Maximizing the Value of Real-Time: The Importance of Authenticity


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An overview of how authenticity lends credibility to brands and creates consumer confidence in the framework of today’s real-time digital world. It includes social media usage, best practice case studies, and suggested strategies for implementation.

This presentation was prepared for the IPG Media Lab in February 2011.

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  • Good afternoon. My name is Julie Epstein and today I’m going to talk about Maximizing the Value of Real-Time: The importance of Authenticity. Or, in other words, how authenticity lends credibility to brands and creates consumer confidence in the framework of today’s real-time digital world.
  • Our attention is fragmented by mobile and sensory overload. Personalized, on demand, and location-based technology are the new standards for how we communicate. With social networking, instant messaging, texting, tweeting, and real-time search capabilities, the rapid pace of information consumption puts users and businesses at a transformational tipping point. Our behavior is continually – and quickly – changing with the increasingavailability of digital tools and software, “Breaking news” literally means happening right now – if you miss an hour, and certainly a day, you’re behind on what’s happening.
  • In business, the direction of conversations has changed. It’s no longer between company and customer – there’s a 360-degree conversation constantly happening between anyone with an Internet connection. Consumers are finicky these days: they expect what they want when they want it. That means it’s critical to grab their attention within seconds. Branding, design, and messaging all need to speak to consumers intuitively before theyeven process what it is.And with so many people connected and connecting, how’s it possible to keep them connected, connecting and engaged? And how is it possible to keep track of who’s saying what to who, and when?Steve Rubel at Edelman Digital coined the term “Attentionomics”, in which he links economic value to attention. With smaller attention spans and more personalized information, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to stand out. Because of real-time information, it’s true that the greater attention a consumer pays to something can translate to positive financial results. So what characteristicswill differentiate information in a way that will capture consumers’ attention?In a real-time data-driven environment, what causes a consumer to focus and value certain brands more than others?
  • The bottom line is that companies need to be excited and inspired about moving forward with real-time tools and capabilities – because if you’re not already working in real-time, you’re out of the loop. Period. So first, it’s important to define and understand the concept of real-time. Second, I cannot emphasize enough the impact of mobile, smartphones & social networks. I’m going to discuss some recent trends and statistics that highlight how these tools empower individual consumers. Then I’m going to give some examples of experiences where users effectively created change via real-time tools, and why I believe certain responses succeeded or failed. Finally, I’ll offer some definitive strategies for keeping up in real-time. While there are certainly some drawbacks to working at this pace, I’m going to suggest some tools and methods for how brands can successfully be part of the 360-degree conversation.  
  • What is real time? Wikipedia’s definition is: “The real-time web is a set of technologies and practices that enable users to receive information as soon as it is published by its authors, rather than requiring that they or their software check a source periodically for updates.”While this is a comprehensive definition, I think a much easier and succinct way to think about real time is that “it happens without waiting.”Or, alternatively…
  • …I think the Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise science fiction epic “Minority Report” does the best job of demonstrating how real-time works today. I’m not going to spoil the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it – though you really should – but there’s this scene when Tom Cruise walks into a Gap and there’s a digital billboard that addresses him by name, says that they hope he’s enjoying his previous purchase (which it specifies by size and type – I think khakis) and then recommends a new item that they think he will enjoy based on his previous purchases.This movie came out in 2002 – close to a decade ago – but it shows how media now watches and interacts with us. Granted, we provide personal information (sometimes willingly, sometimes not), but media is hyper-personalized, and that’s what consumers expect.
