Tiny Words

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Photo Credit: Modestas Urbonas via Unsplash

Changing the title for this blog, typically, is an instinctual move. Sometimes it’s driven by an SEO experiment, other times by so-called “artistic inclination.” This time around I wanted something more diminutive – a name that wouldn’t be as one-sided, as flippant or obtuse. I also wanted to acknowledge more of what this site actually is – a random place for all sorts of tiny little projects.

You see, some posts contain playlists. Some consist of random musings without images, others are nothing but images. Other posts are tiny bits of poetry, scattered and tagged about – shards of random digits strewn across an unknown server, never finding a home with the exception of perhaps a temporary bookmark stored at some place in time. 

It’s almost fitting that copywriting for apps is similar. Each bit of copy is completely autonomous yet somehow weaves itself into a larger story. Letters are whittled down to the smallest possible phrase while remaining (hopefully) catchy and as action-oriented as possible.

These tiny words must keep all of our tiny screens in mind, mindful of what we want to encourage the user to do. 

Writing for an app is like writing a series of haikus.

Over the years, this site has become an elongated version of that concept.

I renamed this blog to identify the tiny bits of content available through various intonations – a sandbox, if you will – for testing them out. For weaving some sort of larger, non-linear based narrative. 

Usually there’s a steady stream of content but when things get weird in life, as they sometimes do, I run out of things to say. In the last six months things in my personal life have evolved, as life tends to happen in that way, and as evidenced by the emergence of another series that has somehow grown into a place of nourishment, openness, and community. 

For a few years there was a place of sadness and uncertainty that has, in time, been replaced by something stronger and potentially more powerful than ever before. I like to think that my voice has grown and continues to grow every day. I am committed to delivering on this voice as this site itself continues to evolve. 

Thank you for hanging in there with me, dear reader or passer-by, as I posted various interviews, musings, reviews, and write-ups over the years. Thank you for hanging in there when things did get weird and I went away for a little bit. I’m happy to be back. Building again, in my unique way, in this tiny space.

How To Build A Successful Marketing Stack In The New App Economy

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There are many ways to drive users consistently to your app while delivering exactly what they want in the form of an entertaining and – if you’re lucky – addictive in-app experience. Based on your initial target market along with what you learn about your users, all it takes is a series of steps that are tactical, measurable, and scalable in methodology.

While your business needs must always be tied directly to your implementation plan, there are many things you can do to interact directly with your core user base while simultaneously reaching target market groups.

Here are 5 key steps to get there:

1. Know and Serve Your Audience

Beyond Google Analytics and platform-specific marketing tools, tap into the social media earpiece to speak with and listen to your core user base.

Outside of basic affinity metrics, what are their interests? What do they want, and most importantly what do they care about? Do you attract design nerds, community lovers, foodies, music fans – perhaps a combination of several of these groups?

What daily problems do they face, and how can you help solve them through technology? By learning about your audience, you’ll best be able to draw conclusions about what type of content to create and experiences to deliver and thereby stay one step ahead of the game.

Target markets are the measurable, critical component that ultimately drive app growth. The key is to hook these users early by delivering exactly what they want (or something close to it) while consistently keeping yourself in their digital spheres by leveraging the channels where they hang out the most.

After that, the real fun begins – this is where you can work on bringing the somewhat-to-average app user to ultimate fan status.

2. Deliver, Deliver, Deliver

Related to #1, you should provide users with exactly what they want. Deliver items tied to their interests, and you will open the door to increased usage, upsells, and app growth.

Don’t forget that your #1 marketing channel is word of mouth. This directly contributes to the velocity of the number of downloads acquired and is also a key metric for visibility in the iTunes app store in terms of store ranking and feature placement.

Seed content by hiring top-tier and relevant storytellers to expand your reach on blogs and social media. Create engaging content – and don’t worry about the rules. Create Instagram content just as cool as your friends would create. Reach out to influencers through various platforms (again, where they hang out), and you’ll wind up with a channel that can create significant impact.

3. Embrace the Funnel

Tap into how people are using your app. User behavior is telling, from the newbie to the frequent user. Examine where they drop off and investigate why it happens. If your on-boarding screen is collecting the correct information, you already have basic contact info available. This creating an easy entry point to remarket by offering incentives to return for more, which leads to the following…

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot

Stay true to your product roadmap, but always be available and willing to ask questions. If something isn’t working and you receive the same feedback time and time again, the suggestion may be worth acting upon.

