The criticisms around the Airtime launch are well warranted. However, there is a huge opportunity for success if the company can properly capitalize on the trend of social discovery. Did I enjoy my first experience with the service yesterday? No. But guess what? The old married man with two kids isn't the target audience. Social discovery started with Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button and was furthered by companies like StumbleUpon -- the result of which has been 4 billion video views on YouTube every day -- proving that internet users (especially Millenials) love social discovery.
Now Airtime has a ways to go before it starts filming "The Social Network II" (still starring J.T., naturally) -- specifically around the topics of relevancy and proving user safety. But for brands looking to capitalize on this trend, here are some tips to winning that don't involve sitting on the sidelines and waiting to follow.
Provide recognition of your customers and fans
Rarely are customers for a brand "thanked" for the patronage online. We are all treated as a new lead even if we have been a loyal customer for years. Take a page from Walmart and install '"greeters" of relevant age and dress to thank users for choosing your brand or product. Believe me, it will be remembered and might even increase loyalty.
Hold time-based events
For those people that have expressed an interest in your brand or vertical industry, throw a time-based event with, say, an upcoming band or artist and promote it through social discovery. The users will then spread the word for you (if your choice of talent is enough of a draw) and you can then work with Airtime (or another similar platform) to assist users in easily finding you on the day or time of the event. So call around, see if Right Said Fred is free, and get the planning started!
Integrate and surprise
Sometimes the unexpected can have a big impact. If you have a celebrity endorsement (Danny Davis for Mountain Dew) or even a likable mascot (Pillsbury Dough Boy anyone?) make them available for a specific day or set of days where people that have an interest in your brand can chat with said person or mascot for a reasonable period of time. This will earn you what the kids call "street cred" and you'll get more people "liking" your brand page on Facebook (Airtime runs off FB as a platform for determining relevance).
Keep 'em guessing
This platform could be a good way of kicking off of a contest by hiding clues within the video frame experience. There are so many ways of executing this but the goal would be to involve the audience in a story to get them scouring the new fangled interweb for clues in order to win fame and glory. Now, it may not get as many views as Lonelygirl15 or a Diesel underwear stunt but you could still spark some activity that would translate into sales and/or preference.
Give to get
I've seen the research. The kids these days care about things like the planet and other people's well being. All those episodes of Barney back in their early days are now paying off. Why not capitalize on this desire to improve humanity by furthering your brands philanthropic activities? Hold group discussions on topics, enable people to help a stranger (tutoring for example), or even contribute an idea to solve meaty problems like Nokia's IdeasProject. If you aren't already doing something along these lines, don't fake it. But if you are, make sure that this audience knows about it because they might just respect you for it.
This space is very new, but these two Seans (or, Shawns!) could be onto something. Dip your toe in now and start the testing process before they figure out their monetization strategy.
Rick Corteville is CEO of Luxus Inc.
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