In retail strategy there is the notion called minimum credible range.
For example, should you wish to say that you stock Italian food you would need to have pasta, passata, oregano, etc. You can’t just put a pair of women’s ski gloves on a side table and say you have a ‘womenswear section’.
When it comes to your own digital life a similar principle applies.
However, in the case of Italian food it effectively codified about a century ago around unification. (Pasta was out with Mussolini and the Futurists then came back in but that’s probably the biggest change.)
To maintain credibility your digital footprint requires an annual assessment.
And I know what you’re thinking:
But Gordon, I’m a teacher/viticulturalist/mother/professional assassin/secretary general of the UN. I don’t really need all this crap as much as you do with your ridiculous job in a fake industry.
Which may be true but are you too old to ‘not get’ something? You ready to throw in that towel to the ‘kids these days’?
Because take it from me and the behavioural studies I read in my ridiculous job… once you skip one digital communication iteration you are off the ride. For good.
In my hometown I have a high school friend with a PhD in mathematics. She never joined Facebook. And now doesn’t have a smartphone, barely uses email, has no idea what’s going on with her friends all over the world, misses wedding invites and so on. She’s 29. From an actuarial perspective she has a quite a few more decades of digital development to live through. That’s simply too early to get off the ride.
When I asked her whether she thought the future was going to be more or less digital she looked aghast. Then I twisted the knife a bit by asking if she felt comfortable being completely ignorant of a world her baby is about to start engaging in within a couple of years. (Not being mean… I do actually really think she should be aware of the risk that entails.)
In the coming years will your contact with essential services, with retail businesses, with personal finance companies, with your children’s schools, with medical services become more or less digital?
Don’t ever get off the ride.
You don’t have to drop out of your whole life and follow the ride around the country like a weird carnie but you shouldn’t get off it.
Hence minimum credible digital footprint.
Every time this post occurred to me something big happened in the digital world, causing a reboot.
- Posterous bought by Twitter.
- Instagram bought by Facebook.
- SEC investigations at Groupon.
- The Huffington Post winning a Pulitzer.
- Deb getting a new blog.
So we’re just going to go through a random list of products and behaviours and see if we can’t trace the outline of a foot by the end of this post.
Mobile is one of those technologies that became invisible really quickly.
It went from ‘expensive and sporadically useful’ to ‘ubiquitous and invisible’ in a bit over a decade.
This isn’t your father’s internet. Here’s what the awesome Jason Calacanis has to say about Apple’s inevitable m-commerce product:
When Apple releases this product — and they will — it will spur massive ecommerce and consumption on a global basis.
If iPhones did just 10% of the revenue of movie tickets sold in the U.S. via this method, it would be $1.2B of the $10.17B spent in 2011 on tickets.
That’s a billion in pure profit.
Remember, Visa and American Express still get their take and they still handle all the billing. Apple is just charging a convenience tax that would be well worth it to internet brands and retailers.
The biggest hurdle in buying movie tickets on your phone is trying to type the characters it takes to enter your name, expiration date, security code, credit card number and zip code.
If iPhones accounted for 1% of restaurant sales, that would be $6B of the $604B spent in 2011.
Again, pure profit. What if they get 2%+ of restaurant sales — that seems possible to me? $15M in pure profit.
And last year, for the first time, more mobile devices were sold globally than PCs. The web will be majority mobile in about eighteen months.
So I’m going to suggest you buy something on your smartphone in the next few days. No need to waste money, buy something you were planning on purchasing anyway. Not an app. I mean transact. Buy something that actually exists in meatspace.
I’m also going to suggest you have a public recommendation service. Outside Europe I will freely recommend a competitor product but inside I would strongly suggest you shop local as network effects are key to usability with products like these. (The European option, my employer, is much larger here and growing faster.)
Blogging and publishing
What’s exciting is that in the next three years we will witness the culmination of a 600 year journey toward a lossless, perfect idea-distribution technology. It might not immediately look like that to our elderly eyes but that’s because, at the moment, the losers are writing our history.
That being said, the economics have fundamentally changed. In 2008, my sister, who works in global finance, said “there will never be as many bankers as there was in 2007.” The industry permanently changed. That’s what’s happening here.
