The RAAK office is less than 2 miles from the Olympic stadium, and our Adriaan saw the opening ceremony dress rehearsal on Monday. However, in line with Danny Boyle’s entreaties to #savethesurprise, we are not going to tell you anything – we’re keeping stum.

savethesecret Olympic message

Social sites generating more revenue, driven by ads

Gartner has just released a report which claims that social networks will rake in $16.9 billion dollars this year, with the bulk $8.8bn coming from advertising. That’s not bad. But do keep in mind that Apple, who just announced a ‘disappointing’ quarter, made $35 billion. Facebook exceeded – just – the predictions for its quarter, making $1.18 billion, of which ad revenue was nearly a billion. Google, however, made over $12 billion this quarter, underlining that the social pure play companies are not in the big leagues. Twitter is expected to make just over $500 million, but only by 2014.

Social Media to add $1.3 Trillion to economy

According to McKinsey, improved communication and collaboration from social media will add an immense amount of economic value to the global economy. How does this chime with recent evidence that the US’s productivity growth has slowed down since the 1970′s, or that because we do things increasingly ourselves, these technolgies are moving our paid for work from the producer side of the ledger to the consumer side – for free? Could it be that social media makes us more social, but not much richer, and is that a bad thing?

Foursquare throws its hat into the ad ring

On the theme of ads and money: Foursquare has just announced promoted updates, an advertising product that allows local and national businesses to push out specials, news and pictures to Foursquare’s more than 20 million users. How will it work? When users fire up the Explore tab on their Foursquare mobile app, they will now see promoted updates from nearby businesses, but only if you or your Foursquare friends have interacted with similar businesses.

“Et tu Twitter?”, as it stabs Instagram in the back

Twitter stabs Instagram in the back

In line with Twitter’s increasingly assertive control over its erstwhile open API, it banned Instagram from using Twitter’s API to show you your Twitter friends who are also on Instagram. Is it a once off defensive measure (many services like Foursquare has the same feature) because Instagram is now owned by arch rival Facebook? Would Twitter not like Facebook to mine its user connections, or is it because Twitter is increasingly seeing itself as a media destination? Or both? By the way, this is exactly what Facebook did to Twitter, two years ago.

Twitter kills the TV star?

That Twitter is seriously moving into media territory was underlined this week with news that it is working with Hollywood producers on the release of a video series, and that talk about advertising is advanced. This sits neatly with another report that web & digital based video advertising has broken a new record.

Celebs are doing it for themselves


No wonder Twitter is getting ideas. Celebrities’ use of social media and in particular Twitter is reshaping the entertainment industry. Not only do celeb tweets become potential news stories (and we’ve built an early warning system for the Mirror Group that monitors Celebs on Instagram), many celebrities are also taking more control of how they connect with their fans. Jessica Alba sharing news of her pregnancy on Facebook first gives her fans an exclusive insight that short-circuits the traditional PR and media hierarchies. When Beyonce and Jay-Z release their baby pics on Tumblr, asking people to ‘share in their joy’, they make Hello! magazine exclusives look hopelessly old-fashioned.

Facebook makes page management easier

Now scheduling posts are possible from within Facebook, something which previously required use of third-party applications. Meh. Furthermore, to support more advanced marketing segmentation, the feature unpublished page posts now allows you to send sponsored Page posts that don’t show up on your Page, but in users’ news feeds, if they match the marketing campaign’s requirements. You guessed it – this featured is paid for. It’s an ad, after all.

Creative of the week – Philippe-Antoine Lehoux


Imagine, you’re not a big fan of RAAK. We know, it’s hard, but imagine. You can rant about us on Twitter, but thanks to FontBomb, a cheeky little app from Philippe-Antoine Lehoux, you can now also blow up our website. That’s all there’s to it. But it’s well built and good fun. So now go and blow up a site you really don’t like.

Marissa Mayer is smart, so we were a bit surprised that she took the Yahoo! gig. But if she could only do one thing, as the internet asks here, it would be worth it. And it seems Flickr’s up for it.

Oh – I get by with a little help from my friends

kickstarter odds of success
According to a study – all else being equal, the amount of Facebook friends you have correlate with your chances of successful Kickstarter funding. If you have 10 Facebook friends, you have a 9% chance of succeeding. If you have 100 Facebook friends, your chance jumps to 20%. And if you have 1,000 Facebook friends? Your chance of succeeding is 40%. So get building those networks. As Seth Godin says, Kickstarter should be your last step, not the first one. Which makes us wonder if there will be a new kind of executive producer. The guy with the big audience.

Newspapers are dying, what is taking its place?

