With digital devices & platforms becoming more & more part of our daily lives, we are increasingly influenced by them. Our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram feeds are full of content created by the people & brands that we have chosen to connect with. We consume that content & react accordingly by commenting, liking, re-sharing or even buying based on a ‘friend’ recommendation.
Each of those platforms has done its best to deliver us content that we are interested in by helping us connect with relevant people. Facebook suggests new connections based on who we’re already connected to – the theory being if I know someone, I might know their friends so I can grow my friendship base using those connections, thus extending my ‘social graph’.
However, the result is that I potentially end up seeing more & more irrelevant content. The more distant the connections I make, the less interested I’m likely to be in the content from those connections. Of course, Facebook tries to rectify this problem through its EdgeRank algorithm - surfacing content to me based on various measures.
Content discovery has to be simple
Making content discovery simple and useful is vital for today’s digital platforms. How else is a user supposed to filter out the noise of the digital waterfall of content and get to something that is useful, or interesting to them?
Content discovery based on your social graph is all very well, but there is an increasing move towards using your interest graph - ie the things you’re interested in rather than the people that you’re connected to. If the platforms that we use pro-actively brought us content that they knew would be interesting to us (whether or not we were connected to the person or brand that generated that content), wouldn’t that be better?
Of course, all this relies on the platforms knowing what we’re interested in. Which means we have to tell them…one way or another. Perhaps explicitly through an entry on our profile pages, or implicitly by the topics we’re commenting on, the web searches we are doing or the music we are listening to. Hence the reason for platform integration such as the Spotify app on Facebook.
That’s what a number of startups are tapping into at the moment. Take the newly launched Airtime, co-founded by Sean Parker & Shawn Fanning who previously teamed up to bring the world Napster and in doing so changed the face of music consumption. Airtime seeks to bring it’s users new experiences through one-on-one video chat based on their interest graph. Want to discuss your love of impressionist painters with someone who shares your passion? No problem – Airtime will find them for you.
Mobile is where it gets really interesting
Other apps that are taking this approach include Glancee, recently acquired by Facebook. This mobile app uses your interest graph and your current location to suggest new, interesting, nearby connections to you.
These apps are bringing moments of serendipity to our digital lives. Moments of happy, interesting, relevant and perhaps surprising discovery.
I believe it is on our mobile devices where we’re really going to see some development in this area. Our mobiles are inherently personal. They hold all of our contacts of course, but also increasingly personal interest information – the emails we’re sending; the websites we’re visiting; the photos we’re taking; the games we’re playing; the books we’re reading and the physical places we’re visiting. All on one device. The mobile is where all aspects of our digital lives converge – its the gateway for platforms to understand who we really are.
And if they can understand who we are in our real lives through the various devices we use, the more they will be able to deliver relevance – filtering out the noise & prompting us with interesting & meaningful connections, content & experiences – creating digitally serendipitous moments. Facebook’s acquisition of Glancee is perhaps an indication of what they’re planning in upcoming releases of their mobile app.
Is the world ready for this right now? Will people find it useful, or a little creepy? Perhaps at first. But it will happen. It is the future.