If a feature recommendation comes to the table that actually makes sense, that’s a terrific thing. And it’s free feedback! Let that feedback gently inform your product roadmap, and keep iterating on the product with this information in mind.

5. Utilize Tools with Built-in Engagement Mechanisms

Facebook bought Parse for a reason – they are now directly tied to developers and thus can make the development process of integrating with Facebook simple. Twitter and Google are also in the game of making significant investments in tools that provide easy access to app analytics, built-in promotional tools, and other strategies that provide natural stepping stones into proprietary advertising platforms that drive app downloads, which in turn drives revenue (Facebook earned $1.95 billion in Q3 2014 on mobile ads alone).

While it’s been proven that buying ads on Facebook works well, further evidence shows that content-driven engagement will always be of interest. Combined with the above tactics – examining user behavior, knowing and serving your audience, creating original content, and not being afraid to pivot – you can leverage many tools that lead to the promotion and distribution of a highly successful app.

I Won’t Wear Android…Yet

Samsung Smartwatch

I don’t want a computer on my wrist. Or anywhere on my body, really. Having an iPhone tracking every movement from my handbag is alarming enough.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a flip phone? Sure, there wouldn’t be any fancy games, or maps, or cleverly branded apps for taking selfies. Sure, I could turn off “Location Services” and refrain from checking-in. But what’s the fun of that?

Maybe I’d enjoy life a little more.  Maybe I’d experience some…freedom.

Google wants it all. The contents of my e-mail, exact location, browser visit, search, preferences, along with anything else they can reach.

And, similar to Facebook, it’s my fault for willingly giving it to them in exchange for free services and the convenience of a single log-in.

But are these services free? These days privacy is seemingly more valuable than an SSN. Why would I give up privacy so voluntarily?

Then again, who cares? It’s not like I’m a criminal unintentionally leaving digital breadcrumbs of evidence strewn across the internet.

But, back to the Watch.

The only functional solve I see to the Android Watch outside of what the iPhone already provides is pure physical convenience. You don’t have to continually pull your phone from your pocket to read a text or answer a call.

For now, I’m unwilling to have a computer strapped to my body for the sake of convenience. A line has to be drawn. Until the phone offers drastically new features, and until I’m in control of the information I choose to disclose (likely, never), I’ll default to my trusty analog watch.

A watch is the kind of device that does one thing and does it well. It retains a timeless style that requires actual physical tending. Conversely, it does not tend to my physical being by recording every output.

Also, it doesn’t die every 4 years.

Perhaps I’ll be seduced by the sleek design and inevitable heart-tugging campaign surrounding the launch of the Apple iWatch. Until then, I’ll cling to the throwback of form and function as my daily business continues to tick on.

The Nominal Network: When Things Go Asocial

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Location-based social networks like Connect and Highlight alert you to people who happen to be near your current location. By “people,” we essentially mean friends or those with similar interests (friends of friends). For a fee, SocialRadar even allows you to hook in LinkedIn contacts for quick access to someone’s  professional details (or – eek! their connections!) on the go.

And then there’s Cloak, the polar opposite – a reverse model because you’d actually prefer to avoid bumping into said people on the street. It works the same way as the others, but Cloak has a very different user interface to differentiate its purpose – dark and mysterious, with a setting that makes the phone vibrate anytime someone is within a distance of your choosing.

Cloak is social rehab – for those who want to avoid an ex, a client, a mutual social malcontent. Connections remain where we can browse them, at a safe distance and at our convenience in the two dimensional space of digital terroir.

In a similar vein, Breather advertises “Peace and quiet, on demand.” It’s essentially a room-rental service where users can find and rent rooms by the hour – ideally to take a nap, meet with clients, work, or to meditate.

Are we around each other so much that we’re actually fighting for the opportunity to be left alone?

Historically, digital tools were developed for connecting us to one another in order to share and spread information. With the overwhelming amount of ways to do that, it’s only natural that we start craving some distance, allowing ourselves to disconnect for actual Headspace (ironically there’s an app for that, too).

