Tag Archives: texting

Bitmoji makes texting fun. And slightly annoying.

bitmoji

Do you remember those cartoons that starting appearing in folks’ feeds a while ago?

They featured custom avatars that looked eerily like your friends?

Well that was Bitstrips.

Bitstrips is a web and mobile application that lets users create cartoons of themselves and their friends, which can be shared over social media

They were created by a Canadian company, which also created Bitmoji, which brings your customized avatar to the world of emojis.

Technically, Bitmoji is a keyboard with customized emoji, and it’s available for both iOS and Android devices.

When you download the app, it walks you through the process of building a custom avatar, letting you select everything from hair style, skin color and eyebrow shape, to facial hair and clothing.

avatar Stephen

Once you’ve created your avatar, it builds your emoji library, setting you up for some pure hilarity.

If you’re inside the app, you can select an emoji and share it with your friends or social network with a simple click.

Bitmoji’s keyboard lets you spice up texts to your friends by placing their emojis right into your messages.

Instead of a simple lol, you can use your Bitmoji lol emoji complete with your cross-eyed avatar.

I don't know why they had to make my eyes all googley.

I don’t know why they had to make my eyes all googley.

Find something particularly funny and want to ROFL? Bitmoji’s got an emoji of your avatar literally rolling on the floor laughing.

ROFL

There’s a Bitmoji emoji for virtually every common texting emotion you want to express – and then some.

But this is where things get a little inconvenient.

Ordinarily, when you’re texting, you just enter text, select the emoji keyboard, pick your emoji, switch back to the text keyboard and keep typing.

Unfortunately, unlike other keyboard-based emoji, where you can simply select the emoji and it appears in-line, Bitmoji’s emoji’s are “copied and pasted.”

Yes. You read that right: copied and pasted.

Although Bitmoji has it’s own qwerty keyboard, the buttons are small, and it’s not particularly user-friendly.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s a little difficult to find the emoji you want to use.

There are seven different selections arranged in some non-intuitive and seemingly random order.

Making matters worse, there are a bunch of what I’d call “useless” emoji.

G’Day Mate, for example, is one. The emoji is your avatar in a kangaroo’s pouch.

Why am I in a kangaroo's pouch? Anyone?

Why am I in a kangaroo’s pouch? Anyone?

Now, if I were in the Australian outback, or had recently watched Crocodile Dundee, then maybe.

And that’s not the only one.

There’s another called “Hey, hey, hey,” and a third which can only be described as disturbing.

This is something straight out of a cartoon nightmare.

This is something straight out of a cartoon nightmare.

It features your emoji in greyscale, arms akimbo, in what appears to be a bikini.

Both male and female emojis appear in this fashion – why? I have no idea.

Why do I have boobs?

Why do I have boobs?

IMG_2584

In fact, there are a number of polymorphic emoji, bearing female bits, which is a problem if you didn’t intend to create a transgender avatar of yourself.

Problems aside, Bitmoji’s app is great if you spend a lot of time texting and want to spice up your virtual communications a tad.

It is a massive time waster, though, so exercise discretion.

 

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Sorry Verizon Wireless. But you suck.

no verizon

As a long time AT&T subscriber, I’ve had mixed feelings about my cellular and data service.

Some times, I could browse the Internet on my iPad or iPhone at blazing speeds.

At other times, content would load at a snail’s pace.

And some times, not at all.

Occasionally, calls would drop, if they even connected in the first place.

Being in the Northeast, I took it for granted that getting a strong cellular signal was a challenge with all the tall buildings jamming the airwaves.

I also accepted the fact that AT&T didn’t have the largest cellular or data network, and that was okay.

For the most part, in the connected world in which we live, I was usually able to jump on wifi and took signal or connection shortcomings in stride.

In the back of my mind though, I wanted something better.

Folks with Verizon service always seemed to be the ones whose phones always seemed to work regardless of circumstances or surroundings.

If I lost my signal on the train or in a tunnel, Verizon customers were still yapping, texting or surfing away.

I would watch those Verizon Wireless commercials with a certain degree of envy.

From the “can you hear me now” featuring the bespectacled geek to the coverage map comparisons, I marveled at how good Verizon customers had it.

I wondered what it must be like to always get a signal and be able to surf the internet regardless of a wifi connection.

So it was with unbridled glee that I received the news that my company was switching from AT&T to Verizon and getting us all iPhone 6s to boot!

