The Ins And Outs Of Group Text Messaging

By Perks |

Communication is all over the place with Email, Twitter and Facebook. Recently a surge in the group messaging market has given us many options to solve the problem of being able to communicate with people quickly, efficiently and reliably. The competitors are many but the winner is clear: GroupMe.

Group Messaging works by connecting many different phone numbers to one random phone number that everyone texts to. The group messaging company figures out who is texting by their registered name and number and posts their message to the random group number along with their first name in front so you can identify who is sending the message.

But before we get to why GroupMe is winning, here are some other companies in the group text messaging space:

Beluga recently was purchased by Facebook for obvious reasons. Facebook launched their messages platform that links your email and phone number to your Facebook message inbox. Facebook sees the need to provide their users a way to communicate with each other like they do in messages but easier. It’s no secret that Facebook’s mobile app isn’t up to snuff. With the purchase of Beluga Facebook bought both team and technology. For now Facebook said they’ll leave Beluga open and running, but who knows how long that will last? Facebook cannibalized the last two companies they purchased (Hot Potato and and they left Friendfeed all for dead when they kept it open and took the core team into Facebook to work on their own products.

Gogii has a product called TextPlus that gives users phone numbers if they don’t have one in order to text message with their friends through their app and not sms. This is good for teens who don’t have unlimited text plans, non-smartphones and have iPod Touches. Their longterm goal is to take this highly engaged group of users and get them to play social games with each other, thus transforming their conversations into conversation based gameplay.

Brightkite pivoted not too long ago from a location based checkin service that offers you badges as rewards to a group messaging platform. They saw that their group messaging service was much more popular than their checkin service so they decided to refocus on what their customers wanted.

Fastsociety came out around the same time as GroupMe. Their big seller was that you could create quick groups that expire after a certain amount of time. GroupMe now does that too in addition to keeping groups in an ongoing state.

So why has GroupMe won the group messaging market? For these reasons:

  • Get push notifications instead of text messages, thus reducing texts and consolidating where you read them
  • Checkin on Foursquare and share your location with your group to let them know where you are
  • Share photos and videos easily
  • Mute noisy groups when you need to
  • Start a conference call from the group you’re in
  • The GroupMe app is available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry

In addition to this if you go to on your mobile phone you can see which of your friends are nearby and add them to a quick group to find out if the nearby event is hot or not and where they’re going to next.

That last out of app feature is their real killer feature. Although I’ll be using GroupMe to coordinate plans for my startup Addieu at SXSW, I’ll also be interested in what parties are hot and where to go next. The Create a Group using Foursquare feature will be the killer app at SXSW as everyone is always looking for the next hot party.

How can you use group messaging?

  • Coordinating quick messages amongst your team.
  • Collaborative real-time product feedback from your best customers.
  • Create very specific groups for very specific issues.
  • Plan events on the fly

As with any new communications, make sure that the people you are adding to your group are ok with it before you add them. Some may be familiar with the technology and fine with you adding them. Others, like your best customers, would definitely need to be asked before you add them as you don’t want to alienate them.

Mashable Awards 2011 at Zumanity Theater Las Vegas

By Lauren |

Zumanity Hoops treated the attendees of the fourth annual Mashable Awards this year at CES 2011 with a special performance. The Cirque du Soleil favorite within Las Vegas’ New York New York Hotel was a special surprise for Mashable’s many media, brand, digital and social influencers in attendance.

Motorola Xoom Tablet

By Lauren |

Motorola and Google teamed up for the Xoom tablet, which features Android’s Honeycomb 3.0 technology, HD video capture and much more. It’s previewed here in the Motorola press announcement of their 2011 product innovations, exclusively at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2011. – CES Trends to Watch in 2011

By Lauren |

Our CEO Lauren Perkins just came back from CES 2011. She’s posted a couple videos from CES to our YouTube channel: as well as articles for and an interview with CES/CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro coming out on America 1.

