Google recently started offering g-chat via SMS as well. Do not forget mobile money. Through Mpesa (a mobile product that allows people to pay for things via their mobile phone), Kenya has the largest usage of mobile money in the world. Since credit cards are limited to the extremely wealthy, Mpesa has allowed people around the country to gain access to financial institutions without formal bank accounts. Find a way to connect your products to mobile money, and you can sell to the masses.
  2. Market research is possible, and it must be taken with a grain of salt. With only around 10% of the population in Kenya, there are a lot of people missing from the online conversation. But those who are present are more likely to be your customers – the urban middle class youth. It is also important to note that these youth are incredibly influential on the wider population. But remember there is a huge gap with reference to the elderly, and the very poor, so if you are looking for information on them, social media may not be the best method.
  3. Cultural sensitivity is paramount. CNN found this out the hard way after talking about Obama’s visit to a ‘hotbed of terror’ ~ Nairobi. Nairobians responded with over 75,000 tweets in one day to the hashtag #SomeonetellCNN forcing a senior executive of CNN to fly to Nairobi and apologize. They still are in jeopardy of losing a marketing deal from the Kenya Tourism Board. This means whether you are selling products in Africa or not, be careful about stereotyping a continent, or making assumptions in your communications. People are not forgiving to being stereotyped, and are loyal to brands that show respect. Earn yourself the next generation of brand loyalists, and be smart about how you talk about different nations, there are several twitter wars going on between Uganda and Kenya, and people do not like being lumped in a bunch!

While I was there for the awful Westgate Attack, rather than deeming Nairobi as a hotbed of terror, I saw a nation willing to fight back and use Twitter to do it.

If you want to learn more about how social media is changing the world, come to the #PreCommerce summit in London and hear insights from world-class industry experts and leaders, in spaces from health and technology to government intelligence. The Summit will be a great platform to geek out about how social media helps us understand the world!

I recently had the pleasure of attending eMarketer’s State of Mobile event here in New York.  It covered how marketers can leverage current mobile trends and was split into two parts:

  • Geoff Ramsey, eMarketer’s Chairman, presented data around mobile usage and offered tips on mobile success for marketers.
  • Eva Papoutsakis Smith of Pinterest discussed how the social media platform is used and how brands can leverage it.

eMarketer’s Geoffrey Ramsey 

We’ve all heard countless times over the years that this will be the year of mobile. While mobile devices now play a huge role in our lives, 2016 will be the year when mobile overtakes desktop in ad spending.

Blog eMarketer chart Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 3.10.24 PM

People feel lost without their mobile device and marketers have reacted accordingly by increasingly investing in mobile ad spending.

With the emergence of location-enabled mobile devices, location has become the new computer tracking-cookie. This means that real-time marketing has become right-time marketing. As eMarketer’s Cathy Boyle said, “location is the cookie of the mobile world.”

Blog chart eMarketer Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.26.41 PM

Marketers need to create relevant content that will serve consumers’ needs of a particular time and place.

The app store may have over a million apps available to download but 80% of our mobile time is spent with five apps: Facebook, YouTube, Maps, Pandora, and Gmail. Therefore, rather than try to change existing target behavior perhaps marketers can explore ways to participate in existing app behavior. For example, perhaps a marketer covers a Pandora commercial free day.

The eMarketer feature for US mobile ad spending can be found here

Pinterest’s Eva Papoutsakis Smith

Blog post eMarketer Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 3.17.44 PM

Pinterest’s Eva Papoutsakis Smith joined the conversation for the second part of the session. Pinterest can be accessed across a variety of devices including desktop, tablet, and smartphone. However, it’s chiefly accessed via mobile devices, with 75% of Pinterest activity happening on mobile.

While many view Pinterest primarily as a social media website, Smith conveyed their vision as being “an individual and personal tool for users to plan their future.” The platform enables people to dream where they want to go, what they want to achieve, and what they want to buy.

Also, while the platform is very visual, pins that include text often perform better than those without text.

Transactions may not take place on Pinterest but it plays a major role in eCommerce. A whopping two-thirds of all pins are for a brand or a business!

Product pins don’t just have to be product or service based, as it could also be collecting informative content. For example, a patient could utilize a Pinterest secret board to gather information and/or articles on a medical condition. (A secret board is only visible to you and people you invite to it).

If a brand is already on Pinterest perhaps show appreciation by mentioning people by name in the description of a pin, exclusive LTO offers, etc. How about giving those in your community some love? If a brand is not yet on Pinterest, they might be missing out on becoming an aspirational brand that people hope will become part of their lives. Why not join Pinterest to become more available so that people can include you in their future aspirations?


Just about three years ago, I sat down with my good friend and fellow location-based services nut, Mike Schneider, to write a book titled, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies. The book was decidedly before its time and was hard to write because the space was still evolving rapidly (in fact, it’s still evolving rapidly). But for that very reason, it was a fun, rewarding and challenging exercise — not necessarily in that order.

Fast forward three years and Mike and I are both still passionate about mobile and location-based marketing. I work for an agency and mainly focus on digital and social strategy but stay current by writing a monthly mobile column on MarketingLand. Mike took a different path and ultimately became the head of marketing for a company called Skyhook Wireless that focuses solely on mobile and location-based solutions. To that end, I thought it was about time the two of us sat down and compared notes (with me as writer and Mike as marketer).

Aaron: You recently took over marketing at Skyhook Wireless. What does your company do and how long has it been around?

Mike: Skyhook is location. We have been around since 2003. We are constantly reinventing how location is obtained in apps, devices and online and then we go to great lengths to add context to make it useful. We care about providing the means to capture and then use massive amounts of location data to give developers, devices, advertisers and more the ability to create and optimize awesome user experiences.

Aaron: A lot of marketers are trying to figure out what the future of ad-tech looks like. Obviously your view will have something to do with mobile/location. Can you give us some of your thinking on how those two connected forces will change marketing?

Mobile is advertising’s best friend because nobody knows a consumer better than their phone. The future of advertising delivered by ad-tech is “relevant content delivered everywhere”. When consumers makes their location known, publishers, brands and ad networks need to be ready to provide them with the best possible experience. The difference between now and then is scale. Getting precise location and tying behavior context to venues is easier than it was when we thought it all up because of the amount and quality of data we have. Concepts that everyone loves to talk about, but have been traditionally more challenging to implement, like geofencing and geo-conquesting can now be done through mouse clicks instead of lines and lines of code.

Aaron: It’s been said that the future of computing is wearables/the Internet of things. Can you tell us more about what this means and why they are so important?

Mike: Let me address them as two separate entities.