You can imagine my excitement when I powered up my 6 Plus for the first time.

Man was it fast!

I was browsing and calling, texting and apping away!

The world was my oyster and Verizon’s blazing fast network, my playground.

At least so I thought.

You see, I had been using the 6 Plus in the office, where I was rocking wifi.

However, when I hit the mean streets of NYC…

Let’s just say, I’m calling bullshit.

Verizon sucks.

Full stop.

Their connection may be robust in West Jablip, but here in the city, their shit is fugazee.

Things that I thought would be a cakewalk for the company with the largest cellular network in North America, ended up being serious challenges.

I dare say Verizon was actually worse than AT&T.

To add insult to injury, things that I could formerly do with my iPhone on AT&T, I couldn’t with my Verizon device.

For example, before Verizon, I could talk, surf the internet, check my emails and text all at the same time.

Not literally all at the same time, but with certain things running in the background, while I worked on other things…

You know what I mean!

But today, if I’m not on wifi, there’s no multitasking.

Anything that requires a cellular signal to complete is blocked until I get off the phone.

C’mon Verizon!

What kind of shit is that?

I’m so pissed that I forsook (the past tense of forsake – get with the program people) AT&T and coveted another carrier.

How could I have been sooooo wrong?

Verizon can kick rocks for all I care.

I want my AT&T back!

How about you? Are you suffering from regret after switching from one carrier to another? I’d love to hear about your experience, so please share in the comments!

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Filed under iPhone, mobile

Techno zombies beware! You will be assimilated!

Walking down the street.

Waiting for the train.

Standing in line at Starbucks (or Dumb Starbucks).

You’ll see them.

Disembodied.

Half-human.

Staring bleakly.

Wide-eyed.

Faces illuminated.

Tapping furiously.

Oblivious to the world around them.

You know what I’m talking about. Don’t you?

You’re probably not even aware that you may one of them.

Zombies.

Techno-zombies to be exact.

What’s a techno zombie?

I thought I made it up, but the Urban Dictionary describes them as follows:

A person or persons who walk through public areas (shopping malls, sidewalks, etc) text messaging on their cellphones, not paying attention to their surroundings.

My definition is a little more expansive.

In my universe, a techno zombie is anyone whose life revolves around their device. Their every waking hour is devoted to an absolute (or near absolute) obsession with their device.

How do you know whether you’re a techno zombie or not?

Simple: answer the following questions.

When you get up in the morning, do you automatically check your phone or tablet?

When you head out the door, do you reflexively check your phone?

When you’re walking to the train or subway, do you frequently check your phone?

When you’re riding the train or  subway, are you checking your phone?

When you’re sitting in a meeting or on a conference call at your job, do you find yourself checking your phone?

At various points throughout the day, do you find yourself checking your phone?

Do you find yourself checking your phone even when you haven’t received an alert, buzz or notification prompt?

Have you ever experienced the ‘phantom vibration’?

If you answered “yes” to four or more of the questions above, you’re a techno zombie.

And I don’t want to hear that you’re always checking for missed calls.

You’re not that important and who actually calls anyone anymore?

You’re checking for a response to that last text message.

Or the latest Facebook post in your feed.

Maybe you just got an alert from the NY Times.

Or someone invited you to play Words with Friends.

Perhaps it was a notification that someone started following you on Twitter.

Whatever the reason, we have become a people inextricably tied to our devices.

Somehow, insidiously, we have slid from a people who thrive on physical interaction to ones who subsist virtually.

We have become the Borg.

Borg 1

Oh, I’m exaggerating, am I?

Check it.

The next time you leave your office, count the number of people walking down the block with their faces buried in their phones.

Walking and texting is so commonplace that one can navigate an entire city block without ever looking up.

Instead of bumping, pinball like, off other people, eliciting “Hey! Watch where you’re going!s” in your wake, people part like the Red Sea, allowing you to pass unaccosted.

Because no one wants to disturb you mid-text.

The next time you’re on the train, observe how many people whip out their devices and remain glued to them the entire ride.

Gone is the polite banter among riders, replaced by mutes, immersed in tiny screens.

The walking dead.

walking dead

Zombie-like we wander, shunning human interaction for virtual pleasure.

Seeking validation in likes, retweets and shares, instead of in the company of other people.

We have lost our individuality.

