Category Archives: Tim Howell

Press ‘X’ to Add a Friend: Gaming as the New Social Space

There is an event going on that you most likely don’t know about – and you probably wouldn’t care about it if you did.

On the popular social streaming site, Twitch.tv, 50,000 gamers are trying to complete a Gameboy video game from 1998. “Twitch Plays Pokémon” is either an insane experiment, or the next evolution in social media. Thanks to some clever programming, someone has modified a virtual version of Pokémon Red to accept the input commands of over 50,000 simultaneous users. This exercise in group gaming has proven that even the simplest tasks can be nearly impossible when mass coordination is required.

It’s also a unique case study showing one potential future for the social media industry. Can you imagine having 50,000 people spending a week staring at your brand? This is gamification on a massive scale. Each of these users is wholly engaged in their activity. Memes and fan communities numbering in the tens of thousands have sprung up overnight. Gamers who weren’t alive when Pokémon Red was released are following the progress as if it was the latest FOX reality show. Unfortunately for the three brands that stand to profit from this phenomenon – Game Freak, Nintendo, and Twitch – only one is actually seeing any gains. Twitch is seeing active user counts (and ad views) that haven’t been matched since the DotA 2 International Tournament last year.
In fact, if Nintendo knew the stream was happening, they’d likely actively fight to have it shut down.

Of course, it’s easy for game and tech companies to fall into these types of social success. We’ve already written about the ties between social media and console gaming (and those are getting even closer all the time). In the near future, however, it isn’t hard to imagine this kind of gamification extending beyond the Sonys (Sonies?) and Microsofts of the world.

Nearly every social media junkie online is writing about the coming social cataclysm, when the “Big Four” networks fall out of favor and the new icons of social are brought to power. Some believe content curation platforms like Twitch are the future; others turn to niche networks like Wiser and Kaboodle.

There’s only one thing we can agree on: Change is coming, and it’s time for big brands to stop relying on Facebook.

Bar Tabs and Bluetooth

Restaurants have a long history of early adoption when it comes to apps and social channels. It makes sense that an industry with razor-thin margins and stiff competition would do whatever it takes to get whatever edge they can. WillCall, a brand-new app from a group of designers, coders, and music junkies in San Fransisco, hopes to capitalize on that. The app allows consumers at large and small live music venues to order and purchase bar drinks without leaving the show floor.

In theory, most income at these venues comes from bar sales. WillCall claims they can boost bar sales by giving concertgoers a chance to buy drinks without missing songs standing at the bar.

At the moment, the app is still in an early access phase, with only a few select venues in San Fransisco and New York participating in the program. If successful, the app could inspire a new breed of mobile apps for bars, restaurants, and live music houses across the nation. Imagine a world with no waiters – you just place your order on your iPad and wait for the kitchen to send it out. Maybe they can pair up with Amazon’s ill-fated drone program and drop your bacon and eggs right on the table.

Or maybe not.

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Video Games and New Social Media 3: The Indie Crowd

Last week, we published a blog explaining the way some larger brands and developers are capitalizing on the connections between social media and the games industry. Of course, any brand with a large enough budget could accomplish much of the same thing. But what about smaller franchises? What about indie developers? How can a small business, with no spare budget, get their work in front of the eyes of millions of gamers?

Let me introduce you to Sips. Continue reading

Defiance Tumblr Post

Video Games and New Social Media 2: Mastering Multiscreen Marketing

Last week, I took a look at the future relationship between gaming and social media – two tech industries that will forever be entwined. Today, I’m going to look at the present. We’re going to explore the possibilities of multi-screen marketing, and multi-screen entertainment, by looking at a collaborative project by some of the larger brands on the scene.

How do you capture the attention of an audience with a notoriously short attention-span? In the world of DVR, where we fast-forward through television ads while surfing the net on our phones, how can a marketing team make an impact? There is the short route – hope your commercial is funny enough to go viral online – and the long route.

With the new original series Defiance, SyFy and their sponsor, Dodge, chose the latter. Continue reading

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Video Games and the New Social Media

Fifteen years ago, video games helped me make my first friends in middle school. Having recently moved to the frigid north of Columbus, Ohio, I was able to bond with classmates thanks to the social activity required by Nintendo’s Pokémon series. We would sit across from each other at the lunch table, brick-like game systems connected to each other with a thick gray cord, sharing in an electronic social experience that would have been unthinkable even 10 years earlier. It was a technological marvel that was completely lost to us as children. This was simply the way we communicated – any alternative seemed impossible.

