the fence


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Co-conceived and wrote business plan for social media idea during summer 2010. Unfortunately, the project was never realized beyond the conception of the idea and the planning phase due to numerous external factors.

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the fence

  1. 1. the fence<br />Let the world weigh in on your life.<br />
  2. 2. What is the fence?<br />A crowd sourcing websitefor the modern day decision maker.<br />Amidst our information gathering and decision making culture, one thing has remained constant: There is no source of information that people trust in the decision making process more than the opinions of other individuals. Undoubtedly, the primary level of influence is through friends and family—a person’s immediate social network. Second to this, people are becoming substantially more reliant on and trustworthy of the advice and opinion of other consumers when making a decision; other people around the world just like themselves—Web 2.0 at large. <br />the fence<br />
  3. 3. What is the fence?<br />Coupled with this, companies are wising up to the idea that this free exchange of information is putting much more control into the hands of the consumer. Consumers want to be engaged in the conversation; and want the products, people, and services they consume to provide them what they want on their own terms. The future of a successful business then, lies in allowing and engaging the consumer to play a very active role in the decision making process.<br />This has been the impetus for the idea behind the fence.<br />the fence<br />
  4. 4. What is the fence?<br />Giving people the power to decide.<br />Example<br />Getting a new puppy! Name help please!!<br />The fence is a crowd sourcing website where individuals create personal profiles, similar to any other social media site. From here, they post questions in a multiple choice format about future decisions they have to make, and poll their friends or the world at large. <br /><ul><li> Jack
  5. 5. Porkchop
  6. 6. Puccini
  7. 7. Reptar</li></ul>the fence<br />
  8. 8. What is the fence?<br />Upon carrying out the decision, with the advice and votes of others in mind, they have the option to go back and review and reflect on the decision and the advice they were given. Then, the user selects which option they should have gone with, in hindsight. With this, users will build a “judgment score” based on how well their recommendations for a person are. This then turns into a metric for people to see which friends, or which strangers, give them the best advice—allowing them to live a more optimal, confident life, all the while fulfilling the desire for social engagement via the web.<br />the fence<br />
  9. 9. What is the fence?<br />The fence isn’t useful just for individuals. Just as friends and families are seen as an extension of oneself, so too are products, brands, and opinion leaders.<br />The fence will allow corporations, websites, celebrities, and consumable brands of any kind to also engage people in the decision making process. It will allow companies to locate their top-box consumers that are most engaged and invested a product (similar to current customer loyalty and rewards tracking), as well as those who make the best and most successful decisions about the future direction of the product being consumed, based on the judgment score. Further, it will do so on a social platform that people use as a means of engaging with their friends, blurring the lines between how consumers view brands and products versus how they view their social networks. Finally, it will give companies a much quicker and clearer picture of what consumers want, while continually engaging them with their brand on a very personal level at the same time. <br />Example<br />What deal would you like to see us have next weekend?<br /><ul><li> Free extra shot
  10. 10. Treat receipt
  11. 11. Buy one, get one drinks
  12. 12. Two free iTunes tracks</li></ul>the fence<br />
  13. 13. What is the fence?<br />A more engaged world will be created in a way that allows people to do what they enjoy most—building and sustaining relationships with others. Companies will be able to deliver consumers with what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. People will be able to take ownership of their contributions to people and products; uniting and engaging them with the people and things that make up their world.<br />This is our vision:<br />A fun place for people to engage with each other, whether friends or strangers, in order to feel more decisive, informed, and involved with the world in which they live. The fence is a place for questions to be answered and problems solved, big or small, monumental or mundane, in a fashion that validates the connections we all have as people.<br />Our emphasis is going to be placed on the social aspect of the site--at least initially. We want it to be very user friendly, accessible, and fun. Whereas other sites (such as yahoo answers, quora, aardvark,, etc.) focus more on the actual content of the information given, our emphasis is going to be on engaging people with each others' lives. Digital community building, if you will.<br />the fence<br />
  14. 14. Profile/Home page<br />The logistics of our vision are preliminary. We want to give people a place online to engage with each other through posting and commenting on decisions, but continue to grow the site in accordance with how people use it and the direction they want it to take. <br />the fence<br />