CES 2011 Trend Rundown

By Lauren |

Perks Consulting recently went to CES and we garnered a ton of insight from it. Here’s a high level overview of what we learned:

Forecasts from CES for 2011 see the global and north american/US market growth in the double digits. The FCC made an announcement and commitment statement for spectrum.

Biggest product innovations:
1. Ford fully embraces a digital and integrated lifestyle with the announcement of electrification.
2. Motorola makes a big come back with Atrix, Motoblur Cliq2, Xoom and Droid Bionic.
3. Samsung has innovation across the board w/ big contributions via tablet PC and thin bezel super flat screen 3D TV.

Key Consumer Electronics Trends to Watch
1. Tablet Market
2. Smart phone mass adoption
3. 3D TV growth and consumer video cams

More on this to come in a detailed blog post soon.

Facebook: Visualizing Friendships, Social Media and The Internet

By Perks |

If Facebook is a true sampling of the human race and our interactions with numbers totaling over .5 billion, then this sampling is pretty near to true. Social media represents the new internet, where people are spending a majority of time on social sites. It’s safe to say that this Facebook friendship visualization is close to showing us the world’s overall internet interactions – sans a couple of countries.
PC Mag: “Facebook just isn’t the most popular social network in many of these countries. Brazilians and Indians usually turn to Google’s Orkut, Saudis use Maktoob, Russians use VKontakte, and the Chinese opt for QQ;com.”

Visualizing Friendships

by Paul Butler on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 11:54pm

Visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle.

When the data is the social graph of 500 million people, there are a lot of lenses through which you can view it. One that piqued my curiosity was the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.

I began by taking a sample of about ten million pairs of friends from Apache Hive, our data warehouse. I combined that data with each user’s current city and summed the number of friends between each pair of cities. Then I merged the data with the longitude and latitude of each city.

At that point, I began exploring it in R, an open-source statistics environment. As a sanity check, I plotted points at some of the latitude and longitude coordinates. To my relief, what I saw was roughly an outline of the world. Next I erased the dots and plotted lines between the points. After a few minutes of rendering, a big white blob appeared in the center of the map. Some of the outer edges of the blob vaguely resembled the continents, but it was clear that I had too much data to get interesting results just by drawing lines. I thought that making the lines semi-transparent would do the trick, but I quickly realized that my graphing environment couldn’t handle enough shades of color for it to work the way I wanted.

Instead I found a way to simulate the effect I wanted. I defined weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them. Then I plotted lines between the pairs by weight, so that pairs of cities with the most friendships between them were drawn on top of the others. I used a color ramp from black to blue to white, with each line’s color depending on its weight. I also transformed some of the lines to wrap around the image, rather than spanning more than halfway around the world.

View high-res (3.8MB)

After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw. The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.

Later I replaced the lines with great circle arcs, which are the shortest routes between two points on the Earth. Because the Earth is a sphere, these are often not straight lines on the projection.

When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.

Paul is an intern on Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team.

7 Tips For Building a Better Branded App

By Perks |

At this point, many companies recognize that developing a branded mobile app can be an asset. Unfortunately, fewer of them understand how to best leverage this new channel in order to benefit their brand.

“We were inundated with requests that were like, ‘We need an app because somebody within an organization says we need an iPhone app or we need an Android app,’ ” says Anthony Franco, the president and co-founder of app development agency EffectiveUI. “The conversations are sometimes a little awkward because we asked the very simple question, ‘Why?’ And there was this struggle, and there’s still a little bit of struggle with articulating the reason behind the mobile app.”

In order to better articulate the factors that should drive mobile app development, EffectiveUI recently commissioned a Harris Interactive survey of 781 online adults who downloaded mobile apps. As the company suspected, the study found that 38% of mobile app users weren’t satisfied with the apps available from their favorite brands.

Franco recently chatted with us about how brands can avoid contributing to this group of unsatisfied mobile app users.