Come to think of it, we’re awfully hard on ourselves and these tools are strong evidence of that. I’d like to see an app that encourages me to be lazy on the weekends. Or better yet, the reverse of a to-do list – a blank screen allowing me to willing enter what I  did that day without the hassle of a pseudo digital nanny.

Today, I:

Ate a salad for lunch. Did 30 minutes of cardio. Thought happy thoughts. Didn’t run into anyone too horrible. And, actually remembered – without any alerts – to pick up rice milk on the way home!

 Yay for me!  Little Things!

At the end of the day perhaps I’m not going to avoid anybody or anything, except maybe trust the real world a little more, take a deep breath, and avoid anything beeping or blinking coming from my phone.

Secrets And Whispers: The Social Limits Of An Anonymous Internet

Secret - Speak Freely

“If you could kill someone once a year and get away with it, would you?”

This was an anonymous message posted to the app Secret and according to its algorithm, was written by someone I know.

Users were outraged and dismayed at the words, quickly posting comments like  “get help” and “what’s wrong with you?!”

I was somewhat reassured by the decibel level, readjusting my social antennae slightly towards some semblance of moral compass. The reactions served as a reminder that oftentimes in social media, communities tend to police themselves.

It got me thinking. Was the writer serious – or was he or she merely taking advantage of the medium to be controversial?

Will we ever really know what kind of friends we have? And what does that say about us? (Am I that messed up too?!)

Secret and Whisper are mobile apps that allow users to anonymously post thoughts generally 1-sentence in length. The unmoderated submissions  range from from fluffy to business-ish  (e.g. Silicon Valley rants and rumours) to the profound. The delight lies in where these topics intersect –  a technological venn diagram distributing random missives to the masses.

Twenty years ago at the dawn of the popular internet, anonymity was de rigeur. Digital omnivores created arbitrary handles and sent requests for information only when we could confirm, to the best of our naive ability, that the information sent was heavily encrypted on the receiving side.

With each considering keystroke of our credit card we added a fake layer of security, a counteragent framed of deliberation and trust.

Tap, tap. Tap, tap. I. Am. Trusting. This.

In chatrooms and private messages we reduced our identity to the most basic credentials.

30/f. New York City.

We placed a premium on self-disclosure.

In recent years, these allowances turned a significant corner. Not only did we become eager to share our personal information but we did so in a way to showcase our best possible self. This showmanship comes at a price –  there’s no ability to retreat from the real world through anonymous browsing or mutual confession.

Disappearing messages are also of trend.  In this model, content disappears after a preselected duration of seconds. Most evidenced is the wild success of SnapChat, who turned down a $3B (yes, billion) offer from Facebook, deciding instead to retain ownership and go forth on their own.

The messaging service was rendered primarily for serving the needs of a typical lowest common denominator, in this case sexting. While the postings aren’t anonymous, their temporal nature provides a semblance of safety since in theory, the content will no longer exist thirty seconds from now.

Online privacy has always been a hotbed issue, and anonymity with some added ephemerality appear to be good partners  for communicating in today’s closely monitored world.

Perhaps these expedients serve instead as counteragents;  a fallback solution until we discover the real technological lifecycle here.Even if messages allegedly  “disappear” or post without provenance, there’s a precedent-setting case waiting to happen if these postings can in fact be tracked. If a threatening message is shared, will the government intervene? Should they?

Given the level of trust in digital security today, it would be little surprise if these messages were not traceable.

After all, when the message is sent, after the tiny bit of information is posted to a server somewhere, ownership is transferred from the creator to the owner along with social currency of unfair supposition. Context is lost and the message becomes subject to whomever has the largest fists and holds its grip the tightest.

Ultimately, who holds the strings?

Let’s again go back twenty years. Let’s say I took a photo (let’s say, just for fun with one of those sassy disposable cameras). I had it developed at the local drugstore and kept  the album at home. Would the government have the right to search my house?  Would they have the right to search the records from the drugstore without probable cause? And who defines probable cause, if, like my friend who posted on Secret, we’re clearly all a bit nuts?

If secure, tools like Snapchat and Secret enable us to exercise our first amendment rights. We can speak, question, and share freely without running the risk of being held to either substance or context. This goes back to the beginning of the popular internet when it was less about oversharing and more about simply…connecting.

However, this right should be exercised with caution. If  you don’t have anything nice to say…it probably shouldn’t be posted at all.