Subsisting instead, as part of a large undifferentiated mass of eyeballs, to be sold to the highest bidder.

And what is this collective to which we belong?

Who profits from our lack of individuality?

Facebook? The Government? Microsoft? Google? Apple?

Who knows?

We certainly don’t. Nor do we care.

Today, February 11th, is a rally to protest data collection by the NSA.

How many of us will be there?

How many of us are even aware of the data collection practices of the numerous carriers, apps, websites, and online service we happily sign up for?

Which of us actually takes the time to read the Terms and Conditions associated with using Gmail, or Facebook, or Instagram?

When was the last time you opted out of a request by a third-party app to “post on your behalf” when “signing up using Facebook?”

When was the last time you actually turned your phone off or (even more daring) left your phone at home? On purpose?

With all the data collection being done, hackers lurking around every public wi-fi spot, and swiss cheese privacy policies making your every keystroke fodder for marketers, I’m surprised that more of us are not alarmed at our steady decline into digital complacency.

Rather than fighting to ensure that we safeguard ourselves against the insipid practices of Big Brother, we’re checkboxing our way to our own demise.

And we’re taking our kids down with us too.

We happily hand our children Nintendo DSIs, Kindle Fires, PlayStations and Xboxes and wonder why they’re fat, lazy, with ADHD, short attention spans and don’t know how to socialize with their peers.

While my rant today may seem random, it was inspired by my own personal descent into digital oblivion.

The other day, I found myself staring downward, at my iPhone, as I made my way towards the train.

I had become that which I abhorred!

How often had I cursed the wayward walker ahead of me, bobbing and weaving, oblivious to all else but their precious device?

Imagine my shock to find myself the wayward walker.

When I got home, I took and hid all the kids’ electronic devices in the house, and none too soon.

I realized that my children were being assimilated and I was contributing to the their social demise.

Who knew how much longer I had before I was LOLing with my kids via text and ‘liking’ on Facebook instead of hugging and playing with them in real life?

Take this as a cautionary tale, my friends, before you too end up assimilated…

…or crumpled under the bumper of a car.

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Filed under advocacy, mobile

It’s a digital world. Why are you still analog?

analog vs digital

We are a digital generation.

Our lives are inextricably intertwined to technology.

Wherever you look, there are signs of the digital era.

Think about the last major storm or natural disaster you heard about.

Mobile phones and Twitter were how most people first reported or got wind of them.

That’s powerful.

If you look at your own behavior, you’re checking your email, text messages or social media accounts on your phone.

These activities didn’t exist a decade ago.

There was no Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.

Smart phones were still several years away from being mainstream.

Or affordable.

But today, things have changed.

Smartphones, social media, texting, instant messaging, wifi.

We can’t imagine living without them.

See something interesting? What do you do?

Whip out your phone, take a snap or shoot a video and post.

Can’t remember the name of song on the radio? What do you do?

Dial up the Shazam app on your phone or Google the lyrics.

Need directions? What do you do?

Hit up MapQuest for turn-by-turn directions.

Why am I going into all this?

Because for all the advances that are taking place in technology, I still hear people say “why do I need this or that” and it drives me absolutely bonkers!

I was in Miami for a few days, and I came across (yet another) brand, a hotel, without a mobile website, app or any form of social media.

When I started talking about all the reasons why they should have any one (or all three) of these things, they pashawed me like I was talking gobbledygook.

They went on and on about how their demographic used computers.

Wouldn’t use mobile phones to make reservations.

Weren’t on Twitter or Facebook.

And have no need for an app.

Despite my eloquent arguments to the contrary, they gave no ground.

It was only when I showed them the mobile site of one of their competitors that the lightbulb went off, and they finally understood what I was talking about.

But it shouldn’t be this way!

How is the digital world growing, changing and advancing by leaps and bounds, but folks are missing it wholesale?

Sure, traditional ways of doing things still work.

Want to advertise a sale at your store? You could take an ad out in the paper.

Or place an ad online.

If anyone sees either, they’ll know that you’re having a sale.

The one who sees it in print will have to get in their car, drive to the store and then check out what’s for sale.

The one who sees it online can go right to your site and check out what you’ve got for sale, right then and there.

If they’re on a mobile device they can browse and buy on the go.

The difference between the two are night and day.

Know ye this: I’m on a mission.

To bring analog cave-dwellers to the digital light.

