Ten Comebacks I'd Like to See
originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
It could be the Olympics, or the fear of another early ending to the Mets’ season, or Ben Folds reuniting with the other two guys as they ironically tour again as Ben Folds Five. Whatever the reason, I’ve got comeback fever. While I try to find the cure, I keep thinking about social media. Here are 10 social media comebacks that I’d love to see:
1) Facebook’s stock: As a marketer, I don’t care what Facebook’s share price is. But the price indicates that Facebook is struggling to properly value its assets and communicate that value to marketers and investors. As a public company, Facebook is more accountable to marketers. With ads now appearing in the News Feed and on mobile devices, Facebook is delivering more of what brands want without sacrificing the user experience. It will have to keep moving faster, though.
2) Yahoo’s relevance: Yahoo’s still great for display media buyers, but there was a time when Yahoo was a pioneer in search (well before Google), an innovator in mobile (well before Google), and a scrappy social disruptor (Google’s working on it). Yahoo brought together acquisitions like Flickr (alive, but in need of resuscitation), Delicious (which it sold), and Upcoming (which somehow still exists as a Yahoo brand). OK, its homegrown network, Yahoo 360 ,was a Google Buzz-esque flop, but now its one big social idea is to connect all its pages to Facebook and get people to automatically share everything they read. There better be more. This week’s updates to IntoNow are a start.
3) Hashable’s idea: Hashable had a vision of replacing business cards and making introductions easier. It relied too much on game mechanics, and the company took itself so seriously that it inspired the memorable post “Hashable is Worthless” during SXSW 2011. Someone will come up with a better way to digitally connect people professionally, and when it happens, we’ll probably see just how close Hashable was.
4) Foursquare’s mojo. Yes, Foursquare is growing, and it just released Promoted Updates. The company matters less for what it is than what it was. Foursquare was a catalyst for marketers to expand their thinking around mobile marketing, location-based services, and game mechanics. Now, when I encounter someone using Foursquare, it’s often to get $5 back on their AmEx statement. That’s a great reason to love American Express, but it turns Foursquare into a coupon pusher. I still like and regularly use it, but I want to get back to loving Foursquare again.
5) Groupon’s original approach: Groupon’s etymology derives from its origins as a group buying platform. It was exciting, in the way that winning your first eBay was exciting ten or fifteen years ago. If deals didn’t get enough subscribers, they wouldn’t materialize, much like Kickstarter projects today. If you loved it, you’d need to tell your friends. Who’s bragging to their friends they bought a Groupon now?
6) Barcode Hero and Stickybits: There was a brief time when barcodes were wonderfully weird marketing vehicles. Barcode Hero added a gaming layer to barcode scans. After scanning relevant products, I was the king of Kraft, and even the king of shoes after killing time waiting for my wife to finish up at DSW. Stickybits treated barcodes as a content gateway, so you could scan a code and leave comments, photos, and videos. While neither company was destined to be a mass market hit, it was fun looking at black and white lines and boxes in entirely new ways.
7) Chat bots: Before there was Siri, there was SmarterChild, an instant messaging bot that was a fun alternative to search engines. Before instant messaging, there was Dr. Sbaitso, a DOS program that was the world’s first mass market virtual therapist. They didn’t catch on in time for brands to take part, but Siri will have a longer shelf life.
8) Color’s concept: If Instagram was the “Blair Witch Project” of mobile apps, Color was the “Waterworld.” It had a creative premise but couldn’t live up to the expectations set by its funding. The idea of an app that displays content shared from your immediate location sounds like a great social experiment, and perhaps even an important technology underlying the future of how content will be shared. Color pivoted and is now a video-sharing app. Yawn.
9) Second Life: I have fond memories of hanging out on H&R Block’s virtual island, where the avatars of real tax advisors would answer consumers’ avatars’ tax questions. I also recall another time tagging along with some clique of avatars (this may or may not have been when I met my first virtual furry), and one of them kindly offered me some digital genitalia to make my avatar look less like a Ken doll. Second Life is still around, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it in a marketing plan.
10) Digg: Digg introduced millions of people to social discovery, crowdsourcing, and creating content that’s designed to spread through social networks rather than search engines. Now there are new owners that want to make Digg a verb again. I’m especially excited for two reasons. First, Buzzfeed is on the verge of a monopoly for publicizing stories like, “Gotye’s 50 Funniest Kittens at the 2012 Lego Olympics.” Buzzfeed needs more competition. Secondly, as much as I couldn’t stand Digg’s fanboys with their hero worship of the site’s founders, Reddit’s insular crowd of contributors is even worse, voting up photos about – what else? – what it’s like introducing people to Reddit. Digg, you can do better.
I may often get nostalgic, but not everything needs an encore. I’m perfectly happy to say farewell to MySpace, Google Buzz, the hype around widgets, and every game that resembles FarmVille. Yet the Internet is the best comeback generator the world has ever known. It rebooted Betty White’s career, brought “Arrested Development” back from oblivion, and made Nikola Tesla a scientific folk hero. Some of these social media comebacks are destined to happen. When they do, you’ll hear about it – on Digg, from friends sharing a Yahoo story, via SmarterChild, or by scanning a barcode sticker in Second Life.