  • In addition to these definitions – and I think that there are several ways to think about real time -- here are four characteristics that in my view encapsulate the essence of why real-time is important:Your reputation precedes you: meaning that any information you put online, whether it’s a social networking profile or simply search data – will create a personalized digital imprint. The more you’re online, the more information it knows about you. Which leads into my next point: Habits and behaviors predict content, which predicts habits and behaviors. Like the digital billboard in Minority Report, your behaviors online will predict with greater accuracy what you see. Writing an email that mentions GwenythPaltrow’sLoubiton’s at the Grammy’s last night? Ads for shoes appear. Start typing a search query and Google will give automatic suggestions based on popularity and what it thinks you’re searching for. Disruptive innovations describe new products or services that fundamentally change a market, whether by creating a new set of customers where one previously didn’t exist or a way in which technology enables new business models to exist. Think of iTunes and iPods – they’ve changed consumer behavior in regards to music, and in turn completely disrupted the music industry. Established companies often lag behind consumers in adapting to disruptive innovations, one of which is the prevalence of real-time information. Finally, real-time gives power to the people. When individuals have the tools to distribute messages widely and instantly, there’s no institutional filter.
  • Now I’m going to go through some key statistics that highlight how crucial it is to be keeping up with real-time. First off, mobile is key – with 25% of mobile subscribers owning smartphones and most of them accessing the internet via their phones, by 2015, mobile users will surpass desktop users. Plus, 30% of all social media activity comes from mobile devices.
  • While mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms are the definitive mobile leaders. Instantly downloadable apps, Apple’s FaceTime, and tablets are current trends that will not only influence consumer expectations but also shape how they interact. And although Apple exerts greater control over app content and design, for businesses, the iOS or Droid ecosystems matter less than being on mobile across all platforms. Although Droid outsold the iPhone in the last quarter of 2010, it will be interesting to see what happens now that the iPhone is available on Verizon.
  • Speaking of apps, more than 300,000 mobile apps have been developed in the last three years. More than 10 billion apps have been downloaded from iTunes alone. Facebook is still the most downloaded app, though it’s interesting to note that one in four mobile apps are only used once.
  • You can’t talk about the Internet without talking about Facebook:More than 500 million active users spending over 700 billion minutes per monthMore than 30 billion pieces of content shared globally every monthMore than 200 million users accessing Facebook through mobile devicesNearly 1 of every 8 minutes online is spent on Facebook
  • Unlike the walled garden of Facebook, Twitter is a real-time service that allows users to speak directly to each via interests (indicated by hashtags). It’s huge and growing in importance for how people share information. Like during the Super Bowl, users were sending more than 4000 tweets per second, and 40% of all tweets come from mobile devices.
  • Online video further reflects consumers’ need for immediate gratification. Streaming video (YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo) accounts for more than 1/3 of Internet traffic during “TV hours” and for more than 40% of content accessed via mobile.
  • Mobile has completely revolutionized commerce – location-based services, transparent pricing, collective purchasing, and discounts motivate and incentivize consumers, driving foot traffic to local retailors. The combination of social, mobile and local – from businesses offering perks from checking-in on FourSquare to user-generated reviews on Yelp – mobile is becoming the new way people shop. For brands, there are high expectations for mobile: 76% of mobile users say they expect brands to have mobile applications69% say a bad mobile experience gives a bad impression of a brand
  • What does all this mean?The combination of 24/7 mobile connectivity is becoming faster and more affordable; social networking tools are not only fun and personal but also encourage information sharing; and the measureable results of mobile driving customers to stores…
  • …all show how real-time tools and capabilities put the power in consumers’ hands.
  • Probably the most timely example of real-time “power to the people” is the Egyptian Revolution, where protestors gathered for weeks demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down from power. Beginning with riots in Tunisia over the death of a fruit vendor, social media sites facilitated a domino effect of events, as youth organizers used Facebook and Twitter to mobilize protests. WaelGhonim, a Google executive who was held in isolation for 12 days, after he was released said: “If you want to liberate a country, give them the Internet.”