1. A Mobile App Is Not a Marketing Campaign

If your goal is merely to make your brand visible, advertising networks are a better outlet for your marketing campaign than a mobile app. Only 18% of respondents in the study said that they even considered whether an app was from a brand name company when deciding to download it. Even your most loyal customers won’t download an app unless it does something useful for them.

When a major credit card company recently tried to build a social network around its brand on a mobile app, for instance, it crossed the line between what is appropriate for a mobile app and what is appropriate for a marketing campaign, said Franco.

“[The mobile app] had nothing to do with their business really, other than to attract eyeballs,” he says. “And if you look at the reviews on that app, it’s: ‘This is an obvious attempt at trying to market to me. It’s a well-designed app, it’s pretty, but all it is is about deals in my area trying to sell me something.’ Try to stick really closely to what your business does, and provide value.”

2. A Branded App Is Not a Mobile Website

Some companies that Franco has worked with have initially wanted to put all of their website features into their mobile apps. But that’s not what apps are intended for, Franco says. Seventy-three percent of mobile app users in the study agreed that they expect a company’s mobile app to be easier to use than its website.

Taking the top 10 features of a company’s website and moving them directly over to its mobile app, for example, just doesn’t work. The problem is that those 10 features may be useful on the web, but that usefulness may not translate when put on a mobile device.

“[Customers] don’t want the entire website on a mobile application. They want utility and a very defined set of features that are specifically designed for mobile use cases. Make it easier to use — make it less complex than your website.”

3. A Branded App Should Provide Utility

Seventy-five percent of survey respondents said that a mobile app should do exactly what they want or need it to do. “In other words, provide me utility,” Franco says. “Don’t market to me. Provide me something to get something done.”

There are quite a few utility-based branded apps out there. Chipotle, for example, has an app that allows you to order without waiting in line. One feature in the Starbucks app allows users to buy coffee with their phones. And Target recently introduced an iPad app that will make it easier for customers to shop during the holidays.

4. Focus on the User

In order to understand what will appeal to your target users, it’s helpful to understand your target users. And a little research never hurt in contributing to this objective.

Franco says that after the brand decides what kind of consumer it is targeting with its mobile app, the app developers should figure out a way to deepen their understanding of what that consumer wants. Sometimes it’s a matter of interviewing people on the street. Sometimes it’s going into people’s offices and watching how they use a website or software.

“[A mobile app] has to be user-centered,” Franco says. “It has to come from a place of empathy for what the user wants to get done on their device. It can’t be from a place of big creative, big think, big campaign, and hoping it’s going to go viral. That’s not what people want on their mobile devices.”

5. Build Around Mobile Use Cases

People accomplish some tasks on their phones. They prefer to do other tasks on a website or in some other way. It’s important to focus on the former category so that you don’t clutter your app with features that users won’t appreciate in a mobile setting.

EffectiveUI cited the FedEx app, for instance, allows users to do four tasks: make a shipping label, track a package, find a FedEx location and get a quote. While the app leaves out a lot of features that are available on the company’s website, it focuses on tasks that people are likely to complete on their phones, while standing in line, on a train or during a break.

6. Think Twice Before Becoming a Game Developer

While some brands like Barclaycard and Audi have had some success with branded mobile apps that are games, this strategy is a risky one. First, you’re entering the gaming business. There are a lot of companies that exclusively build games in the app store, and they’re pretty good at it. Competing can be tough. Second, it’s hard to determine the ROI for a game. Are they really engaging with your brand by, let’s say, navigating a character down a crazy waterslide?

“If you want to [get] eyeballs, there are ad networks for that,” Franco says. “You’re specifically going in and picking out a game that is relevant to your brand and saying, we want to sponsor that game. So instead of getting into the gaming business, stay in the marketing business if that’s your goal. And sponsor other things. Or use the mobile ad platform.”

7. It’s Better to Have No Branded App Than a Mediocre One

The EffectiveUI study found that 13% of people who had a bad experience with a branded app avoided downloading other apps from that brand because of it. That means that if you create an ineffective branded app, it will affect your future attempts at mobile applications as well.