  15. 15. Friends<br />Individuals can be searched for and added as friends, similar to facebook. Also, friends can be segmented into lists, so decision posts can target specific audiences. In addition to this, there will be a tie-in to facebook, twitter, and email providers to find current friends with the fence accounts as well as an option to invite your friends to start a the fence account. The account set up process should be very simple and very quick.<br />Decision Post Format<br />All decisions posted will be in the multiple choice format. Doing so will assure that the poster is invested in all options—in other words, all the alternatives listed are already in his or her consideration set, so all are pertinent to the decision. He or she won’t get answers they are not interested in using. This creates a more concrete result for them to interpret. Not only this, but multiple choice allows for the site’s hindsight feature to be easily developed, as well as make the data easier to code, aggregate, and interpret. This being said, a comment thread should be present below each decision so people can freely discuss their thoughts and feelings on the post.<br />After users weigh in on a decision, they will be able to review the current results. With this, if identities for the decision are public, they will be able to see which options other people chose.<br />Also, the user posting a decision will set a deadline, at which point the time to weigh in on it will end. The deadline can be very immediate or far into the future, depending on the nature of the decision.<br />the fence<br />
  16. 16. Identity vs. Anonymity<br />There will be several different scenarios in regard to identity under which users will be able to post and weigh in on decisions. Also, it should be noted that these can be phased-in over time, so the users aren’t overwhelmed initially. They are as follows:<br />Decision posterPerson weighing in<br />Identity visible Friends answer visibly<br />Identity visible Friends answer anonymously<br />Identity visible Public answers visibly <br />Identity invisible Public answers anonymously<br />This being said, decisions and their results will be made public via the public feed, but they won’t have an identity attached to them if the poster has specified to hide it.<br />the fence<br />
  17. 17. Decision Deadline<br />Whenever a user posts a decision, they will also specify a deadline for that decision. This will guarantee that all content on the site is applicable and relevant. These deadlines can range from very real-time decisions (3 hours to decide where to go to dinner) to longer, more contemplative questions, where users can track the progress of which way a decision is tipping (for example, 2 weeks to decide which job offer a person should take).<br />Hindsight and Judgment Score<br />A very interesting aspect we envision for the fence is the concept of a hindsight selection and a judgment score. After the decision deadline has passed and the user carries out their decision (whether they went with the majority or not), they will have the option to go back and select which option they should have selected in hindsight. The users who voted for that option will then gain points toward their judgment score. <br />This feature then, will give insight which person, friend or stranger, gives them the best advice. Also, it will tell businesses which of their consumers make the most optimal decisions on behalf of consumers for that company or product. <br />the fence<br />
  18. 18. Filters and Categorizing Decisions<br />Once again, this can be implemented with a phase-in process or the filters can be changed. We just want the users who are weighing in to have options in terms of the nature of the decisions they want to see. We have devised two components for filtering.<br />the fence<br />
  19. 19. Filters and Categorizing Decisions—Component 1<br />Character count: Short, Medium, and Long<br />For short decisions: If a user just want to sit at their computer click through a bunch of decisions to weigh in on with minimal time, thought, or investment, they’ll be able to weigh in on 20 out in no time.<br />For medium or long decisions: If a user wants to get invested in the back story behind someone’s decision (whether serious or funny), they can choose to read all about it and weigh in. These would have a similar appeal to something like “Ask Alice” columns, only in this instance, users can weigh in with their own feedback.<br />the fence<br />
  20. 20. Filters and Categorizing Decisions—Component 1<br />Stakes of the decision: Low, Medium, or High<br />This again, deals with investment level. Since it would be a filter feature users would determine themselves, it is anyone’s guess as to if it would get taken seriously, but it could prove to be a filter people enjoy or use for humor.<br />Deadline<br />Every time a user posts a decision to be made, they will specify a deadline for their post. This way, users weighing in can filter the decisions based on urgency or the immediacy of the situation.<br />Popularity<br />People should also be able to filter the most popular decisions on the site. Similar to trending topics on twitter, it is a good way to get lots of people engaged with each other, and a feature we feel many would really like.<br />the fence<br />
