Sunday, June 23, 2013

Instavideo: Adding Versatility + 9 Additional Seconds of Glory

Instagram released video capability within their app earlier this week.  The video feature allows for 15 second videos, or a 15 second combination of video clips.  This enhances Instagram's competitive edge in the photo and video sharing space.  Instagram, owned by Facebook, has been growing in popularity particularly over the past several months.  However, many Instagram users were also downloading Vine, Instagram's competitor's app, to share videos.  Now those who want to share both photos and videos have the convenience of being able to do both through one app with Instagram.

An additional benefit of Instagram's video feature is that it allows for videos that are 9 seconds longer than Vine's videos, which are only a maximum of 6 seconds in length.  The question may linger of whether 15 seconds is still too short for some users, or on the flip side, whether 15 seconds is too long to hold the interest of viewers.

Although Instagram has the powerhouse of Facebook behind it, it is surprising to hear that the Instagram app is only ranked as the #17 top downloaded app in the Apple app store, whereas Vine is ranked as #3.

The phenomenon of sharing photos and videos is undoubtedly exploding, so adding video capability was an obvious move for Instagram.  It was a smart strategic move to allow users to share both formats of content, and a great competitive move to help fend off Vine.  Personally, I really like Instagram's ability to use filters and select a cover image for each video, whereas Vine automatically selects a cover image, which is generally the first clip of the video.

Monday, June 17, 2013

#Facebook Unveils Hashtags

Facebook users have been using hashtags for quite some time, although those hashtags essentially did nothing.  While they were cute and/or funny, they did not actually link to #anything.  Users were accustomed to using them on other social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, where the hashtags were actually links that "tagged" their content as part of the larger discussion around particular topics.

For example, last night during the NBA finals, Twitter and Instagram users could use the hashtag #NBAfinals on their posts and their content would be searchable under that hashtag.  Additionally, if users wanted to follow the conversation surrounding the NBA finals, all they had to do was search for #NBAfinals in either platform, and all tweets/Instagram pictures that had that hashtag would appear.  Hashtags are efficient and and organizational tool.

Last week, Facebook unveiled hashtags on their own site.  They must have figured that as long as users were using them, they might as well actually do something, right?  This was an interesting unveiling, as the general consensus was "it's about time," and it was also one of the first times that Facebook has been late to the party.  Facebook has consistently been ahead of the curve in introducing new features, but this time was unveiling the feature as more of a catch-up move.

I believe that releasing the functionality for hashtags was a necessary move, but still see work that needs to be done to make the hashtags more useful.  For example, in Twitter you can see the "trending topics," which helps users to see what the popular hashtags are to use.  With Facebook, you essentially have to search for hashtags that would seem logical, as there is not a trending topics area.  Additionally, Facebook users tend to be much more concerned with privacy than Twitter or Instagram users.  Facebook is claiming that the same privacy rules apply to hashtags as the remainder of our content on the site, but it is still an area of apprehension for many.

So, the question remains.  Will Facebook users jump on board with using hashtags as they do on Twitter and Instagram?  Or will they #remainascrazylongfunnyhashtagsthatdon'tmeananything?  Or #as #short #one #word #hashtags #that #are #pointless #also?  What do you think?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Social Media: Making Old Things New Again

Coca-Cola is respected as one of the companies who is tops in terms of having social media marketing "figured out."  They do a great job of marketing on their Facebook page, Twitter, and so forth.  However, one of my favorite innovative uses of technology is seen in their "Give the World a Coke" campaign that was re-released last year.

The beverage giant released a commercial, referred to as the "Hilltop" commercial/song back in 1971.  It opened up the concept of giving the world a Coke, but at that time, it was merely a dream.

Last year, the ad was re-introduced, but with the added feature of vending machines that were strategically placed around the world.  From these machines, people could select various locations to send a Coke to, and even record a brief video message for the recipient (who was a complete stranger). Through this campaign, Coke and its customers were now literally able to "give the world a Coke."

This is a great example of a company dusting off a great campaign that was created decades ago and taking it to a whole new level by incorporating today's technology.

Here is a link to the full creative brief for the project, and here is the link to the original commercial.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Does Social Media Inspire Fitness?

The world of apps and gadgets that track our fitness progress is growing at lightning speed.  We have transitioned from a time when the most advanced ways to track our progress were with pedometers that contained a watch battery inside, to a time when the spectrum of gadgets includes everything from wristbands that track our distance, to apps that tell our friends how far we just ran.

We have all seen the friends who use apps such as Nike's that post to Facebook when they start a workout, so that we can "cheer them on" during the run, and then the app posts the completion distance and time for all the world to see.

But do these gadgets really make a difference?  And what is the impact on our fitness goals when we know that our whole network of family and friends can see the intensity level and frequency of each of our workouts?  Is it really contributing to healthier, more fit lives?

I would argue that the people who were going to work out anyway are likely the same ones who are using these tools and sharing their data with their social networks.  I don't believe that they gather a huge new population of fitness fanatics, but I do believe that they provide motivation to those who are working out to push themselves harder.  If you know that everyone will see how fast you finished that run on the treadmill, you're less likely to take a walking break in the middle or end the workout early.

The slew of new gadgets really is pretty cool, and I admittedly really want to try a couple of them out.  This CNN article provides details on 7 different fitness tools, but here are two that I am particularly eyeing:

1. Run Keeper - this app allows you to find runners that are of a similar fitness level and who live nearby.  I am just getting back into running and this would be a fun way to meet some new running buddies, if used in a safe manner!

2. Nike+ Fuel Band - this is a tracking device that is worn as a wristband and connects to an app on your phone.  It tracks your own workout progress, and also shares the information with friends.  Nike has been a leader in the fitness gadget space for a few years now, and I love the idea of not only tracking my data with a wristband (rather than something clunky to carry around!), and having the option of sharing the data.