It’s going to be a long road.

But I’m ready for the challenge.

Analog heathen beware!

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Filed under digital advocacy, mobile, social media, technology

iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy SIII. And the winner is…iPhone (of course)


SGIII and iPhone 5

So I’ve had both my iPhone 5 and my Samsung Galaxy SIII for several months now.

And while I’m an unapologetic Apple fan boy, I have had the opportunity to rock the SGIII for a minute.

As such, I’ve formed an appreciation for both Samsung products and the Android OS.

If you’ve been following the mobile space, you know that Samsung has been making aggressive moves to compete with Apple.

Indeed, for most tech observers, it really is a two way contest, Apple vs. Samsung (and iOS vs. Android).

Apple’s once unmatched dominance has been tested, and fissures are starting to appear in the foundation.

But just because folks are buying Samsung devices in droves doesn’t necessarily mean that they make better phones.

Or that Apple isn’t the King of the Hill.

So lest anything think that the fact that Samsung’s shipping millions of new units each quarter mean that Apple is slipping, I decided to do a head-to-head comparison between the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy SIII.

And put such foolishness to rest.

Spoiler Alert: the iPhone wins.

Now we already know that the SGIII is bigger (and wider) than the iPhone 5.

We know that the SGIII has NFC (near field communication) and the iPhone 5 does not.

The SGIII can view Flash content and the iPhone 5 cannot.

Wirefly already broke it down for you Android lovers.

I’m not interested in the things we already know.

So I narrowed my focus to the activities or functions that aren’t really assessable on paper, and which I rely upon most:

  • Battery life
  • Apps
  • Texting

Battery Life

I don’t know about you, but I HATE the fact that mobile phones die so quickly. I don’t care what kind of phone you’ve got. If you use it with any degree of regularity, your phone dies. The batteries drain so quickly it’s laughable. Both the iPhone and SGIII get poor marks for performance in this area.

On paper, the SGIII seems to have longer standby and usable battery life. But in my unofficial field testing, and in real life, that’s not the case.  I’ve never actually measured the amount of usable (vs standby) time I get, but this weekend, I left both devices alone for four hours, to see which would have more juice left when I returned. They were both at 100% before I started my test. However, when I got back, the SGIII was at 67%, while the iPhone was at 92%.

In my day-t0-day, I routinely pick up a dead SGIII, which infuriates me to no end, considering how lightly it’s used.

Advantage iPhone.

Apps

Apps are my business. As such, I’m constantly testing UI, functionality and usability. For many of my clients, apps have to work in both iOS and Android environments, so having the iPhone 5 and SGIII is more function over fashion. Even though the Android marketplace has been around for a bit, app developers have not seen fit to create apps with the same fervor as they have for Apple. As a result, you’ve got more ‘launcher’ apps in Android, which open mobile websites than you have pure apps.

Those apps that do exist on both platforms, simply don’t perform the same. For one, the SGIII is so unwieldy that it’s difficult to manage with one hand. Plugging in your username and password, or simply navigating from thing to thing is a challenge.  The fact that you can’t simply go back a step on apps, from within the app, and have to use that quirky back icon on the phone to reverse is another thing that I can’t stand about the SGIII. Especially if you’ve been using the phone for a minute and the icon isn’t illuminated.

On the SGIII, apps are crap.

Advantage iPhone.

Texting

In the US alone, mobile phone users send over 200 billion text message a month. Texting has replaced traditional phone calls as the preferred mode of communication. And it’s uber important to the kid because it lets me communicate with clients, colleagues and family, quickly and easily.

Before I got the SGIII, I was pretty comfortable texting. I could fly over the iPhone’s touch screen keyboard, authoring and sending text messages with ease. But ever since the SGIII hit my palm, I’ve regressed into a fumbling bumbling idiot. The keyboard is also one of my biggest issues with the SGIII. The buttons are so small and cramped together, that I frequently hit the wrong button, and end up having to delete and re-enter things. And did I mention that wacky back button?

I’m sure folks who are familiar and comfortable with the SGIII keyboard will protest, but WHATEVER!

Advantage iPhone.

Conclusion

The iPhone 5 beats the SGIII for battery life, the usability and functionality of apps, and the ease of texting.

I’m sure I’m going to get a flurry of comments (or at least one comment – Winston Clayton) about how I’ve been somewhat less than objective in my assessment.