  • Wearables
    The wearable market is the collision of technology and fashion. Consumers are going beyond our phones to make “the quantified self” easier by wearing things that capture information about us that we can analyze. You’re a runner, Aaron, and you and I both use MapMyRun and RunKeeper and Nike+ to track our progress and tell our friends how amazing we (or you, I don’t do much more than 3 miles to your 10-15!) are. We then use this to analyze our progress, set goals and push ourselves to be who we want to be. A person’s activity level is a really interesting piece of context. Add this to moods, interests, foods and location and we have some really rich context around a person at a given time. The promise of wearables is that we get all of this information from a low powered, good looking, less noticeable device that means we can leave our phones at home and still capture and use the data we care about. Right now we track steps and calories in most devices, but the future is the addition of exertion and location.
  • Internet of Things
    Human behavior plus connected devices means a greener planet, better customer service and more reliable products. Warehouses are using indoor location to track human behavior and optimize lighting and heating. Thanks to location tech, products that could communicate with beacons and sensors so we know when they are entering a cart and leaving the aisle or the store. They also could know what’s in the cart with them. The communication with other things that are nearby allows us to build profiles of product behavior, attach that to venues for content creation purposes, optimization of energy consumption, finding lost items, inventory optimization and a lot more.

Aaron: Will marketers ever be able to detect users location when they are offline? If so, how do they use it?

Mike: We can do this today. A phone doesn’t need to be online (all of the time) to capture location. We can capture location and then based on where the device moves, capture further data points and trigger geofences or decode them and use them later. Devices like the Eye-Fi card can capture access points when a photo is taken and then attach location to photos in cameras that are not connected. Add this ability to armbands or clothing and we can capture your running route when the device doesn’t have GPS and isn’t connected to a wireless or cell network.

Aaron: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel just wrote a book called The Age of Context. Tell us more about the importance of “context.”

Mike: It’s all about context and context comes from people, places and things that share their data. The collision of people and things data makes place data incredibly rich which allows us to create better experiences for people without knowing exactly who they are. Time makes things extremely interesting. Who we are and what we need on a weekday morning where we might be a “coffee drinking, business traveler obsessed with Spotify” is different than a weekend afternoon where we’re a “coffee drinking, dad of three coaching soccer and looking for baked goods”. Aaron, we are always drinking coffee.

There you have it. Some wise words from a wise man. It’s been a while since Mike and I caught up but it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. By the way, you can see what Mike and some of my other mobile/location-based savvy industry friends predicted for 2014 here.

It’s no secret that over the last few years, the relationship between Microsoft and Nokia has been getting hotter and heavier. It all started about 2 years ago when Nokia announced that it would be launching its new Lumia devices equipped with Microsoft’s newest METRO OS. Many felt that the move would pair two of the once great platform leaders and position them for success against growing Android and iOS dominance. The original device received a lukewarm reception but showed potential. The devices smooth lines reestablished Nokia as a strong industrial design alternative while the METRO UI showed that Microsoft finally figured out mobile. With the purchase of Nokia, Microsoft now has a hardware platform to take its OS to the masses and level the playing field with Android and Apple.

What this means for us:

More options:
Microsoft will undoubtedly release a number of new handsets and try to get them into the market with all carriers. This would likely translate into higher subsidies for new devices and they try to grab market share. Implications for Marketers and Brands: Start looking for Windows to take a stronger market share and adjust platform development accordingly.

 More Apps:
The Zune marketplace will finally have enough action to become a viable app store. While the marketplace does have a number of solid apps, they fail when it comes to the more common ones that you’d expect (surprisingly, think Instagram). This expansion will likely mean more apps will show up in the marketplace as new deals are struck. Implications for Marketers and Brands: Start looking at distribution on the Zune store as well as paid media options for Zune specific apps.

A change in the mobile experience:
The METRO UI is notoriously flat and devoid of a lot of the shadows and textures and works within a Grid system ( notice anything interesting apple). While iOS 7 is moving in that direction, METRO also brings more information to the forefront with active tiles. Implications for Marketers, brands and designers: as the market changes, the design of apps and interfaces will need to adjust to meet the need. Also with live tiles, apps will need to be created with that “always on” approach in mind.

 Mobile payments power:
With Microsoft stepping into the fray with its own device, their control over how those devices are created will expand. Integrating a payment system into the devices will be less of a conversation to be had with an OEM and now sit firmly in the hands of the OS developer.Implications for Marketers: We will finally be able to start thinking through mobile payment solutions as something at is within reach.

Multichannel integration:
Microsoft Mobile and Xbox were made for each other. Now that there is a robust platform, Windows METRO users will undoubtedly link to their other home devices (xBox one), and we can expect Microsoft to expand on this with other home devices that can integrate to the phone.Implications for Brands: Start thinking seriously about home integration and second screen functionality.

The end of Blackberry
If the writing on the wall wasn’t clear enough, It should be now. The last place player at least had its own handset. something that is much less of an issue now. Also, Exchange has a very high level of adoption, ands much lower price point for integration over Blackberrys proprietary email delivery methods.Implications for users: throw away your blackberry – if you haven’t already.

All in all, this purchase, looks to push an industry forward that may have become a little too complacent. Speaking personally, Ive always seen the METRO UI as being fairly innovative and its good to see if finally having a dedicated and suitably stylish shell.Please share your opinions. I’d love to continue the conversation as the deal goes through.


With the 2013 version of SxSW Interactive in the books, it’s time for a look back on highlights, key trends (or lack of) and links to some of the awesome content we collected during the several events that we hosted during the event.

For starters, there really weren’t any big technologies that shined through at this SXSW like we’ve had at past events. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but likely more of an indication that it’s becoming harder and harder to break through all the noise at SXSW Interactive. There was a larger corporate presence than ever this year and that will likely be a continuing theme over the next few years as companies continue to embrace, grow and operationalize social, digital and mobile into their corporate DNA.

Social Commerce Summit

For W2O Group in particular, we had a very successful set of of events that kicked off with our Social Commerce Summit on Thursday, March 7. During this six hour event, we had 19 speakers each give 10 minute TED-like talks. The talks covered a range of topics including love, marriage and creating brand passion. We know it’s a lot of content but we hope you’ll take the time to watch the video (or at least read the highlights in the blog posts) from the speakers below.

We also had a few nice write ups from the event by former PR Week/current Holmes Report writer, Aarti Shah (here) and friend of W2O, Lisa Grimm (here).

In particular, we would like to thank our sponsors, Sysomos and BazaarVoice, for making all of our events during SXSW possible. They were (and are) great partners.


