Hands Off! The New Social Media Trend

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By Kate Macdonald, Clemenger Group New Zealand Graduate

With 1.4 billion smartphone users worldwide spending 91% of their mobile internet time engaged in social networking activities, brands have been encouraging consumers to get involved with them on social media platforms.

Yet interestingly, a 2014 trend has been to urge consumers to disengage from the online world and engage in the real world. Three recent campaigns have tapped into today’s adage that we “just can’t live without” our phones and have asked us to put our smartphones down – if only temporarily.

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dan ariely: "you've been gamed!"

a light but insightful piece in wired magazine on how several giant online companies – from apple to zynga – use basic consumer psychology to keep you coming back (and spending more). you might want to kick yourself for falling prey to such textbook ploys; but let’s face it, these companies are raking it in for a reason: millions more like you are doing the same things too.

even while hundreds of classic texts were becoming available online, free of charge, i found that i was buying more books than ever before. instead of randomly acquiring volumes that i happened to find, i was building comprehensive collections in multiple subject areas: no bookish desire went unfulfilled for long.
—  from “we’re still in love with books” (the chronicle of higher education)
why daily deals are becoming a raw deal

lengthier than most pieces, this techcrunch guest post looks beyond the surface-level hype about groupon and its many competitors (great timing; google offers beta-launched just two days ago in portland, and groupon just filed paperwork in preparation for a $750m ipo) to flesh out the “$10 for $20” model in the context of the consumer and the merchant. groupon’s stratospheric growth has excited many competitors, who’ve jumped into the fray by offering the same 50% deals with little twists (deluxe merchants only, tell three friends and yours is free, acquire points for clicking deal links…) but honestly, the more details that emerge about how offering a coupon sank such-and-such small business, or how the yellow pages is getting into the act alongside livingsocial et al, the more i wonder how long this sort of high-intensity part-pyramid-part-ubiquity-based sales scheme can go on. after all, as the nyt’s david pogue usefully pointed out, $10 off is really not the end of the world.

(side note: google offers sold 1700+ coupons on its first day, and 95 coupons the second. oops.)

on #hashtags

it occurred to me as i tagged my last post that twitter and tumblr have been very liberating ways in which to write. my blogger practice of applying tags to posts required me to pre-construct my universe of possible tags, so that i could pick and choose from a set of defined categories but was always momentarily consumed by helpless frustration when i needed to implement a new one and didn’t want to go back and retro-tag.

the twitter-borne hashtag, by contrast, was fungible and malleable, both in purpose and in form. it allowed you to compress whatever you were thinking, or thinking about, into one or a few words – “#fail”, “#sxsw”, “awesomething”, and “#thingsidontcareabout” come to mind. you could be ironic, or form a community, or construct a category on the go, participate in a meme, simply by using (or, quite often, creating) a hashtag. the means of communication bends to your will, to your structures, even to your feelings.

the fact that these hashtags, unless they ride a wave into popularity and become trends, disappear with the flow of your tweets means that although you’ve made them up and used them, you don’t have to keep doing so. their usefulness is in their ephemerality and the ability to generate/use only what you need in the immediate 140-character countdown situation. (ubersocial, and perhaps other clients too, track what you’ve used before, and suggest options as you type.) 

i find that my use of tumblr hashtags mirrors this – i *think* i could get access to a full dropdown list, but don’t quite know how to view it; the web app auto-completes for me but but don’t quite know how to employ it seamlessly so i don’t end up with two hashtags, one incomplete (“callig”) and one complete (“calligraphy”), after i select from the menu. it also enables me to write more freely, to make up portmanteau tags on the fly (e.g., “thoughtpieces”), and to take my posts in different directions (both in terms of material and reactions to that material), without having to adhere to the limits of a formal set of predetermined tags. i mean, it’s not there’s a sidebar full of hashtags to click on and read all related posts, is there? i think tumblr (and twitter) are encouraging a very different, more discontinuous and fragmented, reading ecosystem here.

this might be analogous to the difference between searching using library of congress subject headings and searching using keywords.