Read this excellent piece of advice for food bloggers and apply it on a macro level.
From a credible digital footprint perspective, you still need your authentic voice to be “found” online. The challenge is just how much voice you feel like putting up there. And unless you particularly feel like regularly writing -in the creative, artistic pursuit sense- then I’d suggest something like tumblr. And if you have a blog that you rarely update I’d suggest tumblr then too. It’s a fast, easy way to build an audience around an idea.
But if you know that you’re never going to get rich or famous from blogging and you’re still retarded enough to want to do it then go for your life and know that I love you very much.
Twitter still benefits from its asymmetric contact relationships. Let me explain… much as I’d like to, I can’t dial down certain voices in G+. It’s binary. It’s either circle or not. I could put them in a circle called ‘check infrequently’ but I want them in a specific occult circle, just dialled down a bit. Twitter and its API partners give you supreme flexibility in people you follow yet ignore, people who follow you whom you ignore, people you want to hear more of… and so on. It has more levers for the high-level social media whore.
Also, it has a widely distributed API which means you can log-in to other services with this rather than Facebook or Google which may or may not insist on your real name.
Twitter is better for and at breaking news and I think it’s comparative ease of use on mobile handsets versus both Facebook and G+ means it will maintain that advantage. Also, if you attend as many conferences as I do then hashtags are essential.
I still say you need twitter, if only for API log-ins. Although I expect some fun new features soon which could turn it from a microblog into a medi-blog. Specifically its Posterous acquisition. I’ve been using it since 2008. I prefer it to tumblr because it indexes better and doesn’t suffer from the MySpace blight of so many fuck-awful themes. If you use twitter expect Posterous functionality to be rolled out soon.
90% of my grocery shopping is online. It’s saved me thousands. 80% of last Christmas’s gifts were purchased online.
I watch my friends waste their Saturday afternoons trawling up and down Oxford Street -the busiest shopping district in the world- with pity. They hate doing it as well but its like swimming… a lack of understanding leads to a lack of confidence leads to unhappy outcomes.
So if you’re still a bit at sea with online retail then set yourself a monthly percentage spend target. set a percentage target for online shopping. Then when Christmas comes round again you’ll be primed to capitalise on the shift from daily deals toward coupon-ecommerce.
Communities are weird. They’re inherently unpredictable in the first few months.
G+, for instance, appears to be organising around niches like a typepad from the future (find me) rather than weak/strong temporal connections the way Facebook does.
It hasn’t released its API which is annoying and, despite the protestations of their European VP of social a few weeks ago…. decidedly anti-social.
At the moment it’s playing a very 2002 game where it’s happy to let you play on Facebook within G+ but absolutely won’t let you contemplate a reverse path.
But you know what?
Think of it like paying protection money to the mafia. You have to do it or you’ll be invisible. Even if it doesn’t really do anything.
Here are some tips. on doing G+ right. Unfortunately the free book is gone. Apologies but this post is a few days late. (Got distracted with ranting about the drought I’m currently sheltering from in a pub because the hail is too large to walk home in.)
I got a copy. It’s quite good. Much better than Guy’s last book. Worth it if you’ve been meaning to sit yourself down and just get really fucking good at G+ one of these days.
Full confession. I think I actually hate chrome. Like… I’m using it right now but this means I have to restart my computer at least twice a day. Despite its promises, it’s not any more stable than its competitors and most of its extensions are useless. Silverbird is vastly inferior to twitterfox, for instance. And if you solve my twitter need you have a customer for life.
Paranoid Gordon thinks this is because Google only wants you to use G+ so it makes all competitors just that little bit too hard to use. See above WRT protection money. Firefox has got less and less love since Chrome launched and take it from someone who knows quite a few Googlers who arrived in the company via acquisition, that is very deliberate.
Also have you noticed that both Reader and Blogger are now in the ‘More’ dropdown rather than broken out along the top nav bar? And G+ is the first option in said nav bar? Do you think that’s because they want you to perform both your ‘catch up’ and ‘personal publishing’ behaviours inside G+? (Note also that ‘video’ has been replaced by ‘YouTube’. Suck it, Vimeo.)