  • There’s been a lot of talk over the concept of “Revolution 2.0” and whether the protestors’ success can be attributed to social media. On the one hand, if the Internet didn’t matter in Egypt, then why did the government turn it off? One TechCrunch writer asserts that the revolution wasn’t about social media as much as about the Internet as a whole – the idea that mobile phones, Facebook, and Google and Twitter’s collaborative “Speak2Tweet” application (which they created after Egypt shut off the Internet) all show how real-time communications were critical in allowing the revolution to happen in an international public forum. On the other hand, could the revolution have occurred without social media? Probably. But not as quickly. But here, the core value of real-time was the ability for people around the world to hear completely authentic, unfiltered voices, and be able to share and distribute information in ways that haven’t been seen on this scale.
  • Moving on from Egypt…In January, a class-action lawsuit brought against Taco Bell claimed that its “meat” was really only 35% meat, and that it doesn’t meet federal standards since it’s comprised of chemical “binders” and “extenders.” Using phrases like “seasoned ground beef” and “seasoned beef” in food product advertising was false. Claimants essentially were asking Taco Bell to stop saying they’re selling beef.The following day, Taco Bell printed full-page ads in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other publications with the bold statement “Thank you for suing us.” Sarcastic but disarming. Video response from Taco Bell’s President to the lawsuit: “I want you to know the truth about our food.” and “I want you to have all the facts.” 88% USDA seasoned beef plus “secret” recipe of spices that they outline in the video and on website.
  • Another food product example: “Did we actually face our critics and reinvent our pizza from the crust up? Oh yes we did.” – Acknowledging inferior product and trying to attract former and new customers by effectively recreating their product. On their website there’s a video called “The Pizza Turnaround Documentary” that’s “Inspired by our harshest critics” – customers. It begins with showing tweets from Domino’s customers that aren’t exactly brand friendly – phrases like “crust seemed a bit lacking,” “pizza was cardboard” and “microwave pizza is far superior” indicate how the company decided that they needed to make a change. Ultimately, this rebranding effort, which launched in the aftermath of a pretty disgusting video that showed Domino’s employees less than hygienic with the pizza, showed how Domino’s was proactively responding to customer criticism and being transparent about being a part of the real-time conversation.
  • So what does Egypt have in common with Taco Bell and Domino’s? (CLICK)When you step back and look at these real-time user experiences, I think three major characteristics stand out that makes this information compelling:First, transparency: the messages are unambiguous and understandable. From “we want a new government” to “we want better pizza,” people leveraged real-time capabilities of social networks to be completely honest about what they want. Authenticity: Not only are the messages from users authentic, but the responses – particularly from Taco Bell and Domino’s – aim to come across as heartfelt, sincere, humble, and disarming. You want better pizza now? We’ll give it to you NOW and we’ll show you what people are saying NOW about it. Emphasizing the real-time element is crucial.
  • Combining these elements ultimately creates credibility. The world responded to the protestors not necessarily from a political standpoint, but because of the rawness of their messages and conversations happening in real-time. There’s real civic empowerment in real-time. Taco Bell and Domino’s not only said “we’re listening” but also wanted consumers to believe that they would change – eating humble pie, being authentic that they’re not perfect, shows how individuals speaking in real-time shifts messaging from an promotionalinstitutional framework to one that’s more humanizing, and therefore more credible. Customers want to talk to people, not entities.
  • Not every effort works in trying to differentiate information, however. Groupon, which is one of the fastest growing companies ever, screwed up with their super bowl commercials. These commercials featured celebrities talking about major philanthropic causes – save the whales, save the rainforests – and then showed how they save with Groupon. What Groupon neglected to mention during their ads was that they were actually donating money to these causes – for several people, though, it came across as callous and they’re making fun of these issues rather than helping them.So what’s wrong? These are the OPPOSITE of transparent and authentic. Funny and sarcastic – sure – but the spoof part outweighed the message part and therefore undermined Groupon’s credibility in some customer’s eyes….once again showing how authenticity leads to credibility and positive customer attention.
  • Not like Groupon’s going anywhere…but how can you make sure this won’t happen to your brand?How can brands and companies stand out with the never ending deluge of information?