W2O Group Open House/Live from Stubbs Video Podcasts

While there weren’t any breakthrough companies this year at SXSW, we did have a number of themes crop up during our Social Commerce Summit and then again during our Live from Stubbs podcast tapings during our open house on Friday, March 8. In particular we heard a lot about big data, mobile, analytics and the operationalization of digital across the organization from many of our speakers/guests. There was also a significant amount of interest in our partner, SnapTrends, technology that provides for location-based analytics, a topic that W2O is quite bullish on.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be embedding the Live from Stubbs videos in blog posts on our Common Sense blog. In the meantime, you can check out all of the videos on our Youtube channel here. You can also read my Live from Stubbs co-host, Kyle Flaherty’s summary of our interview with Youtube’s Jeben Berg, here. When Kyle is not podcasting he is the VP of marketing at local analytics firm, 21CT who was kind enough to sponsor our Live from Stubbs videos. I would also like to thank local video production and strategy company, UPG for all of their brilliant work with both the Live from Stubbs videos as well as recording/editing all of our Social Commerce videos.


Of course SXSW wouldn’t be what it is without a party. And party we did at our 4th annual Geek-a-cue on Saturday night at Franklin BBQ (ranked best BBQ in the U.S. by Bon Appetit Magazine). Fortunately the rain held off this year allowing us to eat fantastic BBQ, enjoy the brilliant music of local favorite, Monte Montgomery, share a few beverages, take funny photos in our photo booth and play a little Corn Hole out behind the tent.

This short video shot and produced by UPG does a wonderful job of summing up this fabulous event.


We also need to thank Natalee Norwood and Spoiled Doves for producing our Geek-a-cue. Without all her creativity, foresight and elbow grease, this event wouldn’t be what it was. Thank you to Aaron and Stacy Franklin and the Franklin staff for use of their venue and all the mouth watering BBQ they served up with smiles on their faces.

Digital Brunch

Capping off the week, we hosted a digital brunch at our East Austin offices. In spite of threats of rain, the springing ahead of the clocks and a lot of hung over SXSW attendees, we still enjoyed over 125 visitors to our new offices. The petting zoo, chair massages, drinks (alcoholic and caffeinated) and gourmet brunch courtesy of local restaurant/catering company, Dai Due, probably didn’t hurt.

Biggest thanks of all go to the dream team at W2O Group of Erin Disney, Stephanie Layton, Blaire Borochoff and Katrina Hallowell for their months of hard work putting these events together. Huge props also go to our CEO, Jim Weiss and President, Bob Pearson for making these events possible. Last but not least, a shout out to all of our W2O Group employees who volunteered/attended as well as our clients for being an integral part of our SXSW experience. Thank you!

Last but not least, we also had a little fun with our #sxswpickuplines this year. Details are here. Video that put the cherry on the cake is below.


With mobile application engagement predicted to overtake television viewing in the near future (based on a study by Flurry), Mashable recently published an article outlining the most important features every branded mobile application should include, emphasizing e-commerce along with SoLoMo (Social – Local – Mobile) technologies.

By PixelEmbargo, istockphoto

Mashable: 4 Features Every Brand’s App Should Have

While these features aren’t new, author Joel Chernov stresses smarter use of these technologies, delivering true value to customers. For example, instead of sending a push notification anytime there’s a new special deal, allow customers to decide which brands / products they want to be alerted about. Are you listening, Fab?

Photo from istockphoto, pixelembargo.


Year end is always a great time to look back and assess what worked and what didn’t from a business perspective. This includes marketing campaigns, content efforts, social media engagement, sales activities, etc. In particular, reviewing which posts on your corporate or personal blog resonated can be a helpful way to better understand your customers’ and prospects’ interests. Not only is it a good reminder to focus on what works (you’ll notice that four of the top ten blog posts are list based), it’s also an excellent time to catch up on content that we may have missed in the hustle and bustle of our busy day to day lives.

By way of disclaimers, I do have the good fortune of holding a few of the spots on this list. However, I did decide to put this list together before I knew the results. And in fairness, my colleagues, Greg Matthews and Brian Reid, own a number of our top 10 health care/MDigital Life blog posts, many of which have higher numbers than our social media focused posts. To that end, I split up the list of our top posts for two reasons: 1) I figured that while there will be some overlap, the two audiences are somewhat different and 2) there were so many good posts on the WCG blog this year, it was a shame to limit the number of highlighted posts to just 10! It is important to note that our President, Bob Pearson, does most of his blogging over at Pre-Commerce, so his posts didn’t get included in this list. Going forward, we are going to start co-mingling the content from both blogs so you should see a number of his posts appear in this list next year at this time.

With that as the background, here are this year’s winners:

  • Location-Based Marketing Resources by Aaron Strout (7,298 | 17 Retweets) – This is more of a compilation of location-based marketing and mobile resources that I use at speaking events. But still, it’s got some useful information and shows the power of “resource” based blog posts to draw readership.
  • The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself by Aaron Strout (4,693 views | 11 Retweets) – A post about the importance of leading and engaging in social media — as an individual or a brand — with confidence.
  • What Does It Cost to Say I’m Sorry? by Aaron Strout (4,647 views | 103 Retweets) – Every brand has its good moments and its not so good. This post discusses how US Airways makes good on an annoying snafu by apologizing through social media.
  • Seven Steps to Building a Better Listening Program by Chuck Hemann (4,558 views | 95 Retweets) – Pragmatic tips from one of our analytics leaders (who is also co-authoring a book on analytics) on how to build a better listening program.
  • 2012 Location-Based Marketing Predictions by Aaron Strout (4,537 views | 52 Retweets) – Review of the location-based marketing space by a dozen industry experts (brand and startup) on where the space has been and where it’s headed.
  • Big Brands Weigh in on Social Engagement by Aaron Strout (3,670 views | 72 Retweets) – Several brands including Intel, Intuit, Michaels Stores, SAP and H&R Block (a few of which whom are clients) weigh in on the importance of engaging prospects and customers across the social web.
  • Five Takeaways from SXSW Interactive 2012 by Chuck Hemann (3,416 views | 46 Retweets) – Five key trends from SXSW Interactive 2012 by our Austin head of analytics, Chuck Hemann.
  • Five Cool Facts from Facebook’s Awesome New Study by Brian Reid (3,389 views | 43 Retweets) – Head of media outreach, Brian Reid, summarizes a ground breaking report Facebook put out in January of 2012 involving some interesting experiments they conducted with 250 million Facebook members.
  • Five Tips for a Successful Twitter Chat by Lauren Warthan (3,136 views | 46 Retweets) – If you ever want to run a Twitter chat (great opportunity to raise awareness and/or engagement with your brand), Lauren’s recommended tips are a great resource.
  • Introducing W2O Group by Jim Weiss (3,005 views | 89 Retweets) – Our CEO and founder, Jim Weiss, announces a new parent organization for WCG as well as new sister agency, Twist Marketing.

