According to Mary Meeker's 2013 Internet Trends Report, the amount of digital content being shared and tagged – from documents to pictures to tweets – is nine times higher than it was five years ago. Of course, the rise of social networks is a big reason why consumer behaviour is changing this way. But one of the biggest trends that will continue to drive this growth in consumer-generated media is the rise of social products.
Picture this: You go for a run, the results of which are automatically broadcast on Twitter through your Nike FuelBand. You sit down to play a video game on Xbox and your friends' Facebook updates are shared while you play. As you sink into the couch, you reach over and 'like' a photo on your Instacube. Without signing directly into any of your standard social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you are already – and automatically – socially connected with your network.
Smart brands that are paying attention have started to build social connectivity into their products; they're offering a new level of convenience and transforming the concept of branded activity.
According to Ms. Meeker's report, technology cycles have tended to last 10 years. Most recently, as we move from desktop to mobile computing, we're now reaching the stage of connected devices. Brands are being challenged to start thinking 'social' right from the initial design stage, rather than adding it as a feature later on. The added convenience and total integration of social channels appeals to the consumer, while the transformation of branded activities will position brands as leaders in their field.
Here are three great examples:
The just-announced Xbox One is a video game system, but it's also a socially connected entertainment device. It allows us to connect with friends while watching live television – even via Skype video – and see what they're watching. We can follow trends in the Xbox community without taking any extra steps. It automatically updates user activity and allows for seamless integration into the social entertainment network simply by turning the device on.
The Instacube is a digital picture frame that broadcasts an Instagram stream of photos. This soon-to-be-released device wirelessly streams photos directly into your living room through the device. The device is social because as photos appear, you can 'like' them by hitting the heart button directly on the Instacube. This updates your activity on both Facebook and Instagram, without having to pick up your phone or laptop.
Wearable products like the Nike FuelBand are transforming the idea of branded activity. The FuelBand allows you to set goals, track progress and celebrate achievements. The information from the wristband is then integrated into existing online networks like Facebook. Simply by wearing the band, consumers' fitness activity is now branded 'Nike.'
As digital sharing becomes an even greater part of our daily experience, the brands that will benefit most are those ones that make sharing not just easy, but automatic.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.