  • For lack of a better metaphor, working in real-time is a simultaneous sprint and marathon – “get up to speed, then get ahead”Training: Gotta start from somewhere. Can’t put up a Facebook or Twitter page and expect magic (unless you’re a major consumer brand with strong international presence – Coke, Nike, etc). Speed and Endurance: Once you start real-time conversations, consumers expect you to keep it going – not only the conversation, but the tone and voice of the conversation needs to be consistent. People working in social media need to understand that consistency leads to credibility. It’s about the crowd and the individual – no two customers are alike. Personalized attention goes a long way. “Finish” line? Nope. Keep dreaming. It keeps moving: conversations are ongoing, getting faster.
  • Am I telling you anything you don’t already know? There are downfalls to having everything immediately accessible at your fingertipsThere’s no time for reflection in real-time. It pushes people to make decisions on-the-fly and perhaps make rash decisions. It’s important to know when to deliberate andmaintain control of the conversation.You want to come across as humanizing and an expert on your product/field, but recognize that consumers can know – or have access to -- as much as information as you do. Privacy issues are a major concern. Certainly people want to keep their information safe, but in order to use most of sites, you have to give up some info. It’s important to let consumers know that you take privacy seriously – and then live up to that promise. Generational Differences – know your demographics and know their expectations.Millennials inherently think, behave and consume differently than Gen X’ers or Baby Boomers.  
  • Through digital, you’re always talking with people and they’re talking to each other – facilitate the conversation, listen carefully, respond promptly.So monitor the real-time web with real people and real voices. Authenticity comes across more loudly than promotional messaging. Integrate the crowd to make yourself relevant. Prepare for good and bad crowds. The more crowds feel that their feedback is being heard and embraced, the more authentic and credible you’ll come across. There’s a delicate balance between making consumers feel overwhelmed or crowded and making them part of the conversation. The latter is disruptive – real-time effectively allows co-creation between companies and customers.
  • What ultimately matters most:Individual consumers are empowered by real-time technologies, tools and devices. Plan content across all digital platforms, highlighting mobility.Overall, it’s about Engaging, Transparency,. Accountability, Consistency, and creating confidence and credibility through authenticity.
  • So how will you get to where you want to be? Think about it, because you should be getting there NOW.
  • I want to thank you for your time and consideration today. And I’m happy to answer any questions you may have!
  • Maximizing the Value of Real-Time: The Importance of Authenticity

    1. 1. MAXIMIZING THE VALUE OF REAL-TIME: The Importance of Authenticity JULIE EPSTEIN FEBRUARY 14, 2011
    2. 2. FraGmenTeD aTTenTioN
    3. 3. MULTI-DIRECTIONAL CONVERSATIONS • All digital, all real-time • Ongoing 360-degree conversations between brands, companies and consumers • “Attentionomics”: economic value is driven by attention.Sources: Brian Solis, Steve Rubel
    4. 4. REAL-TIME ROADMAP What is Real-Time? Impact of Mobile, Smartphones & Social Networks Examples of Real-Time User Experiences Designing Strategies: Creating Value Through Real-Time
    5. 5. DEFINING REAL-TIME“The real-time web is a setof technologies andpractices that enable usersto receive information as “It Happens Withoutsoon as it is published by its Waiting.” -- Dave Winer, “Father ofauthors, rather than Blogging and RSS”requiring that they or theirsoftware check a sourceperiodically for updates.”-- Wikipedia
    7. 7. DEFINING REAL-TIME1. Your reputation precedes you2. Habits and behaviors predict content, which predicts habits and behaviors 3. “Disruptive innovation” 3. Real-time = power to the people
    8. 8. • Smartphones currentlyREAL-TIME DATA reach 1 in 4 mobile subscribers and 3GMOBILE IMPACT penetration has crossed 50%. By 2015, mobile users will surpass desktop users. • Ericsson predicts 50 billion connected devices by 2020. • Mobile Internet connects more users: 47% of mobile owners access the Internet from their devices. • 30% of all social media activity comes fromSources: IPGLab, Gigaom, Forrester, Flowtown, comScore mobile devices.