The big take away from this list? We did a pretty good job at creating content that people care about (there are at least 40-50 other posts that had views over 1,000). It also demonstrates that numbered lists, prescriptive recommendations and interviews with brands and experts (not mutually exclusive) resonate.

Is there a post on the WCG blog that you really liked this year that’s not on the list above? If so, feel free to include in the comments below.

The world population is approximately 7 billion with 5.6 billion on mobile phones.  Of those, only about 2.2-2.3 billion are internet users.  This means that roughly 1/7 of the world is on Facebook, and almost 50% of the people who have internet access are using Facebook.  However, it’s hard to really conceptualize how big a billion is an what it means.  Mega events like the Superbowl only garner a 10% of that  (111.3M), and even Justin Bieber’s fan page reaches a mere 4.65%. Facebook is more then 3x the USA’s population, and almost big enough to match the population of India (14.2% vs. 17% ).

This statistic is even more impressive that this is their “active” user base, so these are not empty accounts. Consider the social aspect of having 1B people “actively” sharing, creating, and remixing content. 600 million are accessing their accounts on mobile phones. Users have liked 1.18 Trillion things, checked in at 17 billion places, and shared 219 billion photos (Today Show, 10/4/2012).

Facebook is also shaping other web user experience trends such as using the social graph to expand their activity to other non-Facebook websites, social commerce, and deciding what news content get shared around the web – helping shape the media agenda.

Today’s announcement should not serve as a benchmark of size, but a wake up call to Brands and Marketers about how they approach creating sharable content and how media is syndicated across the world. With so many people out there, what models and strategies does a brand have to use to reach their potential and existing customers? Data driven models can pinpoint specific influencers and thought leaders to encourage community building and engagement.  With 1 Billion people waiting to share new refreshing content, brands must rethink content creation for a low spend / high share potential to begin to even catch up to Justin Bieber.

Facebook is no longer a social network, but a media ecosystem.  Paid, earned, owned, and shared content must be integrated into brand programming to maintain healthy communities and maintain relationships.  The real question becomes having a strategy, knowing what individuals drive a conversation around a brand, and having the right models in place to create sharable content for this new generation of fans? They are waiting, and we can help.

Special thanks to Aaron Strout & Matt Snodgrass for help with the statistics. 


US Census
The Today Show

facebook social media wcg pr

Facebook’s integration into Apple iPhone 5’s new software (iOS 6) is a testament to how important social media has become in people’s lives. Having sharability baked in makes sharing easier then ever. The user doesn’t even have to open an app¬—he or she can share a post through Siri without having to touch the phone.

Facebook boasts a strong 955 million active monthly users, and 543 million of those are active on mobile (Facebook, June 2012). Many mobile enthusiasts will claim “yes, but I could do this before.” This is true, but having sharing built in makes it more accessible to everyone, not just the tech savvy or the over-sharing, Facebook addicted.

For clients and marketers, this marks two important milestones: the beginning of real-time communication in the social graph and the birth of transmedia storytelling/news releases.

Society has been more connected then ever for quite some time, but with mobile adoption so high, pushing notifications through Facebook messaging and posts will allow for people to stay connected in real time. This will drastically shift how marketers look at engaging with groups of people versus targeting and approaching the individual—hopefully armed with smart, contextual content.

“Transmedia storytelling” simply means that stories begin in one medium and end in another. A mobile user flowing from an email, to a mobile website, to a YouTube video, to a Facebook post is a quite common scenario. This last step of sharing was somewhat cumbersome up to this point. But now that sharing is simply a quick flick and press on the phone, engagement within mobile can be expected to shift from consumption to interaction—from passive to active. This opens up so many more opportunities for marketers and PR professionals. The devices and interfaces simply fade away to allow the content to thrive.

Some may say that the latest update to iOS 6 is simply a few more features in a long list of tech specs. But for those that have the foresight to realize and understand how this will affect the mobile future, this is a huge, empowering step in allowing individuals to move from consumers to producers, fans to ambassadors.

Patrick Donnelly, Manager, Corporate Development

In this episode of the WCG ThoughtLeaders podcast, NextWorks Group Director Matthew Snodgrass talks with Stephan Merkens, Group Director for WCG and Patrick Donnelly, Manager of Corporate Development, about the release of the new iPhone 5 from Apple.

This latest phone iteration from Apple brought about a few significant changes for both consumers and for those companies who create software or hardware for i-devices. We discuss those updates and what they mean to you, your company, and your consumers.

Recently, Flipboard and Levi’s partnered to release a social shopping experience just in Time for New York fashion week. the newly launched experience comes as part of a new brand push form Levis and has turned Flipboard from one of the best magazine readers, into a social shopping platform.

When Flipboard popped onto the app store a few years ago, It instantly became recognized as one of the most progressive takes on readers. With its wealth of content and social connectivity ( most notably Twitter favorites) it became a huge hit on iPad, but over the last year, things have changed for the upstart digital mag. Traditional print publishers have begun to see the toll that Flipboard’s free content has taken on readership, and many are beginning to restrict content to shorter articles or teasers. This coupled with the arrival of Instapaper and applications like Google Currents, have made it harder for Flipboard to maintain a top spot.

The partnership with Levis aims to change all of that.

By leveraging the popular platform and adding to it a digital magazine/lookbook/shopping experience. Flipboard now has a new chip to throw into the game. People can now browse through the interesting style visuals that Flipboard is known for and also have a chance to purchase the latest designs from Levis, in a format that they already know and love.

Flipboard is not the first application that has done this. Both Marie Claire and Elle magazines tried sell through their digital apps, but the  biggest difference is that Flipboard offers all of its content free of charge and is completely customizable by the user – something that traditional digital magazine apps have struggled with. Add to that, the fact that Flipboard, originally only available for iOS is now available for Android, and you’re looking at some serious competition for digital magazines.

This new partnership will undoubtedly give other magazine apps like Google Currents something to consider as they look for ways to monetize their offerings beyond media. Many brands will also be watching closely to see how this venture fares as more consumers abandon traditional shopping destinations in favor of social and mobile shopping experiences.

#MDigitalLife is a WCG program designed to learn from and to showcase physicians who are blazing new trails in the digital world – changing the way that medicine is practiced and better health is realized.  You can find previous posts here.

“The use of mobile and social technology have come into prominence at a wonderful point in time.  They’re allowing us as physicians to connect with minority populations who have already adopted those technologies at a significantly higher rate than the average American.  It’s my hope that we can leverage the confluence of those trends to leapfrog minority families – for the first time – into a position of empowerment relative to their health.”