  21. 21. Filters and Categorizing Decisions—Component 2<br />Categorical Filters<br />The idea behind categorical filters is the fact that users might have an affinity for a specific type of decision content, or they may find one category more entertaining than others. Also, categorical filters could prove to be a more profitable means of filtering once ad placement is integrated (this will be discussed in the business model section). Finally, categorical filters could lead to an interesting feature of finding category “experts” based on individual judgment scores; In other words, locating individuals who the best reputations for making the best decisions in a specific category <br />(e.g “Alex Heide has the best Health and Beauty judgment”).<br />Examples of categorical filters for decisions: <br />Health and Beauty, Relationships, Family, Travel, Music, Academic, Music, Food, Career, etc.<br />As previously stated, these can be changed, phased in, combined, or modified depending on the needs of the site and the desires of its users. <br />the fence<br />
  22. 22. Who will use the fence?<br />Initially, we want to focus on a specific, social media savvy college community, but the idea is quite versatile and scalable. Everyone makes decisions, so we want to design the fence with everyone in mind. Most likely, the site’s launch will have a much more specific targeted audience, but we see potential for this to be used by anyone.<br />the fence<br />
  23. 23. Who will use the fence?<br />Individuals: People will find this useful and fun on a very personal level, as they will be able to gain insight from others as well as engage socially. Also, they will be able to interact on a direct level with celebrities, companies, brands, or products that play a role in their lives.<br />Celebrities and Opinion Leaders: Individuals that have a large following will be able to use the fence as a means of engaging directly with their followers. This will give them further publicity and presence in peoples’ social settings, as well as give them feedback as to what their following wants of them<br />Corporations and Brands: Companies and brands will also be able to use the fence to engage more directly with consumers, keep their brand active and engaged in the life of consumers, as well as gain direct feedback on future directions they should pursue. <br />We expect that upon growth of the site, users will carve functions out of the service to suit a vast array of needs and functions. Designing it for everyone will allow for this to happen<br />the fence<br />
  24. 24. Revenue Stream/Business Model<br />Again, this isn’t set in stone. We see huge revenue generating potential, but our first priority is creating the service. By focusing on the service first, we will ensure that we retain traffic to the site, because without regular users, there is no possibility for generating revenue. <br />Advertising and Promoted Suggestions<br />The great thing about the nature of the site is that all content posted is intended to come from a place of need fulfillment on behalf of consumers. This is the exact time when marketers want to communicate to these consumers. By using content analytics, the keywords an individual uses can be used to target specific advertisements depending on what the nature of their post is. This is similar to the advertising tactics used by facebook, however in the case of the fence, we can offer individuals “promoted suggestions” to the decisions they are need to make. These can also include a hyperlink to a company’s profile and be expensed on a pay-per-click basis.<br />the fence<br />
  25. 25. Revenue Stream/Business Model<br />There can also be “promoted decisions” that companies can purchase per category, such as health and beauty, and we can have promoted decisions that are featured in the trending/most popular decisions section of the site, similar to what twitter has started doing. All of these tactics have proved to be very acceptable by consumers, and preferred by companies, as it targets consumers right when and where they want to reach them in an unobtrusive manner.<br />Ultimately, we feel there is revenue earning potential with advertising, and want to avoid a subscription-based business model. This hinders the ease of access to the site and will deter many from joining. We feel that the strength of the fence, and its revenue earning potential, will be strengthened by getting as many as possible to use it.<br />Also, there could be revenue earning potential in the information gathering and data mining prospects that could become very insightful for different segments.<br />the fence<br />
  26. 26. Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring<br />Formspring is a relatively new site, in which users engage in a question and answer dialogue. The focus is on the person being questioned, as if it is a large-scale, completely open floor, type of interview. The people asking the questions can choose to identify themselves when they ask or remain completely anonymous. With this, the person being asked can choose what questions he or she wants to answer, and thus appear in his or her feed. Included in the appendix is further information from the site’s “about” section.<br />With this framework in place, the focus is on the individual being asked questions. Also, this site seems to thrive on the anonymity feature, as that is the only thing that differentiates this service from asking one of your friends a question on facebook or twitter. <br />This being said, they are starting to explore the realm of the individual asking the masses, and not just the masses asking the individual. They have created a feature that allows a person to ask something of all of their friends. However, the focus still seems to be on emotional-based questions, and less of an action-based focus. For example, the questions fall under the realm of “Who do you have a crush on?” or, “What’s your favorite food?” Not, “Where should I take Sally on our date? Or, “What should I order here for dinner?”<br />the fence<br />
