the grass is greener on the internet

12 things to expect from 2012
January 4, 2012, 7:46 pm
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I don’t know about you, but I had an interesting year in 2011…and while I wouldn’t usually do a predictions post, this year I couldn’t resist…

Four things that we thought would happen in 2011 that didn’t – but which might happen in 2012:

  • The rise of gamification: Seth Priebatsch (founder of SCVNGR) has been talking about the game layer for years, but his call to action at SXSW touting 2011 as the year to watch was slightly premature. Instead, Gowalla shut down and Foursquare sold out. However, a few interesting experiments cropped up, such as TheNextWeb’s belt program. Expect to see more interesting developments next year, like medical mobile apps that gamify staying healthy.
  • Rise of the social network wars: when we heard that Google was venturing into social (again) it was obviously going to be big news, but the slew of articles labelling it a ‘Facebook-killer’ clearly did not understand that both networks are designed to allow their users to interact in different ways. Plus will not replace Facebook, but it remains to be seen whether the niche it occupied after the initial hype will grow or recede.
  • Adoption of NFC: every year seems to be the year NFC will ‘happen’. Well, 2012 could be the year – no, really! (I might regret this.) Previous predictions were based on the release of the mysterious epic iPhone 5 with everything ‘early adopters’ were craving for. The release of the 4S without NFC was one hit to the theory, but the fact remains that even if you have a NFC-capable handset there is not very much you can do with it. (Remember bluetooth? RFID?) However with governments like Singapore making a move to fund NFC as a POS (point of sale) technology, there may be enough momentum to carry NFC to the mainstream!
  • Collapse of Groupon and group-buying services: well, I thought it would have happened by now anyway.

Four things that started in 2011 that will continue:

  • A revolution in search: with Bing hot on its heels, Google spent 2011 doing some revolutionary, if controversial, tweaks. The Google Panda update brought higher standards for inbound link-building and more recently the algorithm was tweaked to give higher priority to content that originated from your social networks. Expect to see more targeted results based on your location this year.
  • Behavioural targeting takes over: if you haven’t already heard buzzwords like ‘big data’, ‘the marketing cloud’, or ‘social CRM’, then prepare for your boss asking you about them this year. The amount of data available is staggering, and the number of organisations moving to predict what you want before you want it is growing rapidly. eBay’s acquisition of hunch was just the start!
  • Windows Mobile steps up to the plate: Android continued its rise to challenge iOS, fuelled by strong sales of entry level smartphones in developing economies and the addition of strong flagship products from HTC and Samsung. However, Windows Mango is poised to come into its own with a great UI and strong backing from Nokia. While the app database remains modest, Microsoft has leveraged on the large number of existing Windows developers by making to easy to develop for both desktop and mobile.
  • The tenuous balance of online privacy: there have already been threats to take down Facebook by Anonymous, and with the amount of data that giants like Facebook and Google hold it’s not hard to see why there might be some anxiety. (Some people write letters to the newspaper, others take down websites of multinational corporations. We all express ourselves differently.) The more we share, the more data we have at risk, and the more we express opinions in a public space, the more that governments clamp down to protect our modesty/their power. So who owns your data once you’ve posted it online? The underground fight (and vigilante action) doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon.

Four speculations on 2012:

  • Synchronisation of social networks:with so many new social networks that allow you to publish and share content like never before (another phrase I would rather not see), your real-life network will end up spread across multiple platforms. Read: to stay in touch with everyone, you have to join everything. Sigh.Friendster already recognised the need to synchronise all of your social networks with their revamp as a gaming portal that connects to all social profiles. The rapid rise of new app Path might be an indicator that while most people on multiple social networks want to maintain the separation between their multiple online lives, they also want a place to bring it all together.
  • The rise of HTML 5: like social, mobile platforms have splintered off. In 2010 iOS seemed to rule the smartphone world, and in 2011 Android proved it could grow to match. With the rise of Windows (see above) it won’t be long before there’s a definitive split in the app world. From a usability point of view, this leaves an open window for HTML 5, though not all of the bugs have been ironed out. This prediction comes with a caution: since there’s very few people with a commercial interest in seeing HTML 5 succeed, it won’t come to prominence unless a major handset producer gets behind it or someone finds a way to monetise it for developers.
  • China’s social and electronics giants take on the world:a year ago I hadn’t heard of Sina Weibo, but the Chinese microblogging service has taken the country by storm. The unintentional benefit of China’s censorship of foreign social sites is that it has allowed its domestic services to shine. China’s strength in cheap production has also spawned consumer electronics giants that are starting to create innovation of their own, a la Japan’s emergence as an electronics giant in the 90s.As China’s economy and influence grow, expect more foreign companies to invest efforts in its social networks and for more of its devices to spread across the world.
  • Experiences are the new products: retailers are coming under pressure from online shopping. Like a pair of jeans but don’t like the price? Search for it online. Strong retail experiences have always been a differentiator, particularly service and the journey within a store. However, I expect more integration of the online and offline worlds to create a hybrid experience – like Nike’s use of QR and AR to provide extra product information, and RFID membership tags that allow personalised customer service as soon as you get close.