Ivor Horn, MD – Children’s National Medical Center

Ivor Horn is a pediatrician at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.  That institution, for those who aren’t familiar with it, serves kids and families in our nation’s capitol, many of whom are members of traditionally underserved populations such as black americans and latino americans.

Children’s National cares for patients through more than 360,000 visits each year and is the regional referral center for pediatric emergency, trauma, cancer, cardiac, and critical care as well as neonatology, orthopaedic surgery, neurology, and neurosurgery.  Children’s National is ranked among the best pediatric hospitals in the United States by U.S. News & World Report and The Leapfrog Group.

It also serves as a research center of note for doctors and other scientists who are working to address the health needs of these populations. While Dr. Horn started her career as a full-time practitioner, her role has now evolved to about 90% research.

“I love seeing patients, and I’d never give that up. I know that I can make a difference through that interaction with a kid and their parents, but I wanted to see how I could multiply that influence beyond the 1×1 interaction.”

Ivor Horn, MD

Dr. Horn believes that the exam room is the right place to help families work through solving their specific health issues.  But there are also system health issues that can’t really be addressed from the exam room – and that’s where a lot of her research is focused.  Over the last several years there has been a significant push in the US to ensure that physicians are regularly applying “evidence-based medicine” – in other words, that they’re diagnosing and treating patients based primarily on proven methods. Dr. Horn is a strong advocate for the consistent application of those clinical guidelines, but she’s also identified that they rarely go far enough  She sees that the communication that wraps around that evidence-based medicine is significantly more important for minority populations – both for doctors and patients.

Many doctors have a hard time translating clinical messaging into lay terms that are easily understood and actionable by their patients (some studies have shown that the average patient understands less than 50% of what their doctor tells them).  For a physician to learn to communicate with minority populations is particularly difficult – and its not just because of language or education issues.  There are cultural norms around health in minority populations that most doctors are unfamiliar with, which can further complicate the communication process.

A significant amount of Dr. Horn’s work is focused on finding ways to increase the impactfulness of physicians’ communication with their patients.  Dr. Horn wants give physicians and patients the tools and techniques they need in order to “use the 15 minutes they have together to EMPOWER and ENABLE patients in the greatest way possible – to increase the odds that patients will be willing and able to follow treatment protocols, and ultimately to improve their health outcomes.”

A good example of that work is in progress now, in the form of a protocol designed to help kids with asthma – and their families – to keep that asthma under control, and avoid acute attacks that put a child’s health at risk and force an emergency room visit.  The program was developed as an exam-room process that enables patients’ families to actively question their doctor about the kind of care their child needs in order to avoid asthma attacks.

One of the common problems in minority populations is that they don’t necessarily think that they have the right to have all of their questions answered by their treating physician.  Dr. Horn’s program tells them – and teaches them how – to effectively do so.  She always tells her patients – explicitly – no matter where I am, PLEASE ASK ME!!  She is their primary care doctor and therefore their advocate.  When she refers patients to specialists she tells them the same, and lets them know that it is their right and their obligation to ensure that they fully understand their doctors diagnosis and treatment.

It turns out that asthma serves as a great example of how this scenario plays out in real life.  In the hospital they have a clinic in the ER for kids who are at risk for asthma issues.  Those kids are admitted because their asthma frequently gets out of control.  At the clinic they get intensive education about how to manage asthma (environmental, social, and medical).  And a big part of that program is helping patients’ families to work with their primary care providers (PCPs) to continually manage their asthma so that they STAY out of the ER.  The problem was that their PCPs weren’t necessarily equipped to work with them on that kind of proactive management.  The PCP would say “your asthma is under control – why are you here?” And they’d say “because I’m am supposed to be!”  Basically, Dr. Horn’s patients weren’t always getting what they needed from the PCP.  So her program is about treating asthma – but mostly about arming parents to communicate effectively with PCPs.  Her patients learn things like:

  • What are the components of a healthcare visit?
  • What do they need to tell their doctors?
  • What do they need to ask?
  • What do they need to walk out the door with?

After completing the asthma intervention, she and her research partners surveyed the group of families who’d participated.  When the families were asked what had been the most valuable aspects of the program, they got responses like,  “It gave me the ability to ask questions – I didn’t know I could.”  “I knew I couldn’t give my child that medicine because of my work schedule.”  “I didn’t know that I could let Grandma pick up the medicine.”  All of those are things that, once identified, can easily be worked around.

The problem was that the program was successful in the short term, but that it was hard to sustain.  People were tending to drift back into their old habits.  Now, their challenge is to take the program and make it both evidence-based AND sustainable.  Dr. Horn believes that the answer may lie with a mobile intervention – perhaps leveraging SMS text messaging.  A mobile intervention would allow patients to access the information they need at the right time (i.e., when they’re about to visit their primary care doctor) – but also allow them to call it up whenever they need it, easily.  They’ll get refresher reminders over a period of time – and it guides them towards the next visit.

Hopefully the mobile solution will prove to be effective enough in sustaining successful treatment that it will stick around – and have a side benefit as well.  If it works, it’ll be able to take Dr. Horn’s research and techniques and allow them to scale to the point that they’re available for pediatric asthma patients all over the country.

There is tremendous momentum building around eactly this kind of mobile health innovation.  Dr. Horn wants to be sure that the companies and organizations involved don’t forget underserved populations as they’re designing and testing their inventions – and encourages such companies to partner with those underserved populations and the doctors who serve them.  That’s not necessarily easy to do directly today, but Dr. Horn suggested that interested companies should start with the “safety net” organizations to see how they could engage to determine how their solution could be applied to a specific population.

Organizations like the  National Medical Association, the Association of Black Cardiologists and the Hispanic Medical Association are focused on black and latino populations, and can often provide great resources and insights in terms of taking things forward. Medical schools are also great partners for that kind of innovation; Childrens National frequently partners with Howard Medical School and works on child health disparities funded through NIH.

I came to know Dr. Horn through twitter, while she was visiting Austin for the SxSW interactive festival last year.  Just as we saw recenty from Wendy Sue Swanson, the way Dr. Horn uses social media to communicate with a broader population came through traditional media.  Dr. Horn found that she was doing interviews in local media on a relatively recent basis, but wanted to find a way to access that same broad population on a more regular and controlled basis.

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She thought about starting her own blog, but decided that it’d make more sense to start leveraging a social property that already had a foothold in her desired audience group – and would be regularly maintained in the event that she wasn’t able to keep a frequent enough publication schedule.  As it happens, she had a friend who already had a blog for parents of color – Denene Millner’s My Brown Baby.