Seemingly no one will agree with me on Chrome’s shitness. My partner insists the restarts are somehow my fault. Chrome isn’t some saviour of the internet it’s just a goddamn browser! In the words of Will Ferrell “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here“.
However, your future success in literally everything from finding a mate to having a successful career to staying relevant in your kids’ lives as they age comes down to findability.
And Google has already demonstrated that it’s going to bend the rules in its favour to force you to use their tech. They rebuilt Barad-Dûr in slow motion in front of us -we all saw it coming- but it’s built now and until someone tears it down we have to submit to its diktats.
So use Chrome. And G+. And claim your business on Google Places. And use Gmail. (Gmail is actually the best mail product. Before you freak out, I’m not saying delete your hotmail/yahoomail just phase it out. Takes about six weeks before you can check it every three months. Also conducting business via any email account except gmail makes you look unprofessional. This is about credibility not preference, remember?)
Doesn’t mean we won’t betray them the second that we can feasibly do so. But, for now… the future depends on findability and, at the moment, the word is dictionarily synonymous with Google.
Now the third most popular social network. (Twitter took half the time Facebook took to get to 100m. Pinterest was the fastest site to ever make it to ten million unique monthly visits. There is nothing inherent in the virality of the products here. It’s just network effects doing what they do. How long do you think the next one will take?)
Seems to me Pinterest has two business problems: a product built on copyright violation and how it will make money without selling ads beside said copyright violations.
It also has one huge risk: Eventually Facebook will steal its core functionality and -just like it did to Twitter- make it part of its currently undeveloped photo featureset (*cough* instagram *cough*) and that will be the end of its point of difference.
Pinterest doesn’t fit my current digital life because I’m just not that transactional. Yes, I shop online but I don’t covet online. Any fun things worth sharing already have their outlet. So until it adds something I give a shit about Imma pass.
But if you’re in the business of selling shit online then you need to be all up in Pinterest.
Check out this little factlet:
In Q2 2011 Pinterest.com represented 1.2% of social media revenue for e-commerce sites. It now represents 17.4% and is quickly gaining on Facebook. (That shift from 1.2% to 17.4% is based on measurements we made across 40 of our client sites — most of which are top 500 internet retailers.) We project Pinterest will be responsible for 40% of social media e-commerce transactions by end of Q2 2012, reducing Facebook’s share to slightly under 60% from 86% a year ago.
Pinterest is your new e-shop window. Move fast and you can capitalise on this. Blink and you’re lost in the crowd. (There are also opportunities here if you would like to be a ‘taste maker’ in a particular niche. Find an uncrowded one, start a tumblr with the same name and get pinning!)
Keep your eye in
Always be fiddling with at least one thing that’s possibly going to take off. It’s a good way to learn how the people who will eventually define your engagement with the world around you are thinking. It helps you think new. Which I’m irrationally certain staves off physical obsolescence.
And most of the interesting things are happening in app space these days. I like:
- Cinemagram: your instagram replacement, hipsters!
- Platter: brand new so still a bit shit but promising for food lovers out there. (I’m gordonwhite. Find me.)
Most magically interesting
Weavrs are servitors brought to e-life. It’s been years since I created a servitor but were I to do so today, I’d incorporate a Weavr. (I actually prefer the name Weavr to servitor anyway. Let’s start calling ’em that instead.)
Then just for the fuck of it, somebody please create accounts for every Goetic demon.
A credible digital footprint
Orright. Let’s stitch:
- Gmail as your master email account. Use it for the following services:
- Also a smartphone with which you can access this Google account
- Either Tumblr or WordPress depending on writerly interest.
- Pinterest if you trade online or wish to be a taste maker.
And finally… have one URL where your entire footprint can be easily located. Mine is technically my muggle blog. But check out what London’s hottest in every sense of the word (I would do terrible things to those boys) food outfit has for the ‘heel’ of their digital footprint. A few years ago this would have been called a ‘placeholder page’ and would have come with some apologies and the weak promise of building a better website soon. Now it’s no longer a placeholder, now it’s a pointer. There’s a lesson here. One that can be put into effect right now.
So may I suggest -regardless of your long term plans- you tie all your services together under an about.me account with the name you wish to be known as in a hypothetical work environment? Just for your own psychological peace of mind?
At the very least you’ll save on business cards.