  27. 27. Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring<br />Strengths<br />Putting the individual at the center of his or her social universe: Formspring gets the ultimate thumbs up for engaging individual users through having people they know ask them questions. This makes the individual user feel important and cared for, the same as how facebook users get excited when they receive status comments or birthday wishes on their wall.<br /> <br />Completely thorough, yet self-learnable interface: Formspring has almost every other social media tie-in possible, and they are integrated beautifully. You can sync your formspring account to facebook, twitter, or an email address book to not only locate your friends from other sites with formspring accounts, but also invite friends who don’t have accounts yet. Receiving this sort of initial exposure to the site (through another social media service) is a definite plus. Also, formspring engages new users right away, with a question prompt before an account is even created. This is genius; it gets users engaged with a little taste before they need to set up the account. This may be just what some users need to tip their interest meter into motivated action. Also, the account set-up process is so simple. It takes no more than 2 minutes. Finally, the site doesn’t require that you create a huge, full profile before you engage in Q&A, which undoubtedly further contributes to engaging users right away. With all of this, the web site is still amazingly easy to navigate. It is clean, clear, and simple yet very inviting. One design characteristic that I feel helps with this is a very minimal use of text.<br />the fence<br />
  28. 28. Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring<br />Weaknesses<br />Utility of the site is seen as a novelty: Formspring has thrived by being so easy for people to use, yet it has more entertainment value than actual function. Unlike other social media giants, who thrive from connection, entertainment, and function, formspring seems to have very little of the latter. Further, when people pose questions to each other, it is quite often not even in question form—just an anonymous comment directed at an individual. <br /> <br />Lacking a tie-in to real life socialization: Formspring is a platform that allows for people to write about themselves, similar to a journal entry; at least in its present stage. However, this type of writing provides very infrequent opportunities for a real life social follow up or a real life social engagement. In contrast, take facebook for example: Someone may post a video on a friend’s wall, and it could become a real life inside joke later on. Also, there is not a single person who takes a picture without the mindset that it will wind up on facebook and hopefully be discussed. Formspring seems to be lacking this interplay between social interaction face to face and social interaction in the digital world. <br /> <br />the fence<br />
  29. 29. Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring<br />Weaknesses<br />Breeding ground for harassment: Increasingly, teens (and others) are using the anonymity feature for purposes of cyber bullying. They don’t filter content, and require the community to report abuse, which is a fair stance, but this is still hurting their image terribly. They are addressing the heat pretty well, and claim it is just a very small segment of their 14 million users, but it is still causing them quite a few problems. Formspring is already tied in up attributing a catalyst for the suicide of a 17 year old girl who was taunted on the site, and there is a facebook group titled, “Boycott Formspring,” with almost 7,500 members. One member writes, “I think formspring is another scourge for our youth to indulge in. It’s disgusting and it’s sad to see kids treat each other so horribly. I've seen many formsprings and never do I see a nice question like what's your favorite color. It’s always hate and attacks. I support a boycott.”<br /> <br />There is no known revenue stream: Although this isn’t a huge problem, it is some cause for concern for the company. Right now, they are not disclosing the business plan behind the site, stating that they want to focus on building the service. This makes total sense, but if they build a service that is easily replicated and someone figures out how to provide that same service and make money doing it, formspring is over. A revenue stream is undoubtedly something constantly nagging at the founders’ and investors’ minds. <br />the fence<br />
  30. 30. Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring<br />Key Takeaway<br />The fence’s point of differentiation rests in that all decisions posted are intended to have some real life action associated with what is being asked. We feel people would much rather contribute to a discussion where they know there could be real life implications to their advice.<br />the fence<br />
  31. 31. Industry Analysis—Competition<br />Other Competition to be Researched<br /><ul><li>Yahoo answers
  32. 32. Facebook
  33. 33. Twitter
  34. 34. Polldaddy
  35. 35. Twtpoll
  36. 36. Quora</li></ul> <br />the fence<br />