How to Prepare for the Mobile Future

As we approach 181.4 million smartphone users in the U.S with an eye toward 222.4 million, or 67.8% of the population, by 2017, it is clear that the prevailing trend in eCommerce is to break free from the confines of the desktop computer. Mobile devices, according to n-commerce technology vendor Branding Brand projects, will soon account for 39% of all traffic to the retail websites of Internet Retailer’s Top 500 e-retailers.

What are consumers doing on their mobile devices? According to Nielsen’s “Cross Platform Report,” Americans are spending a third of their smartphone time on social media. Clearly, the immediate implication for brands, cooperatives included, is that a social media strategy should be a mobile strategy and a mobile strategy a social strategy. It is likely that the business objective behind a social media initiative will be to drive traffic to a brand’s website – where, for now at least, most eCommerce takes place. It follows that to be competitive a brand’s website must be responsive to the many different mobile devices that will be following the links shared in social media. No brand can afford to lose 39% of its hard earned traffic.

The mobile revolution represents the first phase of the untethering of human connection. When social networks first gained prominence in the 00’s, many people were communicating at home on their desktop PC, or moderately portable laptop. Now, people are communicating on the road, at work, and everywhere in between. No longer tied to desktops, humans can connect and interact with friends, family, and brands as desired and needed.

Perhaps the second phase of the untethering of human connectivity will be the wearable revolution. Devices such as Google Glass and the rumored iWatch, will make us connected organisms, signaling a biological evolution as much as a technological one. By decade’s end, we may see what Brian Solis calls, the Internet of Things, “where devices and things connect to one another to perform certain tasks and/or track activities to improve what we already do or make possible what we’re trying to do.” The online and physical world will merge in a way that will, potentially, benefit humanity greatly. When objects that we use can learn and improve our actions simultaneously as individuals and populations, the possibilities for human growth and advancement are truly exciting.

Brands can anticipate this future as soon as today in social media. A social media strategy that engages and interacts individual users, responding to their needs in real time, approaches the efficiency and feedback promised by connected objects that can learn and respond. Solis’ future where we will “become insatiable in our pursuit of personalized feedback” will evolve, at least in part, from the successful Facebook brand pages and Twitter feeds of today, those that react and respond to consumers’ individual needs and desires.

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The 4 Components of Viral Marketing Initiatives

According to media critic, Douglas Rushkoff, the emergence of the internet and social networks have better enabled more people to provide feedback – “launching ideas that could spread through this new mediaspace like viruses”.  Rushkoff posits though, that in trying to understand what makes something ‘go viral’, advertising agencies often have the horse before the cart. According to Rushkoff, “people don’t engage with each other to exchange viruses; people exchange viruses as an excuse to engage with each other”. In this post, I will look at 4 credit union related viral marketing initiatives that have given people cause to engage with each other and I will identify those initiatives by the key characteristic of their virality.

Preparation and Timing

For the past ten months, IC Federal Credit Union, a 20,000-member credit union in Massachusetts, have been carefully releasing a series of “weird, wild and whacky videos”. Each video was first released on their YouTube channel, then featured on their website. After an adequate gestation period, the videos were then given a featured spot on the credit union’s Facebook page. This measured approach, mirroring that of a Hollywood release – theatre to DVD to small screen – helped the Gen Y themed video series has attract more than 400,000 YouTube views, and increased Gen Y membership, itself 16.61% of the Credit Union’s entire membership, by 1%. Because this initiative was tied directly to a business objective, increasing Gen Y membership, its success was planned for and anticipated by the credit unio

Evergreen

Another key characteristic of a viral campaign, is to create content that is “Evergreen”, meaning that its relevance does not diminish over time. The video series, “The Difference between Banks and Credit Unions” presented by Young Free Alberta is such an example. The video series is clever and cute, and manages to succinctly describe the difference between Banks and Credit Unions. Since its launch in 2008, the series has been viewed over 200,000 times and, contrary to much of the content on YouTube, it has shown longevity. So much so, that I could share it with my credit union a year from now and its message would still be relevant and its technique still impressive.

Influencers

Many viral initiatives require the kick-start of an influencer. An example of one such campaign, was Bank Transfer Day. The event, which took place on November 5th, 2011, encouraged more than 600,000 people to leave their bank for a credit union. It was started by Kristen Christian, now a sought after cooperatives advocate and speaker, who was the owner of a Los Angeles art gallery at the time. Her Facebook network was expansive and influential enough to exponentially expand the awareness of the Facebook event page – by the third day of its launch, the event had 8,794 people attending. Though not an official “Occupy” event, it was quickly endorsed by that influential movement.

Entertaining

– TCU

For the fourth characteristic, I would like to share a video that I made for my credit union to create awareness of our bill pay program. The goal of my video was to make a video about bill pay that someone would want to watch. To echo Rushkoff’s assertion, I wanted to create something that could be shared as ‘an excuse to engage’. Unfortunately, my video, though I believe it to be entertaining, has not gone viral. To date it has been viewed 126 times, and it likely won’t be viewed many more. The aforementioned examples of virality benefited from more than one characteristic of a viral initiative. My video, though I believe it to be entertaining, did not benefit from preparation or timing, – I released it without an email notification to our membership or a banner on our website, nor did it benefit from an influencer – my and my credit union’s networks are small. Time will tell if my content is Evergreen, though I made some specific reference to our current bill pay provider and its current version, so it is unlikely that it will have longevity.

A viral marketing initiative is not created on luck. The more we begin to understand social networks and how people communicate, we realize that there is a science behind their success. I hope the examples that I have shared give some insight into some of the basic components of a viral marketing initiative. The more viral components that your campaign has in place, the greater the likelihood that your campaign will go viral.

About the author: Ian is an eCommerce Specialist for Triangle Credit Union. The views here are his own and not those of his employer. Ian believes in “co-operation among co-operatives”, and hopes that by writing about what is working for credit unions in NH others will benefit