For a while, I was one of “those” Foursquare people. You know… rushing to document each and every place I visited, interrupting conversations with real life people to look down at my phone and find the appropriate check-in location, and generally Type-A about becoming the Mayor of SOMETHING for goodness sake. I truly felt sadness at my recent ousting from the Mayorship of the Hotel Triton in SF earlier this week.
I liked Foursquare because it was turning my nomadic life into a real life video game. On top of my Kimpton stays and frequent flier miles, I was getting electronic cred for criss-crossing the country every week and I liked it. Now, I’m approaching done. 3 reasons why:
1) Frustration – The quick proliferation of users has taken the definition of “location” from geo to nano. As the user-define locations on Foursquare have gotten smaller and smaller, the user is overwhelmed with options for where to check in – none of which may seem “legit” or correct. I won’t pore through 50 different options figuring out where to check in. The only plus is that this allows for more “Mayors”.
2) Loss of Utility – The “nano” problem above also reduces the utility of the tool. I’m interested in seeing who else is at the Austin airport – not who is at gate 18 or at the Auntie Anne’s pretzels by Delta in Concourse B. This means I can really only look at where my current friends are and that’s it.
3) Now What? Once you’ve opened all the badges for your normal activity, whither thou goest your Foursquare experience? This phenomenon is relatively well documented – quite amusingly as “Apathy” in this “From Addiction to Apathy” post from Fast Company (h/t @KaiMac).
I hope there is a plan – a deeper level of engagement?, maybe “verified” locations a la Twitter? I hope so, but I may have to read about it in Mashable because I’m not sure I’ll still be a user when they figure it out.
Yesterday I ran into an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen IRL (in real life) since 2005. He had, however, recently reached out through social networks to ask me to become a fan of a band I had never heard of – Coventry Road. The fortuitous in-person encounter allowed me to ask about the motivation for the “become a fan of” request. He told me that the first question club owners now ask is not “where’s your demo” but “how many Facebook fans do you have”? Far from the upstart organizing tool of 4-5 years ago, building a digital audience is now a requirement for a band starting out – not a nice to have or an advantage. Questions this raises:
1) Where is your local music loyalty? Venue owners are passing the buck of responsibility of cultivating loyalty through to the “talent”. Venues like the DC’s 9:30 Club or even the 100 seat Cactus Cafe (under threat of closing) on the
UT Austin campus have amassed thousands of fans and are successfully booking the types of bands that their community wants to hear. I still remember the closing of the Flood Zone in Richmond 12 years ago like a death in the family. Venue matters big time and owners have a chance to double dip on loyalty – attracting 2 sets of fans (Note – big announcement about the future of “fan” vs. “like”ing brands).
2) Is Facebook “Fans” a proxy for audience? I don’t really think its that relevant for local, IRL music. If venue owners are trying to attract new venue loyalists by bringing in fans of bands that don’t currently patronize their venue, the question is not how many fans do you have, but how many live here?
3) Is there a better way? The opportunity to crowdsource your band lineup awaits. What if the venue actually tested competing tracks with the venue’s loyal facebook fans? Or asked them to suggest new bands to bring in or the bands they like enough to stray from their favorite venue? Great opportunities that we’re just starting to see develop.
This year’s SXSWi was a cacophony of parties, cowboy hatted street teams and networking with a few panels and prepared speakers tucked in between. My extreme desire to sift logic from chaos and the peace of a few hours of distance has left me mulling the following 4 takeaways:
Content Creators Must Get Paid – If you braved the distraction of a fire alarm and came back into the building, you were privy to an educated man’s verbal smackdown the likes of which I had not previously seen in public – Marc Cuban vs. Boxee’s Avner Ronen. Cuban artfully beat the drum that pay tv is going to continue to dominate (and that cash is king – jabbing at Boxee’s “revenue free” model again and again). Avner had a bit of a “home audience” advantage being surrounded by self-admitted geeks who don’t like paying for anything. But if stolen internet content wins – who will pay for great content to still be created? TV shows do not have the same tour-for-cash out that music artists have used to weather the a la carte iTunes model. Later speaker Ze Frank also mused this same dilemma – being unable to monetize his awesome web content, but unable to break into the Hollywood revenue model in a meaningful way. I have no idea what the future holds, but someone needs to get paid or the only shows being made will be for the least common denominator.
Publicizing Public Information is a Violation of Privacy – If you followed the tweetstream from Austin this weekend, you probably saw that the most substantive traffic from any session seemed to come from the very meaty presentation from MSFT-based social network researcher danah boyd (@zephoria). This is a talk that will be worth watching in its entirety (read the transcript here), but if I was struck by one takeaway it is the difference between “public” information – information that can be obtained in some way – and information that we want publicized. danah boyd strongly believes that taking something that someone has written on a public site – say a forum about travel – and using it an ad or republishing it on an aggregator – is a violation of the author’s privacy because it violates the social norms and reasonable assumptions under which the author originally shared. It was a great reminder to begin all digital strategies with the purpose of adding value to all audiences – readers and content creators alike.
QR Codes are Coming – Previously categorized as “big in Asia”, SXSW badges boasted QR codes that, with the addition of an “app for that”, allowed users to share their information with the capture of an encoded 2D barcode. The advent of this technology is just another reason to think about danahboyd’s talk and what you decide to keep private, public, or publicize in social media.
Geolocation is a Foregone Conclusion – While pre-SXSW discussion seemed to be dominated by “geolocation is the new Twitter” discussion, by the time we got to the event, it was simply accepted as a given and everyone was on to the next topic. The only discussion I did hear was a bit of debate between hometown fave Gowalla and Foursquare.
The Miracle family is packing up and headed back to Austin! While the prospect of packing and physically moving isn’t fun for anyone, we know we are headed back to a city we love and that is crackling with stimulation and opportunity. As an added bonus, they tend to not have blizzards there.
Career-wise, this move is part of Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence’s continued growth. As we have added more digital strategists, teams and projects around the country, we have developed a need for someone to be able to move freely about the country to focus on the development of people and processes and I managed to bamboozle John Bell that I am just such a person. As such, I am thrilled to continue with the team as the Head of Digital Strategy, North America.
And what does this mean for you? If you live in Austin, it means I want to buy you a margarita. If you’re coming to visit for SXSW, look me up. If you are looking for an opportunity with 360 Digital Influence, it means you have come to the right place as my first priority is to add new talent to our ranks around the network. What I hope it means for you as a reader of this little corner of the web is that there will be years to come of continued learning from a passionate WOMM practitioner working with an amazing team.