To be fair, I am biased.

Note the spoiler alert above.

But when you’ve been rocking with the best mobile device maker for the past decade, toppling them is no simple task.

And despite the opinions of the Samsung bandwagoneers, Apple still rocks!

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Filed under apps, mobile, technology

Don’t f*#k!ng text and drive!!

20120308-135118.jpg

Anyone who knows me knows that people who can’t drive is one of my biggest pet peeves.

If you’re just a bad driver, by no fault of your own, I despise you still, but I tolerate you on the road.

But if you’re actively engaged in behavior that diminishes your driving capacity, I struggle with my road rage to restrain myself from forcing you off the road and pummeling you with my size thirteens.

Why all this hostility, you ask?

I was heading into the city from Jersey on Route 280, when I happened upon this Zipcar, a grey, weaving Toyota Corolla.

Dude was in the left lane, the fast lane, intermittently stepping on his brakes, when no braking hazard existed.

Despite the fact that there were no cars ahead of him, he was driving like an absolute ninny, and refused to either speed up or cede the lane (to the growing line of cars behind him).

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I could have gotten around him, but the traffic in the right lane was equally anemic, so I was trapped.

Mind you, for like 3 or 4 miles, this dude was weaving, braking, and generally causing me to curse his very existence.

When the opportunity to pass this fool (on the right) presented itself, I floored it, pulling astride him to deliver my fiercest what-the-f*ck-is-up-with-you glare.

Imagine how much angrier I was, when I realized that dude was TEXTING on his phone!

His head was down, and he was furiously typing with his right hand, while steering with his left.

As his head was down, my fierce what-the-f*ck-is-up-with-you glare was totally wasted on him, and I sped off angrily, wondering how many other drivers this dude was going to frustrate before getting to his destination.

From the amount of time I spent behind this jerk, he must have been carrying on a complete conversation via text.

If dude really had to send off a text that badly, he could have simply pulled over, tapped out his little message, and saved us (or at least me) unneeded aggravation.

But noooo, he had to get me all riled up!

Now look at what he made me go do!

I already ranted about bad drivers before!

Anyway, I feel much better now, and that moron lives to text and drive another day.

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Filed under mobile, rant

Digital Stewardship: PAL Digital U.N.I.Verse.City

A PAL Digital U.N.I.Verse.City workstation.

If you’re a forty-something like me, computer classes in high school involved learning to program in ASCII or DOS on a monochrome screen.

If you attended college, there may have been more advanced computer classes, for which you likely moved and stored content on floppy disks.

After college, you used a PC running some version of Windows at the job, and computer proficiency meant that you knew how to use Microsoft’s Office Suite.

You’re up on the latest gadgets, even if you don’t own an iPad or mobile tablet.

You probably have a smartphone, a laptop and an mp3 player.

And you probably consider yourself pretty savvy when it comes to digital technology.

Right?

Wrong!

We are dinosaurs!

Present company excluded, of course.

Today’s youth are exposed to technology, not as a stiff class taught by some bored out-of-touch professor, but as a natural extension of their everyday existence.

Their access to and adoption of technological gadgets, is second nature to them, almost intuitive.

And unlike us, who came into the ‘technological age’ of massive building-size ‘super computers,’ today’s youth have microprocessors in virtually every device they touch.

The Macbook Pros, Xboxes, Playstations, Wiis, Leapsters of today are tens of thousand times more powerful than anything we ever used growing up.

With Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc., kids are more immersed in interactive technology and applications than we ever were.

They can access and touch virtually any part of the digital universe, and regularly use technology to communicate, socialize and interact with one-another and others.

This intimacy, however, has it’s consequences, though.

Cyber-bullying, internet plagiarism, and the regular posting of questionable (and often inappropriate) content are norms, that we didn’t experience when we were using computers and cell phones.

Social media, as we know it today, didn’t even exist.

It’s no wonder that kids are acting…like kids, when they use them these different tools.

I think it’s important that we take stock of what our children are exposed to (from a digital, content and technological perspective), and give them real guidance on the appropriate and responsible use of technology.

To that end, I want to share a project that I’ve been working on with the Police Athletic League of New York City (PALNYC).

It’s called the PAL Digital Digital U.N.I.Verse.City and its a class being offered as part of an apprenticeship program.

