Recent Holiday Tech & Brand Toolbag

I stepped off the grid recently for about 7 weeks and I wanted to take a few brief minutes to shoutout some of the web-tools and companies that have shown themselves to be super useful these past few weeks.

These guys have dummy proofed getting a multi-user, easily customizable blog up and running in a matter of minutes.

Wifi-File Explorer
No longer need to tether phone in order to immediately get your files. This app runs over your local area network and allow user to navigate, copy and delete files directly from a computer browser. Easy does it!

Google Photos
This new product was mentioned in their I/O conference earlier in May, backs up on Goolge servers (aka “the cloud”) unlimited number of photos (in “good enough” resolution for 95% of things). Mix in simple photo editing tools and handful of gimmicky features and voila!
Note: One shouldn’t depend on any single cloud backup system since the day company financial motivation no longer in line with user needs, he’ll be left in the dust.

Shout-out to telecom provider for doing away with data roaming fees. Albeit at slow 2G speeds, we had unlimited data access and text messages during entire travels around South America.

Capital One & Chase Saphire
These guys get mucho points for not charging those annoying 3% international fees for withdrawals abroad.

My smartphone!
It’s like a small computer that fits in the palm of your hands– Wait. It is a small computer that…

Pinterest… Still Overatted

I admit it. I didn’t get it.

Sometime in early 2011, a colleague, says to me “hey have you heard of this really cool thing called Pinterest?” Then, all I knew is it had to do with pictures on the internet. “Not really… what’s the deal?” After a brief play by play of her Pinterest board comprised of a collection of dresses, shoe pics and a recent birthday wish list I walked away unimpressed. Nevertheless, to guarantee my “in-circle” tech cred, I hustled an invite, created an account, jumped on the bandwagon and never logged in again. After all, what was the point? I could easily save any web pic by right clicking “save as…”

Fast forward a few months. And I’m buried under an avalanche of “Pinterest” mentions.
Pinterest is growing like crazy. Everyone’s on it!
We need to do something with Pinterest…
So and so left <insert big tech company here> to join Pinterest.

Were we still talking about the same company? This product is a simple platform comprised of a goulash of random online pics saved in categories. It solves no problem. Actions seemingly go unmeasured. No monetization strategy in sight. This maniacal frenzy is driven around a company founded on the pervasive premise of human collection behavior; a trait seen in both children and adults, in modern as well as primitive societies. Apparently a behavior so prevalent it exists even in non-human species. Some birds (e.g. the America crow, Northern raven) are known to accumulate aluminum and bright colored objects. Boom. Voila. There you have it. Forget about collecting real world treasures; collect images of their virtual counterparts instead sans restriction, limited only by imagination. Problem: people don’t care about other’s quirky passion for things.

This company and idea initially dismissed (by me) had become something I could no longer ignore given the sheer size of the numbers associated with it. The web’s darling element, the image, was being abducted from all corners and transformed into the base currency of an entirely new platform. Meanwhile, third party sites were conflicted between the idea of their intellectual property feeding another online construct vs the staggering traffic directed to them from that very same entity. This mutually beneficial arrangement works for now.

I get it. Users love pics. Pics lead to clicks. Clicks equal traffic. Lead generation, vc’s favorite online problem, is approached in a fresh visually centric way yet, lost in the overrated ecstasy of user re-direction is, Pinterest’s most powerful selling point. Inspiration on shuffle.

Inspiration on shuffle.
Just like Pandora and Youtube serve up music and video, respectively, in a chaos stream, Pinterest offers up inspiration in the same manner, and does so quite well. Fashion, DIY arts and craft projects and event wishlists are so efficiently dissected that Ryan Leak managed to surprise fiance, Amanda, with her dream wedding based entirely on her Pinterest board. Between fashion and weddings, this virtual inspiration platform has its finger on the pulse of two separate multi-billion dollar industries– weddings alone, in US, represent a 40 billion business. That’s it though for now. The rest is just hype and noise.

I ran a quick adhoc, very unscientific case study of my own Pinterest network (see below).

my pinterest summary

Nothing surprising here. Users are mostly female. Generated content created by top 20 percentile. Many still don’t get it; males definitely don’t get it. These points don’t bode well for a company dubbed by many as the second coming.

Pinterest is a young company with tremendous upside in handful of major industries. Mobile and increased video adoption along with audience education present significant challenges for a growing company looking to be more than a fad in the online social media game.

Brands Embrace Social Media But Lack Personality

Robert ‏@Slickb17
Just got ripped off on passport photos. Too lazy to #doitmyself. Never again #walgreens.

The morning after…

WAGSocialCare ‏@WAGSocialCare
@slickb17 Sorry to hear this. Please follow so we can properly address your concern. Be well, Lashailia

Wow, really?? “That shit cray.”
I’ve heard the stories, read the press releases and hundreds of online accounts about brands embracing social media to engage consumers and increase brand loyalty but there’s something very refreshing about actually getting an “official” twitter shout-out from the man (or woman) himself.

Walgreens didn’t do anything wrong. I vented out loud that I coulda/shoulda executed the simple passport photo steps to avoid the 1200% mark-up. After all I’m well versed in photography, Photoshop and Walgreens’ online photo submission interface. Total cost would have been 50 cents. Instead, I hoped on my bike, took two round-trips to the store, and paid a hefty premium for the exact same results. On a positive note @WAGSocialCare is now a “friend” and following me.

Lashailia: Thanks for following. I can have management address your concern. Please provide the store location (time/date) and zip code.
Me: Hey Lashailia. I was venting out loud that I paid $13 for two digital photos.
Lashailia: We apologize you were not satisfied with your order…Please provide your photo order number, store…
Me: Order #xxxxx, Store #xxx… Pictures are fine…
Lashailia: Thank you for providing … Case xxxx… Mgmt will be in touch. Be Well.

On the surface social media is this dynamic ecosystem where people interact and exchange content with each other. The take away term here is “people.” One of the absolute biggest qualms about customer service agents is their almost unbreakable attachment to “the script.” It’s completely logical that care departments have rigid policies and protocols in place to effectively standardize large scale solutions. What’s infuriating though is the de-huminification of the person on the other end. Their artificial and soul-less attempt at empathy is a direct result of the limited power given to these customer service departments (this guy just broke down). At the same time these brands make headlines about embracing the “people’s” platforms as key to future marketing efforts.

Let the people be people. Relax the reigns a little bit. At a time where the model is to embrace mobile, the people’s most intimate communication device, brands need to sprinkle a little personality on top of their million dollar identities or risk sending mixed messages. If major food conglomerate Mondelēz International really wants to tear down their websites and optimize for mobile through close partnerships with major social media aggregator, RebelMouse, and 140 character or less goliath, Twitter, they need to stay current and be real. Automation hasn’t quite cracked the personality code.

Did I just get someone in trouble?
A venting remark, one hash-tag and 6 DM’s later and I now have a case number! The initial contact was perfect; the rest was simply data collection and bureaucratic tape. Sentiment went from “Walgreens really cares” to “yo, chill out it’s fucking Twitter.” This unique situation didn’t warrant that the branch manager send me a personal email [received email within one hour- very efficient!]. Lashailia likely knew this but unfortunately due to protocol missed a unique opportunity to truly engage me.