It’s simple: people want to connect with other people. But creating experiences that enable that connection isn’t easy. How can you ensure your brand delivers on humanity? Here are three tips shared by Reggie Yativ, COO, Agora.io
for a more human Internet in 2020.
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If 2019 was the year of streaming video and low-latency mobile gaming, 2020 will usher in the era of the no-patience consumer. This new breed of consumer, armed with smartphones, multiple social and gaming apps, social video and music apps, and a higher bar for personal privacy protection, will expect not just access to apps — but app experiences that help them live a better life.
Think this seems too touchy-feely? Consider this: Way back in the dark age of 2012, tech writer John Quain wrote about the backlash against video calls in the age of Skype and Facetime. Having a video connection, he noted, is “what social networking is supposed to do: Make us feel less alone and more connected.”
It’s very real, this fear of a loss of human connections at a time when making a phone call from one part of the world to another is easier than it has ever been. This means that the challenge for brands is building not just apps with cool features, but experiences that have humanity at their core.
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Don’t just take my word for it: there are plenty of stats to support the feels. For example, 80 percent of people say they’d rather watch and interact with live video than read a blog post, and live interactive video growth outpaced all other types of online videos by more than 11 percent in 2019. And, almost 3 billion people will use social apps with live video in the coming year.
It’s simple: people want to connect with other people. But creating experiences that enable that connection isn’t easy. How can you ensure your brand delivers on humanity? Here are three tips.
Tip #1: Get Closer to Your Coders.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the people writing code for a brand’s apps, products, and websites are often the best source of ideas and information about how best to deliver a great experience through the technical architecture.
In fact, successful product strategy — especially when your product is a social app or game — is really about a stronger alignment between marketing and development. The folks writing your code are not just programmers but also consumers of Internet sites, games and social apps. They are often early adopters and have a test-and-try mindset that can provide you with insights you can’t find in any focus group and while focus groups are great, they are also expensive and inefficient.
For example, developers who are gamers know better than almost anyone how hard it is to get a great video feed set up for mobile, streaming and online games. They know all too well what a PITA it is to have one device set up for playing and a second device next to it, like a smartphone, to have a Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp or Messenger call happening at the same time so they can interact with friends via video while playing. These folks are an untapped source of intelligence about how to make that experience less painful and more human.
With the increasing popularity of “watch” parties, where people come together virtually to watch concerts, games, movies and other live-streamed content, the demand for a better way to connect simultaneously online and via video will only become more important. It’s vital to get ahead of this when designing apps and online experiences.
My advice: connect with your dev team leads and get to know them. Find out what they are seeing and hearing in the market and among their networks. You may be surprised at what you learn.
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Tip #2: A Robust Network Matters.
It’s boring, but it’s true: your tech stack can make or break your app marketing strategy. This is because the limitations of your systems,such as your customer database architecture, cloud-enabled data management, and data center network, are all part of a backbone that enables your products to deliver a quality, secure experience.
A key part of that quality experience is the voice and video connections that people can make. For example, social apps such as dating services rely on the ability to see someone’s face and hear their voice — just like in the good old days when humans would meet in person to get to know one another for the first time!
Increasingly, consumers will be expecting more from dating, social and other apps that provide a person-to-person connection. People aren’t willing to put up with pixelation, distortion, lagginess, and glitchiness. To achieve this, anything you build with video and chat capabilities needs to have a next-generation tech stack and network that doesn’t allow for latency.
For consumers using social or dating apps, privacy also is an increasing concern. This means that you’ve got to rethink the partners you work with when it comes to building or adding features that aren’t core to your app or product. Know what their approach is to privacy protection and be prepared to explain to consumers what your partners do with their data. Your best bet might be to look for partners that don’t store any of your customers’ data but instead leave that in your hands.After all, consumers trust your brand, but they might not trust your partners.
My advice: if you haven’t already, call your IT director or CIO. Buy them a cup of coffee and get down into the stack together. Know what you’re working with and give your technology team as much transparency into the end-user experience as you can so that they can help you design network, data management and other strategies that support success.
Tip #3: Make Your Customer’s Voice the Loudest in the Room.
Just as streaming services have upended the traditional broadcast TV and cable network distribution models, social media plus the increasing sophistication of mobile computing (aka smartphones) has given rise to consumers that want to be their own communications channel.
On dating and social apps, e-learning and enterprise communications tools, people want to be able to use the tools once accessible only by media companies and professional producers. We’ve seen these tools enable interesting new micro trends:
- We are all Stephen Colbert: The social networking app Scorp lets members share and interact with short, funny videos in real time — turning each of them into live cultural commentators among their friend groups, instantly.
- Speed dating goes live but not in person: Dating app EastMeetsWest offers live-stream enabled connections for people looking for real-time romantic connections.
- Live-streaming supremacy doesn’t belong to Netflix or Disney+. It belongs to the people: Social app MeetMe includes “Battle Mode” to let individual live-stream broadcasters compete for virtual gifts and bragging rights via simultaneous broadcasts to live-stream watchers within the app.
- Advertising and gamification will converge, and consumers will control the conversation: Companies like Gem4Me offer software for building new experiences that bring together location-based engagement, live chat, event promotion, and advertising in a single place.
- Broadcasting isn’t just for influencers anymore, and the perks are great: Apps like Cool Live democratize broadcasting and let viewers participate in new ways, like gifting their favorite streamers.
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The coming year is bound to bring lots of new technology predictions and the demand for live, interactive streaming experiences that connect people more closely is bound to continue to rise. The challenge for marketers is capturing that demand through products and features that put end-customers in greater control of their mobile and social experiences.
Whether it’s social streaming, dating, or learning, humans need connections. Building the technology backbone that delivers on the promise of a more human Internet should be priority number one for every brand marketer in 2020.