Social Media : The Glue of Contemporary Society?

Sticky glue

We are all connected. Facebook looks like the glue the world needed to connect us all. Alternatives like Twitter and Linked-in and Instagram connect people in a similar way. But social media also have an ugly downside.

Facebook has taught us to like and unfriend. It has taught us to be rude or unscrupulous towards both strangers and acquaintances. It has taught us to express our political opinions and to unfriend people because of these opinions. It has even pushed teenagers to suicide. It also has helped us to retrace old friends and stay in touch over long distances, to buy or sell second hand items, to view lots of cool videos we would never have seen otherwise. To hear the latest about people you know but rarely see or to help capture a criminal. Facebook is both a threat and a blessing.

But ask yourself : How many people on facebook do you talk to and how does that compare to your total number of facebook friends. How many of your friends posts do you actually pay attention to? How many have you hidden?

Although Facebook changes its algorithm regularly you get to see about 35 percent of your friends post. In some cases that is a good thing because you don’t really want to know every meal of the day some people still post. And those who are lonely do tend trying to gain attention by posting a lot of irrelevant things. Yet surely sometimes you want to read more from valuable friends.

But that is not really what this article is about. What we are after is more protection from the negative feelings and harassment. So I want to look in into the question if there is a way to reduce the threat of social media. To create a social medium that is more protective but that still keeps you in touch with the world. It may lose a few features but if people feel a lot safer that may well be worth the while.

How do you create such a social app?

I believe the primary condition is to make it an opt-in system where you automatically select who views what every time you share something. A system where it is easy to block people but where it is unlikely that you would given the nature of the app. The people that would end up in your friend list would be those in your phonebook. That means people you actually meet up with physically or that you value enough for a personal conversation. People who respect you. 

Opt-in means that you would select who you share your post with. Best way to do this would be to have groups where you can add or remove people or create new groups to your liking and just select a group to share something with. Mostly the group you shared an activity with and some people whom you want to share it with. But you are in charge. Is that technically feasible? No doubt. It is just a matter of combining functions that reduces selection processes so that the user is not bothered too much with picking who sees what and still has a feeling of control.

Another obvious question would be ‘is this commercially viable?’. Well think about it. What will drive you most to buy an item : a friend or an add? That means there is room for advertising for what a people like on their timeline so that their friends can see what they are following. I guess that answers the question mostly. Find out what they like and get their friends to see it.

Online Sales

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Ecommerce News Europe recently published an article that states that Ebay and Amazon together account for 66% of all online sales in Germany. A staggering amount although it did not surprise me since I was recently looking into Ebay’s marketshare in Europe by country and Amazon’s success in Europe is well known.

But what should we conclude from this? One might think that these giants simply have acquired a huge market share through efficient marketing but honestly that is not how I look at it. I am more inclined to think that the demand for online purchasing is there but local businesses are not involved enough in this potentially much bigger market.

The main reason for their lack of initiative is that setting up an online store is a considerable investment and it takes at least a year to achieve reasonable sales. To launch an online store brick and mortar stores need to adapt their storage facilities to small order picking and packaging. The web store may require an additional investment depending on what a company sells. Then there is the cost of marketing to draw buyers.  Obviously more staff should be hired for all this and maintaining the webstore is a big job which requires an experienced manager. In Europe hiring people is quite expensive due to high taxes. Bottom line it comes as no surprise that online sales are dominated by a few big players since it really comes down to starting up a whole new department of a business.

But does that mean there is no easy and low cost way for a business to build up a marketshare online? Given the fact that 90% of all online purchases are impulse buy there sure must be. I’m thinking of an ‘easy to reach – quick to buy’ kinda system that does not offer a wide range but just the spearpoints of a range. It should be a mobile app with one product per page and a buy button and it should be easily accessible. Obviously the software should be managed externally so sellers would only need to have an account and post products but the site should be personalised to the seller.

Such a system would reduce the overall investment dramatically and make the step to achieving online sales a lot smaller for any size company without much hassle. Creating such an app may not be too hard but getting consumers to use it is quite another matter if it is not supported. How many apps on your mobile do you use at least a few times a week? Because that would be a condition to keep it alive. So companies should promote this access point to the customers and a joint marketing effort would be necessary to get such a thing going.