So what do YOU think?

As for my interesting year…next post will be a reflection on what I learned as the World’s Coolest Intern…


On aid
October 19, 2011, 6:58 pm
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When will the world learn that it’s not the size of the aid, it’s the way you use it?

2 bits of genius in Google+
July 14, 2011, 10:21 am
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Okay, so Google’s strategy is that customer value comes first and monetisation will follow. So here’s my take on how the customer value of Circles in Google+ translates to 2 pieces of genius from a marketer’s perspective.

In case you’re not familiar with Google+ and the concept of Circles: Google+ is the latest social networking site (started by Google, in case you weren’t sure) to hit the scene. Unofficial figures say that it’s reached 20 million users in less than a month, which makes it one to watch. Though it’s touted by many commentators as a ‘Facebook-killer’ the functionality is more of a Facebook/Twitter cross.

One of the key differences to both of the aforementioned is ‘Circles’, where your contacts can be put into separate groups as opposed to just being your ‘Friend’ or ‘Follower’. This means that content can be shared with a limited group defined by the user – on the one platform you can discuss work with your colleagues or share last night’s party photos with your party people, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

On to those two bits of genius…

I’ve been speaking to a lot of people who are trying to figure out what value their business can derive from social networks. A lot of people like to focus on the ‘glamourous’ side – giveaways, viral videos, gaining followers etc. Well, they’re important, but I really believe there’s more value in being able to target the right people at the right time and find out what they’re really thinking. So here’s what I’m hoping to get from Google+…

1. More sharing

Privacy is an interesting thing. It used to be that you could very easily keep separate parts of your life, well, separate. It was purely 1 to 1; f you wanted to write illicit love letters to 5 different people, they would only find out if they compared notes.

Then came technology, with email, blogging, social networking, microblogging, and more. We had 4 ways to share; 1 to 1, 1 to friends, 1 to every1, or ‘dammit I’m not telling anyone’. Most of us learnt this the hard way on Facebook. We wanted to share content with a limited group of friends, but suddenly all of our ‘friends’ or even the whole world could see. As a consequence, there were some types of information that we just stopped sharing altogether.

Here’s an example:

As you can see, you might want to share at several different degrees, but you often end up sharing with more or less people that you would like to.

Circles, as I’ve explained, allows you to share in degrees the way we want to. It means that you have more privacy – if you added up all of the bars above, you’d find that you are sharing to a lesser degree as a whole. However, you’re actually putting MORE information out there because you can limit the degree it’s shared.

More data being shared is marketer’s gold. Share more information and I can get a bigger picture of who you are, how you live, what you like and what you dislike. It tells me what I should share with you and when I should do it.

If Google can tap into more data, they have a very powerful tool for their ad network.

2. Ads in a social context

The jump to social media came from one premise; I am more interested in people I know than people I don’t. I care about what my friends are doing but I don’t really care what a stranger had for breakfast. I know that my friends have good taste in music and I’ll trust that more than a record company telling me their latest artist is fantastic.

As a marketer, I’m interested in two things from this; insight and influence.

Circles allows us to map social structure like never before.

Since each circle created represents a specific social group or interest, we know that if A, B, C and D are listed as being in the same circle by many people, chances are that if A, B and C all click on ads related to cars then D may be more likely to also click on a car ad. This ‘social logic’ allows us to imply insights from people that share their data to people that share less.

