Telling you how we see the world.
So I’ve been thinking about the idea of how our perceived value of things shapes our lives and habits. It all started when my co-founder and I were out getting lunch. Over the course of working on our startup we have tried several places (mostly cheap ones) for food. And we are always looking for a good deal that fits our taste and choice. But after trying so many different ones we have grown tired of pretty much all of them. So inevitably around lunch time we need to answer the question; what should we get for lunch? And most of the time we just delay the question till we are so hungry that it doesn’t matter what we get anymore. But recently we went to this place that gives you one of those little cards with ten squares that they mark off every time you buy something from them. And when you fill up all the squares you get a free lunch. And now we suddenly have a preference when it comes to getting lunch. This place gets a slight advantage when we need to decide where to go.
This got me thinking and so I was trying to figure out why this is so. Now the initial response would be; well they give you a free lunch for every ten purchases which gives it a slightly higher value. But there is more to it; if we could change the price of the lunches so that buying 10 (and getting 1 free) from them would be equivalent to buying 11 from any other place; this place would still get a slight advantage. And that is the idea of the perceived value. The real value of the two cases might be the same but the perceived value is not.
Marketers have been doing this really well over the years . A strong brand can create a greater perceived value. A star using a certain product can create it. A fashion trend can create it as well; nerdy glasses are suddenly all the rage. As people living in society it is hard for us the clearly distinguish between real and perceived value. Marketers use this to their advantage and work on increasing the perceived value rather than the real value of a product or service.
I found that the increase in perceived value can be traced to two factors that matter to our daily lives. If the usage of a product or service aids in self improvement (real or otherwise), its perceived value increases. The “buy 10 lunches get 1 free” is an example of that. It gives me the feeling that it is a better deal and if I’ve just bought my fifth lunch, I am that much closer to bettering myself. The second factor is how well we are doing when compared to our peers as a result of using that product of service. We can see examples of this all around us. And so, many products are considered status symbols as a result of this.
Now if we apply these ideas together we are really able to increase the perceived value of a product. So imagine if I could not only get a free lunch but also if I could see how well I am doing when compared to my friends. You can really tap into this with the help of social media. Great examples of this are the social gaming space . Where we are able to show our friends what games we play, how well we are doing with respect to each other and our achievements in them. The games also do a great job of giving you the feeling that the real cost of playing the game is almost negligible but the perceived value of doing well at it is really high. They also ensure that the perceived value rises as you continue to play the game. We also see examples of perceived value in social networks where we want to show our peers how many friends/followers/fans we have, how many different books we have read, the number of movies we have watched, etc. The social networks are fine tuned to make it really easy to show this off as well. A great example of this are those Foursqare Twitter updates that keep filling up our stream.
With social media we have found a way to bring our everyday lives online and make it far more accessible to people around us (and the world). Now more than ever it is easier to let others know about the great benefits of using a certain product or the high score on your game. It is easier to participate, easier to voice your opinion, easier to show off your unique tastes and hence from a brand’s perspective easier to increase the perceived value of their product or service.
 There is a talk about this by Rory Sutherland – Life lessons from an ad man
 Jesse Schell on the Facebook games era – DICE 2010: “Design Outside the Box” Presentation
We made a subtle but important change to Cadmus recently. We added the user’s (your) posts to the stream as well. This means that Cadmus now shows your activity as a part of the trending conversations. This is really helpful to pick up on those conversations that you started with your friends. Below is an example of a post I made and the resulting conversation.
So the next time I check in to Cadmus this post would be at the top and I’ll be able to keep up with it.
You can check out the interview here. It is in both French and English.
A huge thanks to Flavien Chantrel for putting it up.
Louis Gray posted his deck from the Bay Area Real-Time Web Meetup at Oakland. It highlights the problems that we are facing today. He boils the problem down to its three main causes; there are too many places to share, it is too fast and there is too much noise. And then he hits on what I feel is the biggest problem of all; the fear that we might miss something important. The fear that one out of the thousands of updates we see through these services has something important.
If I was to tell you the single most important goal that we have with Cadmus, it would be to relieve you of that emotional burden. There is nothing worse than checking into your social media services feeling like you need to read all those “unread” updates or else you might miss out. And with every new service and every new connection the burden just grows until we just shut them out all at once.
With Cadmus we flip things around; instead of feeling tied down by these social media services, we make it so that when you check in we find the that important bit of information you need to hear. So instead of getting pinged constantly about the new updates, you can check with us and find exactly what you need to know since the last time you checked in. All of a sudden you are in control of the information and not the other way around.
As Twitter continues to grow and we start following more people, the signal to noise ratio starts to drop. When I check into Twitter I find it really hard to get an idea of what my friends are talking about by looking at my stream. While the Trending Topics in Twitter gives me an idea of what every one is talking about, it doesn’t really interest me personally. So we set out to fix these two problems and we feel we have a really good solution for both.
Cadmus finds similar posts in your stream and groups them together. It also takes @replies and links them into a conversation. By doing this we get a cluster of posts that represent a conversation. We then place the most relevant conversations on top. We also present them in different time spans. The end result is that you can easily see the top conversations among your friends and also participate in them.
Cadmus also looks at the posts your friends are making and picks up on trending topics. This gives you a clear idea about what is the most discussed topics among your friends. By indexing this in real-time, it is also a great way to see these discussion evolve. This helps track the buzz on product announcements and news topics. And since we are tracking trends among your friends, you are not going to get the noise that you usually see through Twitter’s Trending Topics.
Incidentally, I had a great chance to test this as I watched the “Google Buzz” trending topic steadily rise until it became the most important thing all my friends were talking about. It was also utterly fascinating to watch the posts come through on this in real-time.
With Trending Conversations and Topics we feel we have taken a huge step forward in helping people make sense of all the information they see through their social media services. So give them a try and let us know what you think.
Thanks to @mliao for reading over this post.