We have seen plenty of social media efforts but I find them mostly chaotic and more focussed on advertising than on direct sales. Communication between the user and the company also tends to be slow and very limited. And if any of those social media products would have hit a big buyers market we surely would already have heard of it by now.

So until such a product finally hits the market I foresee little change in the current state of e-commerce.

 

source
https://ecommercenews.eu/amazon-and-ebay-account-for-66-of-german-ecommerce/

Timing is of the Essence

clock-noon-time

Since its conception I have been struggling to find a way to present HowAbout to investors. Or actually to everyone. For as long as I was facing this problem I didn’t go actively looking for investors but used my own money. I read that investors only give you one chance and if you are not ready, you fail and it’s gone. Therefor there was no point in trying.

One would imagine that this would have put me under strain but the truth is I never doubted that I would find investors for HowAbout. I even felt I could permit myself to put down my pen and the whole project for a year and focus on priorities in my personal life. I was stuck anyway because the product at itself is way too extensive to explain in the usual five or ten minutes that you get for your pitch. I can only refer to a previous article posted here where I rebelled against ‘contemporary pitching’.

But one thing I always have believed in is ‘time’ or better ‘timing’. Complicated as it may be to explain, I do know very well that every product has its time. There comes a day where you no longer need to do too much explaining, a day where the market calls for a your product. I can situate this with a real life example. I used to be in the Fantasy games industry and a friend of mine had created a collectible card game. We went to a few game companies but it was new and complicated and nobody wanted to stick out their neck and produce it. And since in those days there was no Kickstarter we didn’t pursue the product. But six or seven year later a few guys in Seattle came up with a collectible card game called Magic : The Gathering. The gaming world had evolved and at the moment it was released there was real need for something new. It was the right time for a collectible card game and a few years later they were all millionaires.

I strongly believe now is the time for HowAbout to take it’s next step. It is the time for investors to step in and get his thing going and make money. There are many reasons. In a previous article I wrote about privacy. That was september 2016. Look how important it is now and how Facebook is struggling to keep its customers happy with their app. They desperately try to create false security but as long as their system is opt-out it will never be private. And so HowAbout is an opt-in system. It is based on privacy yet it still offers great opportunities for companies to do marketing and get sales. HowAbout is a completely valid alternative and a much better concept for the consumer.

But there is much more. Ebay is struggling to obtain growth because their business model stands in their way and they have no idea how to address emerging markets where their concept is just a rock in a pond. Google has overstretched itself and nobody sees it or has found a way to take advantage of this.  Real improvement in professional software like Outlook is nowhere to be seen. Other professional software companies don’t bother to make a mobile version of their application. It is as if half of the world’s software development is standing still due to lack of real innovative ideas. HowAbout has an answer to each of these.

Because of all this we obviously have thrown around our release schedule. We are now aiming at two big releases next year iso five spread over five years. When the market is ready you have to be ready as well.

Look and Feel

Recently, the gameification of software has been a hot topic. Finding the balance between the goal of the software and it’s amusement value  was the holy grail of the next generation software. Having a background of card games and boardgames, I couldn’t help but design HowAbout with that element that has given me a homey board- and card game feeling for all those years. You may have noticed this from the mobile app design, but the Web-version emphasises this even more :

home_cut

Howabout is really easy to use.  It’s mostly clicking and dragging, very clear and intuitive, and most of all very useful. For people like me who never got to really incorporating the use of a calendar in their lives, this is as close as it is going to get to achieving that.

But what about the business use of such a design?

We think your business is a serious matter, but so is the psychology of the people who work in it. Where Apple has done groundbreaking work in simplifying the use of software, and optimising it’s efficiency, we believe we are moving beyond the minimalist view that has carried them through the past 20 years. Offering the same efficiency and easy of use, we choose for a more playful design that speaks for itself. When Apple recently flattened out the look of their icons, I believe that with it, they removed the character of the design. We want to bring it back with a blast.