Since adding someone to a circle is a one-sided act, it is easier for us to see who influences who. If A is following B but B is not following A, B is the more influential. I can get more value out of targeted advertising to B as an influencer than A as the follower. (This one-sided mechanism is why Twitter is used as a better quick yardstick of influence than Facebook, except that Twitter does not have the mechanisms in place to take advantage of this.)

So what does this mean?

I’m not here to make predictions about whether Google+ will take over from Facebook or completely change the social networking game. However, I will say that if they manage to make the network a success, Google will have no problems in monetising it and getting businesses on board.

The two factors I’ve discussed may be subtle…but they’re also genius.

Hands up before answering
May 31, 2011, 8:16 pm
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Finding the ‘right answer’ in the corporate world is difficult. Here’s why.

[aka: things they will never teach you in business school]


The best promotion
May 29, 2011, 4:40 pm
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A lot of people mistake the kind ambition I have as a desire to earn more and rise in the ranks as fast as possible.

While I wouldn’t turn down a pay rise, it’s just not that simple.

What I really want – and call me idealistic – is the chance to do interesting work.

3 more random things I have learnt recently
May 27, 2011, 10:41 am
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1. To drive change, you need to be simultaneously riding the wave and standing on the beach explaining what the surfers are doing.
2. “The best person for the job doesn’t get the job. The person that’s there gets the job.” – Kate Marie, entrepreneur
3. When it rains, it pours. (Especially in Singapore.)

3 random things I have learnt recently
May 3, 2011, 2:13 am
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1. Business is not done by email. Business is done over cigarettes, in corridors and over alcoholic/caffeinated beverages. Though one must use these three factors in moderation.

2. The art of doing a good presentation for an idea is as important as having a good idea.

3. Never underestimate the probability of running into someone you know in Singapore.

Life as the World’s Coolest Intern 1
March 20, 2011, 11:16 pm
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A few people have pointed out that for a social media intern I have hardly been blogging at all. Well, there’s a few reasons.

  1. I moved countries, and stuff. Apart from the challenge of which pairs of shoes to bring, there’s other things like finding a place to live and getting the hang of Singlish. Can lah.
  2. I’ve been learning a hell of a lot. It started with 3 days drinking coffee with the lovely ladies of Goodstuph (aka sitting in from brief to pitch on a very cool new account), a whirlwind day at Edelman that began with talking to Armano and ended with trying out for a black belt on their social media training program, several sessions at Qais Consulting getting to grips with all things new media and interactive, and of course getting down and dirty with data for a week at JamiQ.
  3. Oh, and then there’s my day job. So I get paid to tweet at work, but there’s plenty of other things to be done too; getting addicted to Google Analytics, negotiating the hazards of what can and cannot be communicated and planning campaigns for upcoming launches. Most recently, that means working with frog design on a design competition called inmode, which is almost a WCI for designers.

I’d love to go into more detail on these later, but in the spirit of talking about learning, I have two people to credit:

Shin Wee – my first line manager and an incredibly intelligent guy. He was a big part of running WCI and he clearly cared a lot about making it a great learning experience. In the short time we worked together he gave me a lot of great advice that I’ll remember for the rest of my career – so congratulations to him on moving to China to become the head of Remote Banking for Standard Chartered there.

Gaurav – my second line manager and the other driving force behind WCI. When we first met we filmed a case study with one shot where we pretended he was teaching me to meditate. The footage was cut but I feel that it’s quite accurate. He freely shares a wealth of experience in digital marketing, agency life and life in general. He’s a bit like a zen master, but a zen master that wields a Darth Maul light sabre. I’m not sure if I can reveal his next move but he’s going on to a very exciting position which will suit him very well.

You got Poken.
January 16, 2011, 8:37 pm
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An intriguing concept came up in my email – what if you could have a social media business card?

We’ve already had the social media resumé, courtesy of Brazen Careerist. And it’s not unheard of to have a QR code on your business card for easy reference (nice work Lee Hopkins).

But how about being able to electronically zap someone all of your social media profiles when you meet?

Well lookie here…

Poken tokens like this little fellow can store all that info – then transmit it when touched with another Poken.

It could definitely be the new higher-tech way of getting connected. But will they get enough of a membership for the service to be valuable?

Well…check out Poken and let me know what you think!

Just for the record
December 27, 2010, 12:51 pm
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Prediction: for the next decade the trend for companies will be towards expanding up the supply chain or to complementary goods/services.