Most journalists are not only on Twitter, they get their news ideas from it. And more than 85% of Twitter’s trending topics are now headline news topics. Yet a new study shows that amongst the non Twitter using public, Twitter is not seen as a credible news source compared to newspapers. This might be due to stories in the main stream media about celebrity antics on Twitter. Isn’t that ironic! But this week a fatal shooting at a party in Toronto, and a subsequent Reddit post about what had transpired (that linked heavily to Tweets before and after the incident) again illustrated why and how Twitter and Reddit can be a superior source of news.
Youtube news social
Also this week Pew hailed YouTube as a major new source of ‘visual journalism’. This journalism has some peculiar characteristics different from TV news: It is user produced, far less celebrity driven, longer and more varied. This confounds the current wisdom that social media is ensconcing us into ‘filter bubbles’ where we see the same stuff over again.

Ad Tweets go local

So you’re Tweeting in anger about the Bloc festival that got cancelled in London (like we did). Now imagine this: Up pops a promoted Tweet advertising Fabric, the popular Farringdon based club. Yes, now advertisers can not only target keywords like ‘Bloc’, but also locations like London, and even restrict their Tweets to only appear on the iPhone Twitter app. In other words Time Out Magazine could promote their iPhone app only to Londoners that have iPhones. More about that here.

Google Plus Pages now properly open for business

It took them forever, but at last Google has opened up their API to let developers build tools that post to Google Plus Pages. Hootsuite has already included the ability to post to Google Plus to all its users, and we expect our favourite scheduling tool Buffer to follow shortly. Now if only Google will allow posting to personal profiles as well…

Facebook fake accounts and sinking customer happiness

An experiment by the BBC highlighted the fact that 5-6% of Facebook’s 900 million users, are likely to be fake accounts. This represents 50+ million profiles set up more or less specifically to manipulate friend and ‘like’ numbers. Not an insignificant amount and it inevitably casts some doubt on the value of Facebook brand ‘likes’ and advertising spend (if you don’t buy performance based) on the platform. At the same time, a report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index revealed that Facebook’s user satisfaction has dropped 8% over the last year. This made Facebook the lowest-scoring social network, while Google+ scored the highest with 78 out of 100. Did we mention Google +’s iPhone and Android Apps are things of beauty?

Sugar and spice and all things nice

Shell social media spoof
Greenpeace and the Yes Men’s powerful campaign against Shell’s planned drilling in the Arctic has had people’s attention for weeks now. The spoof site Arctic Ready continues to dupe new visitors and this week the fake Shell Twitter account @ShellisPrepared entered the fray in a truely cringeworthy but believable way.

According to researcher Duncan Watts information spread like forest fires: If the context is right it’s easy to go viral. This campaign’s savvy use of known corporate foot-in-mouth-tropes & Shell’s branding makes it difficult to spot it as fake.

And our prejudice re multi-national oil companies provides a bone dry forest. People continue to retweet schadenfreude heavy comments on the disastrous Shell PR/social media efforts. But what to do if you were Shell?

On the other end of the spectrum, riding the positive social media wave is John Lewis, who came out on top in a consumer satisfaction study this week. The cooperative ethos of the brand is playing out well in social media which tells us again – and not surprisingly – if you are made of sugar and spice and all things nice, you will have a friendly reception on social media.

Git who?

This week one John Norman wrote an interesting blog post about Github, claiming that it is one of the most significant social networks. Github only has one million members, but it is what they do that is so significant. Git is a distributed source code management system. The “distributed” part means that it can work without any central “master” place where the code is stored. What GitHub does is layer on top of Git a central place for code sharing and discussion of the code. The advent of open source excellerated software development, but the social layer that Github has brought to open source has poured fuel on the fire.

Creatives of the Week – Aaron Koblin & Chris Milk

Exquisite Forest
Yes, them again. But then again, everything Koblin & Milk do is worth your attention. Their latest project is called Exquisite Forest and it’s a 21st century animation take on the collaborative writing technique Exquisite Corpse. How does it work? I create a little simple animation with the built-in drawing tool & I set a theme. You can then build on that film by adding your own contribution.
Result: a forest of co-created animated narrative trees.

Nice bonus: in collaboration with Tate the piece will also get a physical component at Tate Modern. And there are several trees started and curated by top artists like Julian Opie and Olafur Eliasson.

Remember the first year on Twitter? Looking at that, it seems that even the Twitter founders and early adopters thought it was about broadcasting what you were having for breakfast!

Is social media killing journalism?

Is social media destroying journalism?

If you came to our talk this week you would have learned that the answer to the above question is … well … er, yes and no. A recent study has shown that most US dailies will close within 5 years. The UK Guardian is losing nearly a million pounds per week. Meanwhile ‘struggling’ Facebook is already raking in more advertising than all US papers put together. To top it off star journalists are getting bigger than the brands they work for. So while journalism will survive in some form, the old institutions it used to have a home in are fast disappearing.

Does my ad look big in this?