Last week, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), that same concept was reborn. Modern social media has come to video games. For better or worse, both industries will be forever changed by it. Continue reading

Discovering Influencers: The Powerful Toolset of Reddit

Where Content Comes From

You may not have heard of Reddit, but you’ve seen their influence. Reddit is a social news site, comparable to Digg, StumbleUpon, or the BBS’s of the late 90’s. Users may submit content, in the form of photos, external links, or text posts. Other users vote on these submissions, pushing popular posts to the front pages of the site – like a living search engine. With over 43 million active users (called Redditors) as of October 2012, some analysts are calling Reddit the most influential website online. The Harlem Shake is simply the latest in a long line of trends that the Reddit community founded. In 2013, if a piece of content goes viral, you can almost assuredly wager that it was popular on Reddit two weeks earlier.

But I’m not here to tell you why Reddit is important to the internet.

I’m here to tell you why it’s important to you. Continue reading

Recent Updates to Facebook’s EdgeRank Formula: Do You Know Your PTAT Score?

Recent updates to Facebook’s EdgeRank formula, and the way they calculate your People Talking About This score, could be putting your social efforts in jeopardy. Why is a behind-the-scenes math formula so important? It’s a simple answer with a lot of data behind it, so we’ll start with the easy facts first.

EdgeRank determines your success on Facebook.

That’s it. It’s that cut and dry. If your brand page has a high EdgeRank, your page will almost definitely be successful – depending, of course, on your definition of success. If success, to you, means user engagement, brand awareness, and viral growth, then we are on the same page.

How does EdgeRank work?

EdgeRank is an algorithm, essentially a complex mathematical formula that weighs several different factors to determine how relevant your content is to any given Facebook user. The formula looks like this:

Facebook EdgeRank Formula

Facebook has been notoriously silent on the exact numbers in this equation, but Jeff Widman, operator of EdgeRank.net, has broken down the basics of the system.

Facebook looks at all possible stories and says “Which story has the highest EdgeRank score? Let’s show it at the top of the user’s newsfeed…If EdgeRank predicts a particular user will find your status update boring, then your status update will never even be shown to that particular user…The numbers on this are frightening. In 2007, a Facebook engineer said in an interview that only about 0.2% of eligible stories make it into a user’s newsfeed…

The simplest possible explanation is that Facebook considers the amount of Likes, Comments, and Shares your posts receive, how many of your fans are friends with each other, the type of content you are posting, and what every single Facebook user thinks about those types of content. All of that gets added up into a total score, which is tallied on every single post your page makes.

How can I improve my page’s EdgeRank?

Short answer: you can’t. Long answer: you can’t, and you’re asking the wrong question. EdgeRank is a constantly-evolving formula, which takes in thousands of points of data to make by-the-second updates. Combine that complexity with the fact that Facebook also filters results through at least one other formula before they make it to a newsfeed, and you are facing a hopeless challenge.

The point that we keep making to clients is that it is much easier to improve your content than it is to try to game the system.

So, what’s new?

A recent update to Facebook’s algorithms has changed the way your page’s People Talking About This, or PTAT, score. This score is a combination of several forms of engagement, including shares, likes, and comments. Until now, that number related only to first-level engagement on a post. The tracking stopped, once you got beyond the original posting.

With this new update, the PTAT score includes engagement a post receives at the second level and beyond. Now, if a user shares George Takei’s latest cat pun, his PTAT score includes all of the likes, shares, and comments that post receives from its entire viral lifespan, even from users that never saw the original post.

Facebook People Talking About This PTAT Score

This update has led to some drastic jumps in PTAT for many highly-engaging pages. Takei’s PTAT has jumped by nearly 110,000 since the change, with similar numbers coming from several of the top pages on the platform. As we discussed earlier, your PTAT score is the most important aspect of your content’s EdgeRank, so higher PTAT scores ensure that your content is being seen. This means that activity on a cat photo George Takei posted three weeks ago could be boosting the EdgeRank on a post he makes today.

In social media, content is king, and that has never been truer than it is now. It is time for companies to make sure that what they’re putting out is something that users actually want to see. As the EdgeRank formula continues to evolve, content that belongs in corporate board rooms will become quieter and quieter. Eventually, those pages will have to wake up and realize they’re speaking to an empty room.

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Tim Howell

Tim Howell is a content manager for Make Me Social. He studied fine art, psychology, and international pop culture at Bowling Green State University. In his spare time, he is a blogger and social activist with a passion for cooking. You can find him at gplus.to/TimHowell