    9. 9. REAL-TIME DATA MOBILE IMPACTApple: Google Android:• Gold standard • King (or for Queen) of hardware/soft search ware integration • Free = disruptive• Guided by user experience • Droid outselling iPhone Q4• FaceTime 2010• iPad • Motorola Zoom (March 2011) Source: CNET
    10. 10. REAL-TIME DATA MOBILE IMPACT • Over 300,000 mobile apps developed in three years • More than 10.9 billion apps downloaded • Most used mobile apps in the U.S. are games, news, maps, social networking, and music. Facebook is the most downloaded app. • BUT: once downloaded, 1 in 4 mobile apps are never used again.Source: mobiThinking
    11. 11. REAL-TIME DATASOCIAL NETWORKING IMPACT• More than 500 million active users spending over 700 billion minutes per month• More than 30 billion pieces of content shared globally every month• More than 200 million users accessing Facebook through mobile devices• Nearly 1 of every 8 minutes online is spent on FacebookSources: Facebook, comScore
    12. 12. REAL-TIME DATASOCIAL NETWORKING IMPACT• 253 million unique visitors• 110 million tweets per day• Mobile accounts for 50% of all active users and 40% of all tweets• #superbowl: Users sent 4,064 tweets per second during the final moments of the game – highest for any sporting event everSources: Edelman Digital, Twitter blog, Mary Meeker
    13. 13. REAL-TIME DATASOCIAL NETWORKING IMPACT• In December 2010, the average American spent more than 14 hours watching online video,• More than 35 hours of video are uploaded every minute to YouTube• 84% of Internet users view videos online• 14% of Internet users have uploaded video at some pointSources: comScore, YouTube, Gizmodo, Mary Meeker
    14. 14. REAL-TIME DATA SOCIAL NETWORKING IMPACT • 45 million unique • 3400% growth in • 51 million visitors in January 2010 subscribers 2011 • More than 381 • Total dollars • Over 15 million million check-ins saved: more than local reviews globally $1.2 billion • Yelp Mobile: 3.2 • 1 check-in from • Total Groupons million unique space bought: 28.8 visitors, a photo million uploaded every 30 seconds. 1/3 of all Yelp searches come from mobileSources: Yelp, Foursquare, Mary Meeker, Groupon
    15. 15. REAL-TIME DATAWHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Mobile Connectivity + Social Networking Tools + Real-Time Capabilities
    16. 16. REAL-TIME DATAWHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Power to the Individual Consumer
    19. 19. REAL-TIME USER EXPERIENCESBRAND CRISIS MANAGEMENT: Taco Bell • Lawsuit: Taco Bell’s advertising claims are false • Response: “Thank you for suing us.”
    20. 20. REAL-TIME USER EXPERIENCESBRAND CRISIS MANAGEMENT: Domino’sDomino’s Pizza Rebranding Campaign:• Acknowledging quality control problems• Customer criticism – and brand response – clearly on display
    23. 23. REAL-TIME USER EXPERIENCE FAILGROUPON SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS • Spoof? • Controversial • Ambiguous • Backfired
    24. 24. STRATEGIES
    25. 25. STRATEGIESCREATE VALUE THROUGH REAL-TIME• Simultaneous sprint and marathon• Speed & endurance• Crowd & individual• No finish line
    26. 26. STRATEGIESKNOW YOUR AUDIENCE(S)• No more secrets• Privacy issues• Generational differences• Content consumers vs. content creators
    27. 27. STRATEGIESPOWER OF AUTHENTICITY• Information needs human moderation• Crowd-sourcing helps develop credibility• Talk like a person, not a brand mouthpiece• Don’t Interrupt  Be Disruptive
    28. 28. WHAT MATTERS MOST… Authenticity Accountability Transparency Credibility Confidence Engage Listen
    29. 29. Thank you! Questions? JULIE EPSTEIN