Tag Archives: Social Media

The psychology secret to Zynga’s success (now valued at $10 Billion!)

SCap_ 2011-02-23_42OK, so Facebook game maker Zynga is raising additional money at a $10 BILLION valuation. One would hope that that’s enough to make anyone’s ears prick up…

So how did they get here: By understanding something about human psychology, and then HACKING it for all its worth.

1) Addict people with SIMPLE, low learning-curve games, that 2) are social in the way you might have played certain board games in real life in the past, and that 3) have Irregular Reward Schedules (these are the most addicting forms of behavioral reinforcers, read up on your Behaviorism 101…).

THEN, 4) offer them little ways to essentially cheat in the games (making things go more smoothlyfor you), that 5) can be purchased for amounts that fall within the Impulse Purchase threshold, i.e. below the price level where your conscious mind kicks in fully and begins to wonder whether this is really a good idea, asf.

Read the following quote at least 3 times to yourself: “Zynga makes all its money selling virtual goods…Tiny amounts of money make the games progress faster.” (From Business Insider.) If you get it, you’ll know that tons of companies have been neglecting/violating the lessons therein to their considerable detriment.

I just argued yesterday that Sony is making a huge mistake by not going the $1/month route for complete/unlimited streaming music access with their new offering:

Another example that I saw just yesterday: Clever Twitter service “Buffer” ( @bufferapp ), which allows you to in essence do a bit.ly-like bookmarklet share to Twitter WITH automatic posting throttling/buffering built-in, so that your tweets are dripped out over time even though you can batch collect them all at once over, say, your morning blog reading hour:

All great, except that they are mispricing their premium levels very badly: 10 tweets in buffer, 3 tweets a day is Free. $5/month for 50 tweets in buffer, 10 tweets/day dripped, and $30/month (crazy…!?) for all unlimited is simply not going to work for them IMO. [See: http://www.bufferapp.com/pricing ]

$5/month is outside of impulse purchase range, while $1/month = Bingo! Sold! At $5, your mind is beginning to ask: Do I really need this? Is it worth it? Can I justify it directly via increased ROI? Where/how am I even going to measure this ROI?

All questions that you DON’T WANT your prospective customer asking at the entry point!! Which is exactly what Zynga has realized so brilliantly, and to such obvious success. The proof of the (psych) pudding is still in the eating… Zynga: “Would you like to improve your position in this game you are already playing for 10 cents?” – Unconscious Mind: “You bet I would.”

Which brings me to another of my pet points about successful online advertising/selling: Offer people only things which make sense in the context of what they were ALREADY doing. In this case, don’t try to offer them after shave, bracelets, or cars while they are playing Farmville, offer them something to do with Farmville!

Disclosure: I don’t play Farmville or CityVille, and have never tossed sheep or vampires at my Facebook friends. I do however study these phenomena very closely… :)

No matter what your message, this is what you’re up against

Mind boggling, isn’t it?

So the question is, how can your message, product, or service break through the noise?

I found this great Social Media counter widget in Jim Long’s (AKA @NewMediaJim on Twitter) thoughtful post The End of Innocence – Why Social Media Is the New Corporate Media, where he writes:

As social media has matured, I get the sense that […] now we’re back to where we once were. Brands just want access to us and the transaction remains the same.  Look, I understand that companies need to make money and that investors need to get returns […]. But I’m struck by the rapacious speed with which social media, its adherents, and platforms are pursuing the buck. Ironic to me, considering that it was dissatisfaction with traditional media and “push” advertising that in many respects gave rise to social media.

So, what are your thoughts? Is Social Media already dying as a marketing strategy due to relentless overcrowding, in essence a form of the “Tragedy of the Commons” principle?

Are hyper-localization or micro-niches the only possible answer to this onslaught?

One of the few things that appears to still work reliably on a grander scale is deep Archetype Branding, of the kind that Apple, successful Hollywood movies, and even some New Media personalities (like Gary Vaynerchuck, Unmarketing, or iJustine) have in common.

Any other ideas?

Can Smart Filtering Save Both Us And Google Buzz?

Robert Scoble today brought up an interesting idea on one of his postings to Google’s new ‘Buzz’ service:

THE MOST PRODUCTIVE thing I’ve done this week is to use Gmail’s “More Actions/Filter items like these” to rid my inbox of spam and bacon emails, which makes my inbox much more useable.[…] I so want this same feature for Google Buzz. Imagine if you could say “get rid of Scoble anytime he talks about Twitter.” Or, if you could filter out something like any message that includes the words “Tiger Woods.”

Wouldn’t you want this too?

buzzI’ve been thinking about filtering a lot since I became a regular user of Twitter and Friendfeed in 2008/2009. Here is my riff on this question, expanded from my initial comments over on Buzz:

Yes, intelligent filtering is the future. If Google Buzz can pull off per keyword, per user (or per group) filtering, they will win. It is a huge flaw in Twitter that I basically still have to view all (follow) or nothing (unfollow or block) from a given user, and if I choose “all”, then everything arrives with the same priority.