So the question remains, will businesses implement this kind of design in their corporate software, or do they prefer a static, ‘professional’, boring look. Feel free to leave your thoughts in a reply.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

yellowbrick    HowAbout has been a work in progress since May 2014. Although it has developed, the basic concept is still prominently there. Some parts got to play a more important role, some got a more intuitive approach, or have been given a better, more interesting functionality, like the interactive calendar and the Powwow function, which takes the possibilities of what is known as ‘a doodle’ way across its current limitations. The application has also been broken up into segments. We are now releasing MVP, with new functions to be added in the coming years, and we hope to arrive at the original full blown concept by 2020. After that; more new additions are already being investigated.

Fact is that nobody ever asks about the money. It is assumed that someone takes care of it. The shareholders, the investors, or of course the designer of the whole thing. Now frankly, it is a fact that the founders of HowAbout never really worried about money, and we honestly still don’t. The product will likely launch in November with all bills paid and as only debtor one of the founders, and we can continue this path for at least another year.

In the same context, the attentive follower of our project will have noticed that we are not following what we call the ‘Yellow Brick Road’. We have not been talking early to market representatives or investors about our project, neither have we been telling the press what we are building and how it will work, nor did we join any incubator or other start-up program. Everything has been relatively confined. Only the last couple of months, we have been quietly lifting the curtain a little on our Facebook page and now in this blog. One reason is that we are using a new intuitive interface that we don’t want other companies to introduce before we do. That by itself should be enough reason. But also, we have long time been unsure about the final design and functionalities of HowAbout, and only with the start of the programming phase itself, we were reassured that it will look great, and overall work out as planned.

At this moment we can not tell if this will end up as a problem. We sure have the experts against us, who say you can’t talk early enough about your project : awareness is key. The good side is that our open beta test phase may go relatively unnoticed, which would give us an advantage because possible competition will need some time to catch up with us. Also, HowAbout’s consumer version is free of charge, so there is a very low step-in barrier. That means a good press release could already create a large user-base if the product is good enough, so we have work to do.

On the other hand without any sizeable exposure, we are unlikely to gain explosive growth and will need a great marketing effort and convention presence to get an amount of attention worth the while. We are running the risk that by the time we are getting somewhere, a big player could release a similar product to ours with a lot more marketing, and dilute our chances of becoming a sizable market player. Fortunately however, HowAbout is not a simple concept -even though it may look like one. I guess it will depend if they estimate our product as a threat or an opportunity. If neither of them, we will stand a good chance. If any of them, in best case we get bought, in worst case our product will remain on the sidelines. Still, most importantly, nobody can stop us from making HowAbout.

Bottom line is, that we know what we are doing, and why we are doing it. We believe HowAbout is a great product that will spread by word of mouth, because it is quite unique, well designed and totally useful for everyone, with a very intuitive interface. That should be a good enough explanation for any potential investor to gain confidence, no matter we follow the Yellow Brick Road or not. Sometimes it is wiser not to follow the money in the beginning. Which application has made money the first year of its launch anyway?

Does that mean there will be ways to monetise HowAbout? Sure there are. We will tell you more when version 2.0 releases. Unless you want to become an investor of course.

 

 

 

 

Streetlife

If socialism has any future at all, I honestly believe it is in this app. Why? Because there are no politics involved. It is really all just about doing things for the people in your neighborhood, and who on earth can be worried about that? Well, except the government who might miss some tax collecting, but that is not what life is all about, is it? Seriously!

Streetlife is a local social network that connects you to people in your neighborhood. Anyone who needs help, or offers some solution, needs to put out a warning, briefly anything that may find a resolution within your neighborhood can be posted here.

The nice thing about it is that you get to know your neighbors, and this automatically increases social control, the lack of which has become an increasingly big problem in modern communities. If you don’t know your neighbors, you don’t care, and thus open the door for more wrongdoing. When people know each other more, you get an entirely different picture.

The app was launched in the UK and up to to day, over 4000 communities have it running. I honestly believe that there is a huge potential for this kind of apps. So far internet has largely become a pallet for the big companies to grab consumers attention. Local businesses have little of a foot to stand on to grab the audience that matters for them. This application can offer just that local platform the small retailer is looking for.

Streetlife has strong funding, but the problem is, that spreading takes a lot of time and effort. Maybe a really big economical crisis like the one that is brewing can help them cross international borders.

Sources :

https://www.streetlife.com/

http://techcrunch.com/2013/07/30/streetlife/