“The study basically says take this channel seriously,” Franco says. “And don’t just treat it like a $60,000 microsite campaign. A bad microsite falls flat, and it’s designed to go away in three months. A bad mobile application does lasting damage — it’s there forever. So take it very seriously.”

We at Perks Consulting fully agree with this. We approach marketing in an integrated 360 holistic way rather than piecemeal. Mobile apps shouldn’t purely be a marketing campaign. They are a part of your larger brand vision. As with all of these 7 tips, think about them in a larger sense. You need to be able to disseminate your brand vision throughout everything you do, tying your message and purpose for being into all aspects. The statement ‘No man is an island’ is particularly relevant here but reconfigure it to say ‘No brand asset is and island’. Ultimately it comes down to relevancy to you, your users and how you both relate to each other.

Important Information about Google Buzz Class Action Settlement

By Perks |

Google just sent out an email to all Gmail users about their Google Buzz Class Action Settlement. But which organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web is Google giving $8.5 million to? If "most" of the money is going to support organizations in an independent fund then where is the rest of it going to? Google would be better served to create an independent organization to educate consumers online while working with existing organizations. With Google's clout and connections they could effectively set up an industry standard for privacy tantamount to ICANN.

They COULD, but they didn't. This is basically a write-off from Google, as $8.5 million is chump change to them considering they're a multibillion dollar business. We'll just have to wait and see how this develops.

*The highlighting is added for emphasis. Nothing was deleted from the email except the To: field was deleted.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Google Buzz <>
Date: Tue, Nov 2, 2010 at 3:30 PM
Subject: Important Information about Google Buzz Class Action Settlement

Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we've reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (, a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.

The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users' concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.

Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at

This mandatory announcement was sent to all Gmail users in the United States as part of a legal settlement and was authorized by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Google Inc. | 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway | Mountain View, CA 94043

US Elections Via Social Media – Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Miso, Gowalla, Google, Glue

By Perks |

Remember when you used to vote in the US elections and not get anything except a sense of pride through civic duty? Well you can still get that sense of pride through civic duty, but now you can also get social media BADGES!

Here are some of the many interactive marketing engagements that social networks have done for the elections:


"Today, to help you remember to vote, we’ve loaded over 100,000 voting locations into the foursquare venue database. When you check in at one (they’re all called ‘voting location’), you’ll unlock an ‘I Voted’ badge. (And for absentee or mailed votes, you can unlock the badge by checking in somewhere and shouting “I Voted.”)

We’ve also created a data-filled map, in partnership with Rock the Vote, the Pew Trusts, Google, the Voting Information Project, Engage, Twitter Vote Report, and Jess3, to share a sampling of foot traffic at each polling location. "




"We show the election day message to all users who are accessing Facebook from a country that is currently in an election period. The U.S. Politics on Facebook page highlights the use of Facebook by politicians, elected officials, and political campaigns. The Page also shares tips and best practices as well as news from Facebook."


"Check-in to NBC News Decision 2010 (coverage starts at 6:30 pm ET) and MSNBC: The Place for Politics 2010 (coverage starts at 6:00 pm ET) on November 2nd and unlock two special badges."


"Between now and Election Day, just check-in at your polling place or city hall and mention “vote” or “voted” in your comment (as in, “Voted early so no lines and more cookies!”). When you post that to Twitter and/or Facebook, you’ll receive this patriotic Pin. "


"We’re excited to extend our partnership with PBS for a special set of limited-time-only stickers for tonight’s election coverage. Whether you vote Republican, Democrat, independent, or something else entirely, PBS NewsHour and its lauded team will have the midterm elections covered both online and on TV. At 10 p.m. Eastern, viewers can tune-in exclusively online for updates on how the nation’s races are looking, and when the clock hits 11:00, coverage can also be seen through your local PBS station.  If you check-in to NewsHour via our apps or our website, you can earn these stickers."