The apprenticeship program is the initiative of Marcel Braithwaite, the Director of Centers for PALNYC.

Marcel manages PALNYC’s eleven (11) centers, located in the five boroughs of New York City.

And he wanted to develop a program that exposed kids to technology as a means of both skills/workforce development and keeping them off the streets.

The curriculum we are using for the program was developed by Mark Hines, a graduate of Princeton University, and the CEO and Founder of Marksmen Productions, Inc., a New York city-based creative agency.

Mark has designed a program that teaches real life skills to the youth, using live scenarios which give the students active participation in projects with real time results.

The Digital U.N.I.Verse.City (DU) is a six (6) month intensive audio, video and technology training program, tailored to students of varying degrees of technical proficiency.

Digital U.N.I.Verse.City classes meet two (2) times a week to provide students instruction in digital media production, it’s cultural impacts and ethical and moral responsibilities that accompany the use of these tools.

The program officially launches next Wednesday at the Harlem Center on 119th Street, and Digital Uni.Verse.City students will study media (news, tv, movies, music, art), how it is produced, and begin rudimentary hands-on manipulation of video and audio (DU101/102) in preparation for the Advanced Studio Workshop (DU201).

The Time Warner Center in the Harlem Center has been converted into the PAL Digital U.N.I.Verse.City classroom.

Students who successfully complete the intro courses will be invited to participate in the Advanced Studio Workshop, focusing on professional skill development in (one of the following) music production, audio/visual engineering, video production and direction, video editing, motion effects, journalism and musicianship.

Digital U.N.I.Verse.City instructors include many of our professional colleagues, who are experts in their respective fields.

From Grammy-winning musicians, to New York Times best-selling authors, the Digital U.N.I.Verse.City instructors will offer students hands-on training and skill development on live projects.

The Digital U.N.I.Verse.City curriculum starts with a review of the DU Acceptable Use Policy, which lays out the foundation for every student’s participation in the program.

Most people have never seen (much less read) an acceptable use policy.

But it is the most important thing, for people living in a highly interconnected digital world – and the point of this rambling post.

I helped to develop (read: wrote) our acceptable use policy, which came together after many long sessions, during which we worked diligently to draft something that actually made sense.

For the majority of people who have ever read (read: scanned) an AU Policy, you know its a statement by the owners, administrators or other gatekeepers of any digital or online environment, which provides a code of conduct that users must observe while utilizing (or as a member of) a particular system.

As an advocate for technology, the Digital U.N.I.Verse.City program, gives me a constructive way to address the issue of responsible use of technology by our youth.

More importantly, working on this project has forced me to address the fact that most of us operate without a set of guiding digital principles.

Obviously, I always promote best practices with my clients, and have helped draft numerous Terms of Use, Privacy Policies and various other online instruments governing the use of certain online programs or environs.

But that’s not quite the same thing, when the audience for my usual written verbosity is the youth.

Next Wednesday is our first class (did I say that already?) and I’m excited.

The pictures above were from our dry-run, when we set up the local Moodle we’re using for the class.

Be sure to look out for future posts about how the program is coming along.

Also, feel free to donate to or volunteer at your local PAL!

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Filed under opinion, technology

The Mobile (R)evolution: 5 Reasons You Need An App

Apps, apps everywhere, but not a brand in sight!

I’m mobile obsessed. I’ll admit it.  It probably started with my first smart phone, a Palm Treo, but my obsession has grown exponentially from there.

With certain technology trends, I was very much ‘wait-and-see.’ But with mobile, I was definitely an early adopter.

As recently as a few years ago, mobile phones were still very much a luxury, the domain of corporate executives and titans of industry.  We all remember the phones in a bag. They were expensive, and therefore, exclusive.

Today virtually everyone has a mobile device. Some (like myself) have two.

With the elimination of two-year contracts, and the entrance of pay-as-you-go services, such as MetroPCS and Boost Mobile, getting a quality phone and inexpensive service, has eliminated any significant barrier to entry.

Where standard feature phones used to be the norm, smart phones are becoming commonplace. Wireless networks are prolific.  Texting has replaced calling as the primary means of communication between people.

What used to be the exclusive domain of PCs has been co-opted by mobile devices. The mobile device has become the first screen.

From my vantage point, educating, training, and generally evangelizing the adoption of technology to further one’s business objectives, brands have been caught off guard by these advances.

