At my liberal arts college, the most popular sports activity was the ultimate frisbee pick-up game I organized every other day. It could get competitive, at least by hippie artist standards, but it never got too intense. Until Bro Seth came along.
Bro Seth (name slightly altered), consistently misread the vibe of the pickup games. While everyone else might shout encouragement at someone after a dropped pass, Bro Seth would tell people they were worthless, fat klutzes who should just go home. Suddenly, people no longer wanted to show up. It threatened to ruin our entire game. That is, until one day, when Bro Seth ran into a tree in the back end of the end zone.
I tell this story because social networks are a lot like ultimate frisbee games: fun phenomenons that just magically pop up out of nowhere for teens and college kids. Lately, however, it seems like there are a lot of Bro Seths screwing up the game with the wrong vibe. You know what I’m talking about: brands.
Listen, I’m a huge proponent of social media marketing. Early adoption, when done right, makes a lot of sense. But things are getting excessive. Take Peach, the latest social network to rise and fall in two weeks, like the app version of Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. Starting on January 8, Peach—which is basically Facebook Messenger with Slack commands1—got a groundswell of media attention and cracked the top 100 most popular free iTunes apps. By January 12, we already had our requisite Digiday article about how brands like Asos, J.Crew, and Merriam-Webster were jumping on the network. But today, Peach is essentially dead, nowhere to be seen among the top apps on iTunes.
Was an influx of brand activity what killed Peach? In all likelihood, no—that’s a take too hot to pick up. But it’s worth noting that Peach is the latest in a string of apps to shoot to fame, get flooded by brands, and fail soon after. It happened to Meerkat. It even happened to Ello, which explicitly banned brands but saw them join anyway, in part due to marketing blogs urging them on.
I understand the temptation to jump on the hot new thing. But c’mon, my marketing brethren: Let’s give these social networks some room to grow first. There’s no need to plunge resources into an infant social network before it’s even two weeks old. No one is going to download the app and think, “Wait, what? Where are all my favorite brands?!” That consumer just doesn’t exist, no matter how much we pray to our lord and savior, the Old Spice Man.
I could go on—I haven’t even used the idiom “Don’t chase the shiny new object” yet. But instead, I’ll leave you with this amazing video from Adobe Marketing Cloud that makes my argument better than I can. For Peach, Ello, WooWoo, the message is the same: Until an app looks like it’ll be around for a while, stay away.