As is fitting for a scientific researcher, Dr. Horn decided to attack blogging systematically, and conduct it as a kind of experiment.  She and Ms. Millner agreed that she would blog monthly for six months.  Before, during and after the experiment, they measured the conversation on and around the blog.  Ms. Millner had already provided a forum that had proved to be effective in engaging families in healthcare and childhood development, and was interested in adding more detailed medical information – effectively raising the level of conversation from a purely “lifestyle” conversation to a true health conversation.  Dr. Horn presented the results of that study at last month’s National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media (Use of Social Media for Engaging Communities of Color In Child Health Dialogue). Dr. Horn feels confident that they measurably achieved their goal – in fact, the blog was nominated as a Best Health and Wellness blog in 2011.   She’ll be presenting it again this month at the Medicine 2.0 Conference in Boston.

The key learning from that experience for Dr. Horn was that when a physician comes into the right conversations online, it can make a measurable difference in parenting.  That positive experience proved to be a launchpad for Dr. Horn to expand more deeply into social media, and Twitter was the next logical step for her.  Blogging can take a LOT of effort and time (which as an academic she doesn’t have in abundance). Dr. Horn joined Twitter looking for the same target population she’d accessed through Ms. Millner’s blog (minority parents). She’s been successful in doing so, but also managed to find another community that she wasn’t necessarily expecting: There is a small (but active and growing) group of folks on Twitter who are focused on finding new ways to address the needs of underserved populations.  Not surprisingly, she mentioned how much she appreciates the work and approach of Andre Blackman (Pulse + Signal; creator of the Fast Forward film festival for health innovation) and  Alisa Hughley of enBloomMedia, who’s focused on transplants/organ donorship in minority populations.

Dr. Horn’s vision for the power of digital and social media to help reduce some of the health disparities in underserved communities is an inspiring and powerful one – and one well worth following.  You can keep up with them through Dr. Horn’s twitter account – and also by following these hashtags: #meded #hcsm #minorityhealth #disparities

As I read through my home feed on Google+ – that’s right, I’m one of ‘those people’ currently enjoying Google+ – I noticed a post on the Scobleizer regarding ‘Mobile 3.0.’ I paused just long enough to mutter something to myself along the lines of, “What? Did we really need another digital marketing buzzword?” But before I could move on, I noticed that something about the topic had gotten Robert Scoble pretty fired up. It made me curious. And, as marketers, we all know what this type of curiosity leads to… a click-through. And what a click-through it turned out to be.

I’m hoping you’ll go back and read the post. But before I summarize, and in the interest of full disclosure, Qualcomm Life, a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, is a client. On July 10th, Qualcomm shipped the developer SDK called Gimbal. What’s special about this SDK is that it will allow developers to talk to all of the sensors and radios in your phone, the compass, GPS, accelerometer, temperature sensor, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. and use the data to create a contextual awareness platform. This is vastly important because it will allow apps and messaging on your phone to be hyper-relevant to you at any given moment in any given context. Scoble’s post does a much better job of describing this and giving examples.

Needless to say, at this point, Scoble’s post had me excited too. It immediately made me think of Amber Case. She is a pioneer in the relatively new field of Cyborg Anthropology. And to hear her tell it, which you can in the video below, we have all become cyborgs.

For those of you that don’t have time to watch the entire video, although you should bookmark it and come back when you do, I will give you the highlights. Case is studying how the human condition, rituals, lifestyle, etc. has changed due to the technology that has become inextricably linked to our lives; the best example being mobile devices like smartphones. The smartphone is a device that many people feel they can’t live without. Essentially, the device allows them to compress space and time to connect with anyone in the world at any time. And this is making our world a much smaller and more connected place. All in all, technology has the potential at this point and time in history to enhance our humanity. We have the ability to engage and help one another like never before. And through social media, you can see direct examples of people engaging and helping other people every day. Case calls this ‘calm’ technology, and says that we can achieve “better connections when tech gets out of the way and helps us live our lives.”

Of course, calm technology is also going to make many of us cyborgs look ridiculous for a while. But the real question becomes, what is the potential for marketing in this vast new world of cyborgs and hyper-relevant, contextual awareness?

Cyborg Marketing = Experiential Marketing
With the heightened state of human interaction brought on by technology, it is imperative to concentrate our marketing on two things – 1) being human and 2) interactions and experiences with our brands.

Let’s start with being human since it is, hopefully, the easier of the two. Brands no longer have the luxury of simply selling their products. Thanks to companies like Dell, Apple, Kraft, Whole Foods and more, brands are now selling an experience. That experience spans the quality of your product throughout your organization to the quality of your people and your ability to act responsibly regardless of your hard and fast policies. At the end of the day, people buy products from people, and people create the experience of your brand. The trick to being human is that it is no longer a private situation between a customer and a company. The playing field is completely level and every experience an individual customer has with a brand should be treated as if it is public. Essentially, this makes every company only as good as its worst customer service rep. So, instilling a quality experience across an organization should be an absolute priority.

Number two is a bit stickier because we all know that hundreds of exceptional experiences can easily be undone with one bad experience. So, it only makes sense that if the audience for your brand is using a certain technology, you should understand and be using that technology as well. If you know your customers are using mobile devices to access information about your product by looking at your website analytics, then you should have a mobile experience, be it site, app, email or SMS messaging. And if they are using apps developed with Qualcomm’s Gimbal SDK, you’ll need to deliver a hyper-relevant experience.

And, I would even take it a step further. If your audience is using a particular technology, everyone at your company should understand and be using that technology. It’s just like using word processing or presentation software, it’s a job requirement. Otherwise, can your organization truly make informed decisions that impact brand experience and your customers?

This is never more evident than with social media. We’ve all heard that customers are talking about our brands and it is up to us to join the conversation or be left with the customer communities defining our brands for us. If this is true, shouldn’t brands be requiring their employees to utilize social media in their everyday work? If for nothing else, employees could see the conversations and stories about their brand and know exactly how the customers feel. My bet is that just knowing how customers feel would have a positive impact on how people do their jobs.

So, as we cyborg marketers try to create exceptional experiences for our customers, let’s take advantage of the hyper-relevant and super-connected technology that has expanded our potential to be more human.

