Is Our Future SoLoMo? by Dan Weingrod

Mobile is going to change things faster and more fundamentally than we expected.

It’s been said that the problem with predicting the future is that in the short term we underestimate and in the long term we overestimate. So last summer when I saw this slide estimating that smartphone sales would outstrip PC’s by 2012 I was shocked.

What’s even more shocking was the fact that it just came true, and in the fourth quarter of 2010!!

What’s behind this unanticipated growth is not just generous subsidies from carriers. It’s also the growing availability of useful, engaging and relevant tools on mobile devices which have made them a more compelling and desired purchase. These tools are opening up a world of new communication, activity and behavior. Sixty percent of the time now spent on smart phones is spent on new activities such as maps, gaming and social networking. Apple’s App store is growing at an astronomical rate when compared to the growth of the iTunes music store. iPad growth is eclipsing the sales rate of the iPod and iPhone and topping it off President Obama sounded like a Verizon ad yesterday when he announced a goal of bringing wireless access to 98% of all Americans.

All of these changes herald a rapid shift in communications and culture which John Doerr, of the high tech venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, calls SoLoMoSOcial for its role in maintaining always-on connections with friends, events and activities, LOcal for its ability to gain relevance from location and real time activity and MObile for its ubiquitous, available and anywhere presence. For marketers the rapid rise of SoLoMo culture will require a swift change in our perspective and approach to messaging and communications. Opportunities will grow for those who will be able to connect to consumers with relevant, useful and engaging applications, solutions and messages. As migration grows from desktop web to mobile web, mobile sites will need to become increasingly sophisticated and take into account the combination of relevancy, location and timing. The deployment of NFC chips in mobile devices will create an opportunity to interact with consumers at the point and the time of purchase. Reward driven marketing and social gaming will begin to take a larger role as engagement becomes a critical factor in maintaining relationships between brands and mobile consumers.

While this is happening very quickly it’s important to remember that, as Google named their mobile marketing conference, "It’s Not Too Late to be Early". The unprecedented growth of mobile is coming as a surprise to most and the best thing we can do is to start learning,  testing and adopting mobile based practices. If we can’t predict we can at least prepare because if the good news is that we’ll have 50% smartphone penetration in the US within months, the bad news is that we’ll probably never get jetpacks.

What’s your prediction?

Improve Web Presence by Making it More Fun by Dan Weingrod

One of the consistent themes at South By South West this year was the growth of game and gaming principles within Web applications. One the best examples of this was the almost overwhelming hype in Austin around two competing social/location based apps: Foursquare and Gowalla. Both of these Apps are using similar game-like concepts to rapidly grow and maintain a devoted user base. The Apps work something like this: A participant “checks in” to a specific location such as a restaurant, coffee shop or store. Once checked in, both Apps offer a variety of virtual rewards. These include receiving and collecting badges on your smartphone, becoming the “Mayor” of a location, receiving virtual pins you can exchange and recently the ability to win actual prizes. The entire process of check-in and reward is created on your smartphone and is simultaneously tweeted out to your followers. This way your friends not only know where you are, but learn a little bit more about what you are doing and your involvement with your location.

Recently I heard Naveen Selvadurai, one of the founders of Foursquare, talk about some of the key guiding principles around the development of Foursquare. The first was idea of keeping a record of what interests you as you travel through an urban environment and developing a crowd approach to the DNA of a city. But a close second was the idea of using gaming principles and rewards tied to social currency  as a key driver for long term engagement and participation. The idea of turning record keeping into a fun task has made participation in location based apps a rapidly growing phenomenon. The role of the gaming environment is its encouragement of engagement and re-engagement through the system of rewards and rankings, while requiring minimal involvement by the participant. You check-in, get your badge, rinse, repeat and have fun.

Where these ideas get even more interesting is when you apply them to Web sites. Infusing game ideas into a Web site could be an opportunity to build a deeper more engaged visitor pool while helping you learn more about your consumers. A simple demonstration of this is giving visitors the opportunity to rate themselves by creating a profile.

LinkedIn and Mint.com both do this very well:

Each site presents participants with a progress chart showing how much further they need to go to “complete” a “100%”profile.

Do you really need to get to 100%? Clearly I do. So each time I visit these sites I feel like I have to make an effort to move that progress bar to completion. Usually I do a little bit each time and feel like I have at least done something to improve my status within the site. But I’m not the only winner in this game. The Web sites gain also. Not only do they continue to grow repeat traffic, but by building greater richness of data on members they can better understand their members, provide me with additional benefits like connecting me with like minded users, offer me more services and most importantly maintain my engagement with their brand.

Updating status is probably the simplest example of how gaming features can build engagement and Web visitation. Other ideas could include creating levels and rankings for visitors who engage deeper, sharing data anonymously and allowing comparisons and competitions between visitors. A whole other direction would is the idea of creating badge like virtual or real rewards for frequent visitors  to help members of your engaged online community interact. All in all, infusing your Web site experience with a little bit of fun could lead to some serious rewards.