This is simply not how we’re going to overcome information overload. Remember that in an information economy, attention becomes the only scarce resource. So it is worth saving and protecting your attention. On Twitter or any other social media or wider “information stream”-type of service.

(Yes, that includes Email as well. Your email is simply yet another inbound information stream you consume. Sometimes you reply to something, sometimes you forward something.)

Whoever does the best job in helping you to do this has a true business proposition, and will be rewarded by the marketplace. (Here is a nice summation of the problem by Louis Gray in slide deck format.)

Now the reverse case is also important: Per user (or per group) surfacing (“track”) of keywords, that pops items of key interest to you to the top of the heap of your inbound stream, past all others.

Continue reading Can Smart Filtering Save Both Us And Google Buzz?

Round-up of recent *Quick Hits* Business Mindhacks on Posterous

http://posterous.com/images/homepage2/posterous_logo1.pngJust as predicted by my recent post on "Why Creating A New Habit Is So Hard", I haven’t quite been entirely able to lay off of the "Quick Hits" posts to Posterous. Still working on modifying that habit to posting here instead… :)

Since we wouldn’t want you to miss anything important, these were the most recent offerings:


Read and profit. Feel free to share.

Twitter Tries To Change Retweets, Doesn’t Get The Social In Social Media

A passage from Twitter CEO Evan Williams’ post why the new, formalized Retweet function "works the way it does" shows lack of depth and clarity in Twitter’s thinking about the significance of trying to replace the "Retweet" (RT) forwarding convention, something that arose organically from its community without any assistance by the company whatsoever:

The attribution problem: In order to get rid of the attribution confusion, in your timeline we show the avatar and username of the original author of the tweet—with the person who retweeted it (whom you actually follow) in the metadata underneath. The decision is that this:

…is a better presentation than this:

No fault of @AleciaHuck’s but the first is simply easier to read, and it gives proper credit to @badbanana. Even if you know @AleciaHuck, there’s no benefit to having her picture in there.


So here is the big problem: That last half sentence (my BOLD highlight) shows complete ignorance of the way that Twitter works as a social engine and calculus.

Twitter users, whether consciously or not, are with each tweet putting a little bit of previously accrued social capital they have with their "followers" (Twitter users that are subscribed to them) on the line. So the act of forwarding another, often third party user’s tweet is significant in that it is a form of a micro-endorsement for this user that their followers are themselves typically not even subscribed to.

If the text of the forwarded tweet or (in many cases) the link to further content that it contains is ill received, the retweeting user in some sense is held accountable by their followers. At best, only a little bit of "social capital" is deducted, at worst, some will unfollow completely.

The user has put their stamp of approval on the retweeted content, and if it contained a link, it is largely expected that by extension the content at the end of that link was read and approved of as well.

(There are some exceptions to this when the news contained in a tweet is considered "breaking" enough so that the timeliness criterion overrides the need for checking out all of the content at the end of a link first. But, as most Twitter users have discovered before, the risk of forwarding something that turns out to be of questionable quality or outright bogus or even harmful goes up exponentially. "Blind" retweeting of links should be avoided.)

So, because of this micro-endorsement element, a Retweet has always gone well beyond a mere surfacing mechanism. Social media statistician Dan Zarrella in a prescient post a few months ago warned that the proposed RT formalization would do away with this form of social proof inherent in the RT convention ("Using the orig­i­nal poster’s pic & name in my time­line destroys any social proof the ReTweeter may have lent the Tweet.").

Known Avatar = Benefit

Back to the example given in the excerpt, there is in fact a GREAT benefit inherent in the picture/avatar of a user you have been following for any length of time: It is known to you, it is far less of a stranger all things being equal.

You have imbued it in your mind, by way of repetition (active Twitter users may be seeing the profile pictures/avatars of other active followed/friended users hundreds or even many thousands of times), with some trust and social capital.

It has been pointed out by multiple people that the surprise of seeing a "stranger’s" avatar in one’s Twitter inbound stream is downright shocking to some people, so strong is the identification with known people one has been following.

This has been one of the 1st rules of Twitter: You see only who you elect to see (i.e. follow).

If the avatar is now switched out to show that of the original author of the forwarded tweet, this trust is gone, unless the recipients (your followers) also happened to be following that same user. But even if they were, you, the Retweeter, are now cut out of the equation!

The social capital you put on the line is now not really rewarded anymore by having you be clearly associated with the surfacing of the information for the benefit of your followers. This can, especially over time, have several unintended consequences:

Continue reading Twitter Tries To Change Retweets, Doesn’t Get The Social In Social Media

Round-up of recent *Quick Hits* Business Mindhacks on Posterous

http://posterous.com/images/homepage2/posterous_logo1.pngJust as predicted by my recent post on "Why Creating A New Habit Is So Hard", I haven’t quite been entirely able to lay off of the "Quick Hits" posts to Posterous. Still working on modifying that habit to posting here instead… :)

Since we wouldn’t want you to miss anything important, these were the most recent offerings:


Read and profit. Feel free to share.