Instagram & Draw Something Show Social’s Better By Design
I’d just like to start this post by apologising to the poor person at Marketing Land who has to edit it (sorry Pamela!) You see, the thing is that I got this column in slightly late and whilst I could say that it was because I was incredibly busy, the real reason is that I spent much of the weekend sitting on my sofa playing Draw Something. Essentially a mobile version of Pictionary, the game is incredibly simple, and utterly addictive. And it was recently bought for more than $200 million.
This piece by The Guardian does a very good job of explaining the attraction of Draw Something:
But the real thing about Draw Something is that it makes you like your friends even more. There is joy in watching the point they excitedly guess your drawing of Tina Fey when you add the glasses, and then more joy in watching them misspell Tina Fey again and again, imagining their frustrated little brow and their stubborn finger jabbing at the screen. “Tina Fay”. “Tina Fei”. “TINA FEY”.
I can certainly back this sentiment up. I have one friend who lives in South Africa and we generally begin each game by scribbling what can only be described as obscene graffiti, of the sort that you might find on an unruly schoolboy’s exercise books. And it always makes me laugh. Equally, many of my games this past weekend were played against my girlfriend. Who was sitting next to me on the sofa. And we spent much of that time laughing. Mainly because I really can’t draw.
At first glance, Facebook’s recent acquisition Instagram doesn’t have much in common with Draw Something, other than the fact that it recently sold for a pretty hefty price. Instagram is about taking pictures, Draw Something is about, well, drawing them. Instagram makes photos taken with a state-of-the-art digital camera look like they were taken with a 40 year old Polaroid, Draw Something makes pictures that look like they were drawn by a vaguely advanced chimp somehow feel meaningful.
But what they both share is that they’re social. However, unlike a lot of other apps, neither is social just so they can say that they’re social. Instead, they’re social because that makes them better products.
Social is a means, not the end. Sharing makes the pictures, whether drawn or taken, better. More enjoyable. More important.
Instagram’s new owners Facebook have a phrase to describe this — social by design. It’s essentially the idea that your product or business should be built around people. This might sound obvious, but when you look at the number of companies that would love to do what both Instagram and Draw Something’s creators have done, and realise that a lot of them are bad products with a share function, you realise that being social is very different from simply wanting to be social.
Of course the other thing that both of these products share is that they’re mobile apps, and that probably had a lot to do with why Zynga and Facebook were willing to pay so much: mobile web browsing is well ahead of schedule to overtake desktop browsing in the next year or two. But being mobile also makes the sharing within the products that bit easier: by logging in to Draw Something with Facebook, or adding Twitter or Facebook profiles to Instagram, it’s incredibly easy to share pictures, whether taken or drawn. Two or three clicks and your picture can be shared with your friends.
Now whilst we can’t all develop multi-million dollar mobile apps in the space of a couple of years, there are some things that those of us working in marketing can learn from them.
Social shouldn’t be an add-on. It needs to be intrinsic. This could mean using crowd-sourcing, it could mean using Facebook as a default log-in so that your product or site gets to know the user. But what it can’t be is a bunch of sharing badges slapped onto a page in the hope that someone will suddenly say, ‘you know what? I really want to share on Pinterest the fact that I’m renewing my passport.‘
If you’re not thinking about mobile yet, you really need to be. And tablets. But you need to think of them as being more than just an offshoot of PCs, and should also realise that smartphones and tablets may both be “mobile”, but they’re not the same.
People use them differently, at different times, and for different things — you need to reflect this in your design. Don’t just cut and paste your old website. Have the form and function of these devices in mind when planning the move. Scott Seaborne from Ogilvy does a great job of explaining this point in this presentation.
It’s all about the content. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. In a world where frictionless sharing is making it even harder to cut through the noise, if you’re not providing content (or utility), then you’re not going to cut it. And whilst your content doesn’t have to consist of hipster photos and badly-drawn portraits of the cast of Twilight, it will have to connect with people, and that will always be easier if everything you do is truly social by design.
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