The Mobile Imperative

iPhones, iPad, tablets and readers – it’s easy to define mobile by the devices we use in the places we go.  But, the real revolution in mobile is happening semantically.  For a culture on the go, mobile is silently moving from noun to verb.  From what we use to how, where, when and why we use it.  Fueled by expanding mobile networks, carrier hand-offs, faster processors and more features and form factors, we’re no longer confined by the wall sockets that tether us, but are unbound to move around our world and through the lives we live – mobily.  It’s because of the places we go, the people we see and the lives that we live wherever we live them that defining a long-term mobile strategy must first acknowledge the semantic shift from noun to verb. Having a dedicated roadmap to reach mobile consumers is no longer a feature or addendum to an effective program, but central to it and integrated within it.

An Integration Approach

Watch behavior of people in public, and you’ll see a common thread – the dim glow of a blue light on their face posting to Facebook, sending or receiving a text  or checking email.  Ninety-one percent of American cell phone customers have their phones within arm’s reach 24 hours a day. During that day, depending on their age group, they check email between six and 20 times.  They text between 5 and 110 times.  Understanding how people navigate their lives through their phone provides insight to a sustainable mobile strategy. For any brand, this considers how a Facebook post can be received on a desktop computer, commented on with a mobile phone and shared through a tablet or within an offline conversation. With consumption and behavior habits blurring across platforms, mobile features and devices, it’s important to find integration points that connect or at least span technologies, geographies and programs.  Organizations that can find a cohesive way to align purpose, platform and audience while delivering the experiences that enhance consumers’ daily travels.

Context is King

When assessing the mobile opportunities for your organization, it’s important to understand the mobile context of your customers, constituent, users.

1)     Behaviors: Create an archetype for the personalities of your customer base.  Where does this person go during the day – the dry cleaner, school, drive-in, restaurant, hiking?  Think about how the use of devices (noun) impacts the use habits (verb) of the demographics that make up your customer base.  And, don’t fall into the traps of assumption and stereotypes.  Seek out knowledge – both anecdotal and concrete – about how your target moves around, through and into the experiences that connect their world.

2)     Content: It’s important to assess not only what type of content is most compelling and consumed within the context of the customer’s daily excursion. It’s equally important to understand how your specific content/experience will be accessed and consumed. Assume much of your content will increasingly be consumed on a mobile device of some kind – whether on a cell phone or a tablet.  This impacts form, format and other characteristics of your content.  Make content consumable for mobile devices to maximize the experience for the consumer.  Shorter videos, visually compelling photos, succinct audio clips.

3)     Experiences: Understanding the pathways your consumer follows throughout the day can provide insight into how to enhance their experience.  Much like how marketers need to understand that it’s not about them in social channels, this concept becomes more relevant when connecting in a mobile context.  Are you just repurposing content to be available on mobile devices, or are you looking for ways to enhance the mobile experience?  I receive brief text messages from Redbox for a free rental each month.  It’s short, plain text and in a format that makes it easy for me to take action at the kiosk.  No need for html codes or flash widgets.  Just me, my phone and my Redbox text.

4)     Measurement: Do you know how often your site, channel, content is accessed through a mobile device?  What is the termination rate?  Bounce rate? Can you tell which information is accessed the longest through mobile?  All of these are indications of when, how and why your information is accessed.  And, it’s valuable to know these baseline metrics to understand what content and experiences are more compelling.  It also reveals some of the situational context (time of day, length of time on content, etc) that can be used to dial up or modify content pathways.

5)     Evolution: There are any number of reports that show estimates on mobile penetration and adoption – from operating systems to devices to downloads.  Some marketers make decisions based on those metrics, which are sometimes months old.  One of my favorite stories is from a time I was working with a major mobile chip manufacturer.  I was in a room with smart marketers and engineers who had helped revolutionize the mobile technology of the time.  They were debating whether or not to account for a new feature that some consumers were starting to ask for on their mobile phone.  The new feature was music.  All of the data pointed to the fact that consumers would never really want to do anything more than talk on their phones. If they wanted music, they could use their Walkman for that.  We know how the rest of the story ends.  With few exceptions, most would agree that this mobile thing is going to be big.  Basing program decisions and mobile investments on the degree of adoption today doesn’t account for the speed of overall adoption.  Chances are it takes longer for your company to agree on and launch programs than it does for mobile use patterns to evolve.  Look at where your audience will be in six to twelve months, rather than were they’ve been for the previous six or are today.  This will help ensure you’re meeting the evolutionary needs of your constituents and customers.

The mobile revolution began years ago.  The evolution will continue as networks expand, the tools and toys we use get smarter and there’s more of us connecting in more ways in more places.  Viewing mobile as a verb, instead of noun puts our head in a place that our actions can follow.

Photo: ACL Fest Bike Rack Photo by AdamJ1555


As anyone connected to an information source knows, parts of London burned over the last few days. Scenes of looting and overwhelmed riot police have dominated the endless news loop.  The talking heads on television don’t seem to know what to make of the chaos.  There’s no consensus as to what the source of the problem is. People viewing the problem with a socioeconomic lens blame the austerity measures, some see racial undertones, while other misguided individuals blame social media. There are many ways to view the current state of unrest, but blaming social media is a bit far fetched. It’s the equivalent of baseball bat for breaking a window. A bat alone will not break anything. In the same sense, social networks are merely tools that we use to communicate in real time. What people choose to communicate is up to them. Social media as a channel is neutral and can be used for good, evil or annoyance in some cases.

The Internet and social networks are guilty of enhancing the ability and speed of one of the most fundamental human traits, the desire to socialize. Since the beginning of civilization, people have come together to discuss anything and everything. A word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted source is still one of the most effective drivers of commerce today.  The main difference between now and 2000 years ago is that a physical presence is no longer required to share information or to gather around an idea. Before media, the fastest way to spread information to a large group was to unite them into a single location and to provide them with information that they can pass on to others. You can imagine how some messages may have lost momentum or become warped beyond recognition. Today messages are repeated more frequently across vast distances, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune from the issues of the past.

Welcome to the hyper-connected world. A world where people and ideas can all be interconnected at lightning speed. You don’t even need to be digitally connected to be a part of zeitgeist. There’s a good chance that relevant information will find you through someone nearby who ‘s linked in. People gather for and against ideas, but thanks to social media, they can unite in real time using nothing more than a connected device or knowing someone with one. Living in hyper-connected times means that we must rethink the concept of community to include flash unions that form and break up dozens of times per day. The police in London describe their policing style as community policing, but physical communities are only part of the equation. There is a clear line between gaining a better understanding of what’s happening in the digital space and imposing a full big brother crackdown on social media as has been suggested. We can’t expect Blackberry to shut its messenger service because you don’t like what’s being said.

