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Trends, commentary, and insightful rants from the bleeding edge of advertising, content & branding.

FARMVILLE MUST DIE

crop blight has destroyed everything, time to sell your children

Farmville had over 70 million daily users as of last December.  70 million. That, as famously noted, was (at the time) bigger than Twitter.  Yep, over 70 million folks doing some fake farming And yet, it must die.  Why is the rise of ham fisted social gaming going to end in flames?  Is it the insufferable, overly cute Tokyo-pop graphic style? Is it the inherently limited appeal of a “game” about “farming”? Is it the Second Life style dead end of virtuality? Yes to all of the above.  I suppose Farmville is fine in a web 1.0 kind of way but it falls into an uncanny valley of being both TOO social and NOT social enough. No I don’t care about the sad-eyed Piglet you just found on your farm.  Yes I think a fake farm is a disconnect in a social network based on real world connections (yeah it’s diverging some now that it’s huge but we’re not interacting in some SIM land with purple skin avatars).

My grandfather was a farmer (sharecropper). He got up at the crack of butt every day of his life to wrestle a living out of a hundred acres of crops and two  hundred head of cattle.  Hey, there’s an idea, we’ll launch a competing social game called “Sharecropper” or “Dustbowl!”, with more realistic game play.  Sample updates would include: “Three of your fifteen children just got the bloody flux,” or “Your wife’s foot was just crushed by a plow.” Of course, this wouldn’t solve the real problem with these games (yes I realize they are hugely popular), which is how fundamentally anti-social they actually are.  The facebook platform manager posted recently about how the killer social game app has yet to be launched.  He’s right and whatever kind of game that turns out to be (that gets everyone playing) it will probably involve more real world engagement. Think Fourssquare or Groupon.  The opportunity is for what you do in the world of the game to have an “entertaining” or “meaningful” or “valuable” implication outside of the network. Kind of the Wii-fit premise.

Here’s where I’d bet my money. That the first person/organization to figure out social gaming 3.0 will either be a small fry app-style developer or a big brand (entertainment or product).  A brand could add the kind of value to the interaction that takes social gaming beyond an exchange of cartoon animals. “Rise Humans! Rise!”

UPDATE! Just watched a purposely provocative TED talk on social gaming and how it might be harnessed to address real world issues (hunger, homelessness etc.), and thought it worth an add to  this post.  At a minimum this TED talk tackles the idea of “how do we grow beyond” the sort of dumb and narcissistic type of social gameplay popular now?  Can a social game be about something bigger than just “hey look! I have a new cow!” Is her suggestion that we dramatically increase the amount of online gameplay (oooh! counterintuitive) reek of TED talk point scoring? Yep. But social gaming 2.0 is going to be about exactly this kind of linkage.

Filed under: brands, facebook, supergenius llc, Trend Spotting, Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Twitter is Dead, Long Live Twitter.

tweety1We are slowly dying in 140-character bursts.

Twitter has gone from a precious little idea to a respectable mini-blogging service to a massive cultural phenomenon in a little more than a year. And I think a lot of us are looking around at each other, nodding, saying, yes, this is awesome, I get it, tweet tweet birdhouse tweetdeck rt @imsohip.

I think some people have a legitimate use for Twitter: comedians, technical support, and Barack Obama. I think the rest of us are fumbling around for a way to stay relevant on it. Because Twitter suffers from the same problem blogs, podcasts, and user-generated content does: most people either have something interesting to say but can’t figure out how to tell it, or don’t have something interesting to say and disguise that fact with wry observational humor that went out of style with Seinfeld.

Here’s the great thing about Twitter: you can only communicate in 140-character bursts, so if it sucks, it’s over. Here’s the crappy thing about Twitter: we haven’t learned how to create stories on it yet. What we’re getting is fragments, little tic-tacs of information that hit us like pellets and we pretend are refreshing and informative and clever, but what we’re leaving off is: for a tweet. As in, that’s cute. For a tweet. We’re grading on a 140-character curve.

That’s why most people who sign up for Twitter don’t stick with it: there’s nothing yet there to stick to. There’s no flow there. Say what you want about Facebook, but people have learned how to tell stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. There’s a continuity. Not so on Twitter. Each tweet lives and dies like a fruit fly, leaving us not necessarily wanting more.

I’m not saying there aren’t uses for this sort of communication, but that they’re more limited than we think they are. If I am wrong — and I am never wrong — then maybe it works as a meta-communicator and tastemaker, directing your attention to bit.ly links. The Japanese are writing novels this way, but they’re not necessarily the sanest of nations, pop-culturally speaking. Pogue has decided to let others write a book for him, which is stupid, lazy and just like him. It’s nice when you have a question to pop it into the ether and get responses. And it helps to have a brand, a mission, and something worthwhile to say. Three times a day. Every day.

We’re tweeting, we follow other tweeters, so we’re biting the hand that feeds us. But it feels like the Twitter phenomenon, like billions of “Margaritas! WOO HOO!” tweets themselves, has a shelf life, until something better comes along.