As the mobile revolution advances at breakneck speeds, I continually find myself justifying a given. We are beyond ‘proof-of-concept’ and very clearly at widespread adoption (if not completely mainstream).

If you’re asking yourself ‘why do I need an app?’ here are five reasons:

1.  Mobile is ubiquitous. About 78% of the world has a mobile device with a mobile subscription.  Everywhere you look, you’ll see someone on a mobile phone. They’re talking, texting, browsing, playing games, listening to music, watching videos or movies, reading emails or engaging in some other productive activity.

2.  HTML5 will not replace mobile apps. For web productivity, HTML5 will certainly enhance a user’s ability to get things done online from mobile devices. Salesforce is a great example of mobile web utility. But for rich media apps and games, having these processes take place on the device, rather than in the cloud, makes more practical sense.

3.  Apps are hyper targeted. When a person downloads an app to their device, they’ve already determined that they want it. And once it’s ‘on deck’ (and the appropriate preferences are selected by the users) your brand can continuously push targeted messages to the users.

4.  Apps are sexy. Let’s face it, Apple has made mobile sexy. And there is nothing sexier for your brand than having a iPhone or iPad app. Shoot, if you’re really trying to get your sexy on, a universal app (that works across multiple platforms and devices) is even sexier. An app is like wearing a red dress to a funeral – it may be inappropriate, but you’re gonna get noticed.

5.  Apps are unique to your brand. The great thing about apps is that they are all unique. Even when you’re simply re-skinning a templated app, the fact that it’s your brand over that functionality, makes it valuable to the end-user who selects and downloads it.  When a user downloads your app to their device, they do so because they want it. In doing so, they’ve allowed your brand to be a part of their inner circle.  Your brand has become a part of how they identify themselves.

Now there are certainly more reasons than these to justify getting an app, but I’m winded. If you think that there are more compelling reasons for having an app, I’d love to hear them!

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My nieces are so over Facebook.

Facebook, some people are so not into you.

As a technology and social media evangelist, I regularly recommend that my clients explore using technology and social media platforms to reach niche audiences, by employing the medium used by these audiences. Invariably, services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their progeny feature prominently in my discussions.

With the ever-increasing number of users, and the development of widgets and other technologies, like Tweetdeck, which enable users to access platforms on-the-go, social media services are becoming inextricably intertwined in the way many of us live our lives.

Conventional wisdom dictates that the younger you are, the more familiar you are with advancements in technology, and the more readily you adopt them. Conversely, the older you are, the more out of touch you are when it comes to technology and social media platforms.

Take me, for example. I’m fairly adept at texting, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. But when compared to my 21 year old brother, I’m a sloth, groping blindly to grasp the nuances and intricacies these platforms have to offer. I figured that my little microcosm reflected the real world. However, as of recent, my assumption has been turned on it’s head.

You see, this weekend, I spent some time with my nieces, students at Spellman, and I was amazed to learn their perspective when it came to their use of, and familiarity with technology and social media platforms.

My older niece is a texting monster. Every few seconds, her Blackberry Curve is buzzing. She regularly engages in multiple conversations simultaneously. With many of her friends far away at their respective homes, texting became their main form of communication.

She loathes Facebook and Twitter, as unnecessary invasions of privacy. She sees no purpose in posting every intimate detail of one’s life online and believes that it gives strangers (i.e. friends of friends) access to information that they would otherwise not be privy to if they didn’t know you personally. Her younger sister, also an avid texter, is similarly Facebook and Twitter averse.

Both of them regaled me with stories of the various ‘beefs’ raging on Facebook, caused by one person posting a status update or picture that offended another. They narrated one instance in which the reputation of one Spellman student was put on full blast, because people she had friended, engaged in a smear campaign using the viral nature of the platform to spread misinformation about her.

This lack of privacy and ease for abuse has made many, like them, very Facebook averse. So while Facebook and Twitter are all the rage for some, for others, not so much.

As this little insight into social media from my nieces demonstrates, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And while brands may have different concerns from college students, many of the issues they face will be similar.

Knowing which nodes to tweak to reach which person becomes invaluable as user preferences differ widely. The digital and social media marketing mix employed by brands should be designed to tap into the digital spaces in which folks naturally congregate.

At the end of the day, I encourage my clients to jump, feet first, into the technological/social media fray, because you can’t have a dialogue with folks, if you don’t speak the language.

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