There is some good news for the battered city. Police are learning from how these events materialize. They are starting to understand the language of flash unions and they are able to track what’s being said publicly. Blackberry’s BBM, a private communication channel for users of their devices, is more difficult to track. Blackberry is cooperating with police to track and trace crime related messages. There are two sides to every coin. So if you want to blame social media, you can. Just be sure to give it credit when something positive happens as well.  People used social networks to unite in the name of anger and chaos, but today others used social channels to aid the cleanup effort. Time will tell which of these movements last longer. Both the rioters with balaclavas and the anti-rioters with brooms have gathered around polarizing ideas. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a select few rallied around anarchy in private and order in public. In our dynamic hyper-connect world you can use social media to be a part of any community, social, anti-social, or both.





Here are a few lessons learned from a few days of madness:

1.  Social Media is a communications tool that makes it easier and faster to communicate (anything).

2.  Don’t blame the tool for the actions of the user. We must be careful and cautious when using social media professionally because there’s always an element of unpredictability when communicating through a shared medium.

3.  Communities are dynamic unions of people that are only as strong the idea that they are centered around. Strong communities can be real, virtual or any combination of both. Nurtured communities thrive on and offline.

4. Don’t overreact. We’re all still learning and getting better at communicating and listening online. Take the time to learn more about what’s really happening before making rushed decisions.

5. With great power comes great responsibility. A tool for one is a weapon for another.

These days it seems that everyone has an app. Apple currently boasts north of 400,000 apps in it’s popular app store. Android has over 200,000. Yet I’m willing to bet that 98% of those apps get used a few times by people and then thrown away. To prove my point, I surveyed a few of my social friends via Twitter and Facebook. I specifically asked, “What is the ONE app on your phone that you can’t live without (beyond basic e-mail, web, phone, text).” My question resulted in about 75 responses with a net result of 99 different app recommendations.


I’ll start by caveating that this is not a large enough sample to be statistically valid. You’ve also likely deduced that this crowd is more social than average so usage of things like Twitter clients and other geeky apps are greater than they would be by the general populous. However, my point is that outside of a few anomalies, most of the apps that people shared were what I expected. In the graph to the left, I’ve shared a general rollup of the types of apps that people cited as their “must haves.”

What does this mean for you? My purpose is to caution that if you or your company is thinking about creating an app, you may want to hold your horses. That’s not to say that the proliferation of apps in the world isn’t great, but rather that many apps probably weren’t worth becoming apps in the first place. One thing you’ll notice in the chart to the left is that the first three categories, utility/productivity, Twitter and dining/entertainment, account for nearly 60% of all the apps. If I were to have asked a less social crowd, I’m guessing that Facebook would have replaced Twitter and that there may have been a slight uptick in things like news and maps (which I could have easily added to the productivity/utility bucket).

For me, the apps I use the most (you can see based on how I’ve organized my main screen below) are ones I use all the time. Note that since I just finished writing the book, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, I over index by a lot on location based apps. But you probably won’t see anything out of the ordinary other than I am completely game-free (I’ll save that conversation for another day). I have more apps on my second page and of those, there are two others that I use ALL the time including American Airlines app and my app. Other than that, my other pages of apps get used about 1/100 of those on my main screen. And of those on the main screen, it’s probably the same 12-15 apps that get used 100x more than the rest.

So if you are thinking about creating an app, maybe you should consider a mobile-optimized site instead. There are a few main benefits to doing this over an app:

  • For the most part, you can be accessed by any smart or feature phone with a web browser
  • You don’t need to worry about developing for four to five different platforms (Android, iOS, RIM, Symbian (going away) and Windows Phone)
  • There is no need to go through the app store vetting process which can be long and dangerous
  • No need to worry about version control — people accessing your site always have the latest and greatest version of your application.

Again, that doesn’t mean that apps are a bad idea, just that you should take a long hard look at what the goals are. High transaction, productivity or utilitarian applications make a lot of sense. Those that are peripheral in value at best probably don’t.

  • Beluga
  • Chatter
  • Pandora
  • Yelp
  • Open Table
  • Shazam
  • Flixster
  • Poynt
  • rdio
  • RedBox
  • Angry Birds
  • Words with Friends
  • Sudoku
  • foursquare
  • Google Maps
  • Pulse
  • Instagram
  • Brand Your Photo
  • Camera+
  • DoAT
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • E. Sports
  • Milog
  • Nike +
  • Watch ESPN
  • Yahoo Sportacular
  • Twitter
  • Hootsuite
  • Tweetdeck
  • Plume
  • Twidroyd
  • Tripit
  • Evernote
  • Drop Box
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Docs
  • Google Translator
  • Keyring
  • Scanbizcards
  • SetCPU
  • Tabbed Out
  • USAA
  • Weatherbug
  • Yap Voicemail

In case you are wondering, here is the full list of apps I collected during my informal survey. If you have others you’d like to add, feel free to put ’em in the comments.


Attending the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is always a daunting experience, particularly navigating noise generated by announcements hailing the latest “breakthrough” products. This year’s star is the Tablet computer and the revolution it’s purportedly bringing. Mashable has a real good summary of the trends to look for at CES and, in a not-shocking development, Tablets rate number one. Seemingly, every company on earth is releasing their version (trying to make a dent into Apple’s iPad market dominance) and the show hasn’t even officially kicked off yet.

But through all the hype of Tablet-thon it’s important keep a larger perspective on what Tablets exactly mean if this revolution truly takes hold. A series of announcements (originating from the show and elsewhere) highlight how the evolution of “mobile” is the true story here. And while that might not come as a shock to technophiles, its ramifications certainly could for folks in other sectors.

To wit, cable provider Comcast today announced they’re releasing an app that will allow subscribers using iPads and Tablets running the Android to stream live television to those devices. Though streaming will initially be confined the subscriber’s home, a new means for consumers to consume live broadcast content has been opened. Until now, it’s been the domain of streaming content, such as Netflix.

Also today came news of eBay generating nearly $2B in mobile sales, nearly tripling the total amount from the previous year. Additionally, mobile ad platform firm Millennial Media raised nearly $30M in funding from several top-tier venture funds, confirming (along with Google and Apple’s acquisition of other players in the space last year) advertising on mobile platforms as a very real market. Mobile is now a premier place to sell content and consumables.

Lastly, Mashable reported on the trend of schools dipping their toe into using iPads in the classroom, ordering thousands of the devices for their students to use. Alas, a new means to educate students is taking hold, via mobile devices.

So what does all these seemingly disparate news stories mean? The Tablet noise generated out of CES and the announcements I discussed underline how mobile devices and content are becoming must-haves. This means marketers (and those of us who help them) should start thinking “mobile first” when creating and distributing content, and educating core audiences.

Are you ahead of the curve by already thinking mobile first for your company or clients?

If so, how? If not, what are the barriers keeping it from happening?