Filed under: social media, supergenius llc, twitter, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Social Media and the New Social Responsibility

givingIt’s one of those trends clients are tired of hearing us drone on about – that one of the most social (and if you must, “viral”) activities companies and brands can practice is cause related marketing.  And conversely, non-profit brands and corporate social responsibility are intensely digital/social propositions. The reality is  that given the state of the economy more people and families than ever find themselves on the roles of the unemployed and subsequently more “in need” than ever before.  And, honestly, it’s this state of affairs that presents brands or NGOs or CSR departments with an opportunity to make a deeper emotional connection with their consumers/stakeholders.

Brands, like people, are increasingly being judged by what they do and not simply what they say in advertisements.  The upside of being held to this higher standard is that those brands that deliver are rewarded with greater consumer commitment than mere :30 television ads could have purchased.  You combine this shift in consumer approval of action over “advertisement” with digitally driven succession of control to consumers and you’re left with a pretty powerful sweet spot.  A sweet spot where brands that invite consumers into a conversation “win,” and brands that invite consumer into a conversation and having something meaningful to say (hello causes) “really win.” Why? Because a conversation that matters is one that you’ll invite your friends to participate in and not feel guilty about.

There’s also the Obama effect. The ability of technology or social media to efficiently aggregate inputs (comments, conversations, contributions.)  This is the ability to go beyond even the accumulation of checks from individuals into the rarefied realm of micro-gifts or micro-payments on a social media platform and make them cost effective and meaningful.

Who’s doing it right? Well, one platform that gives brands an easy way out is Facebook.  What’s that you say? You’re tired of hearing about FB, well deal with it, because I can count on one hand the number of brands that are doing it right. And of those most have a cause/charity related component or angle at some point. To wit:

“Feeding America.” Amazingly strong and consistent voice on FB, and online in general.  In the sea of so many dead brand pages that never update and never talk to their “fans” let along consumers, this NGO stands out as a brand that has strong social media presence. By the way a presence they maximize with clever applications and extensions – see “bread art” and the Kraft “Feeding America” challenge as good examples of social media in action.  The FB app “Causes” remains one of their most consistently powerful platforms for brand calls to action. See “Ben & Jerry’s.”

Great. You’re intrigued but wonder what’s next? What to do now? Well, one thing we like to do is peer a few minutes (let’s call it five) into the future. Why five? Because any further and it’s not useful to those of us who need to generate action (sales, interest, activity etc.) TODAY.  So, five minutes out, here’s what we see:

Branded micro-blogging. Think Twitter but cooler, faster, stronger.  How about a private “tweetspace” where volunteers or contributors speak up about or around a particular event.  Or how about a public tweestpace that’s branded/customized to a particular company or cause, where tweets from anyone who cares or contributes shows up.  What a powerful way to track cause engagement (and btw brand engagement.)  Yes, Twitter has already been engaged to drive charity, but social technology that helps brands and their causes both benefit is still virgin territory.

Cause Communities. Friendfeed for the charity set. Imagine a private social net or even a branded FB page where content from everyone touching a particular cause is aggregated.  Think video feeds from the organic farm you sponsor in Mexico, or micro posts from the youth volunteers in NYC mashed up with the corporate blog about the entire program. Cool.

Do Better Now. Like I said before. Very few brands have their FB geography in order let along the things that are five minutes into the future. I’d argue for getting that online territory sorted first.  Get your FB or Tumblr or whatever page/community sorted properly and integrated with your corporate assets and launch from there. By the way…call us if you need help with this!

There’s a reason casuse marketing has exploded at the same time that the web is becoming more social.  While there’s some concern about the potential for mis-application. As the level of chatter increases it’s harder to filter out the good stuff.  Those brands that are clearly aligned with the good stuff – products and also causes they support will tend to rise to the top of the global conversation. For deeper discussions about how social media can amplify your cause marketing please connect with us at mat@supergeniusllc.com or wbc@supergeniusllc.com.

Filed under: social media, , , , , , ,

Welcome to the Social

Are we being “Facebooked” to death? How much friend connectivity are we supposed to take? Apparently a lot more. Facebook has launched yet another (dare I say) instrusive feature called Facebook Connect, that allows members to log onto other webistes using their Facebook ID and track their friend’s activities on those sites.  Connect also lets you broadcast your activity to your friends.  So basically if you’ve discovered a great new Skateboarding

Stop Following Me!

Cat video on “Funny or Die”  you can invite your other half-wit buddies over in real time to check it out.  All the other big names are getting in on this act as well.  Fine, I suppose. I still wonder if there’s real utility to this kind of functionality.  Do you really want your friends tracking your online movements? I don’t want my spouse tracking me online much less a bunch of people I barely remember from elementary school.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , ,

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Super Genius LLC is a digital media and creative incubator that excels at bringing fresh, new thinking to existing strategy as well as blank-page strategic development. Our mission is to open up unique and exciting ways of connecting brands and consumers.

"The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." William Gibson

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