Facebook is doing ok compared to newspapers, but Twitter might be much better suited to doing ads. Startup advisor Alistair Croll reckons this might be because the assymetric nature of Twitter makes it more conducive to commercial messages. We think other factors are even more important. Twitter is a weak-tie network (you follow people and stuff who you don’t necessarily know personally). Its prominent retweet feature makes information travel much further (so you see many more things and people in your timeline than on Facebook), plus the basic unit, the Tweet, is easy to ignore if you so wish.

Control has an inverse relationship to trust …

The New York Times relaxed Social Media Guidelines

Social media affords journalists and other employees unparalleled power and freedom to publish their thoughts. But how to make sure they don’t mess up, and hurt your brand in the process? The New York Times has a novel approach. They trust their smart staff to use it wisely.

… but does O2 really get this?

In the same spirit, O2 yesterday gave us a star performance in crisis handling on Twitter. In an aikido-style move, whoever managed the @O2 account replied to rabid abuse from angry customers with a series of rather hilarious tweets. They managed to make a lot of people smile and were soon applauded for their approach. Sadly, but perhaps not that surprising, yesterdays’ humorous tweets have now been removed from the @O2 account and a much more corporate customer service tone has been reinstated. Yesterday’s highlights were captured here.

On that note, do take a moment to read about the history of how Twitter’s @reply came to be. We always knew that the Retweet was a user community invention. But it turns out, so was the @reply. Twitter doesn’t leave all its development to the users, though. A recent update to Twitter’s own search enables searching only content by the people you follow. Very handy when looking for ‘that tweet you saw the other day…’.

Under Cover Viral Marketing

This one was so good, we just had to do a full blog post about it. The head of a New York Exhibition on Spy Technology did an amazing awareness campaign by posing as a homeless person, handing someone on the New York subway a $50 note and an encrypted message. This ended up on Reddit, unfolding into one of the most amazing viral posts in a while, with the poser also pitching in, with a follow-up encrypted message.

Kickstarter crosses the pond

Like clockwork, we report on Kickstarter every time something amazing happens there. Every time we think: “Wow, that’s really cool. We didn’t expect them to reach these heights”. And every time they just seem to trump there previous accomplishment within just a few months. Like now. A brilliant new Andriod-based open source gaming console just reached $4.4 million (and rising) on the Crowd Funding platform, with 26 days to go. They were the fastest to reach $1 million yet, and the eighth project to make more than a million. On that note: Kickstarter is coming to the UK! This is fantastic news indeed …

Creative of the Week – Johannes P. Osterhoff

Johannes Osterhof - iPhone

Artist Johannes P. Osterhoff (the P stands for Performance) calls himself an ‘Interface Artist’. He came on our radar this week with his lifecasting project iPhone Live, in which he will document his mobile usage with 1 year worth of screen grabs. But he’s done 10 years worth of internet & technology-based projects (like his Steve Jobs portrait), so do have a browse through his site.

Viral marketing is often seen as an art, or luck. But done right it’s exciting, and few elements work better than those that combine mystery, suspense and surprise. This example is well, top notch.

Viral Marketing Done Right

It started on Reddit. Someone posted a bizarre story about a homeless man handing him a $50 note and an encrypted note on the New York subway. The Reddit hive mind sprung into action, and quickly decrypted the note as:

There’s plenty more money to make figure this out and prepare to meet july 19 fifty sixth and sixth hot dog stand outside [intentional left blank] cafe ask for mister [intentionally left blank]

Predictably this sent Reddit into a tizz.

Shortly after, someone posted a comment in the thread, claiming to be the mysterious homeless-looking person (verifying it with a description of the bag the poster had with him the first time, on the subway). This also comment contained further leads for the intrepid collective intelligence: A new encrypted message, which Reddit quickly deciphered as:


Again, the Reddit community rushed to the scene, and did an IP address lookup on the mysterious poster’s username. It turned out to originate from the US Department of Defense Network. Curiouser and curiouser!

Then, with all attention on the thread, mystery running high, a random Redditor went back to the message and figured out:

Anyone else notice that BASE Entertainment is at that address and they have a new ‘exhibit’ coming out: The newest interactive attraction at Discovery Times Square in New York, “SPY: The Secret World of Espionage”

Turns out the mastermind behind this amazing ploy was H. Keith Melton, head of said Spy Exhibition. One random public engagement (or perhaps it was a sock-puppet submission), one comment, leading to a Reddit post with almost 10000 comments, 32000 upvotes, 30000 downvotes. That’s good awareness, indeed!

Or is it?

Net ideology holds that openess and the giving up control over net media is not only inevitable, it’s also good for business. However, are we not seeing exactly the opposite trend, lately?

Facebook’s Fumbling – or are they?

Facebook Fumbles, or do they?

Changing their users’ email addresses without their permission, Facebook behaved like douchebags again. Then, to make matters worse, they said their users are “confused”. Maybe they’ve given their PR department over to a Klingon. Techcrunch argues, however, that this behaviour was not just unreflective and uncaring. It was a calculated step over very high stakes. Control over direct communication. Google, Facebook and Apple all have tools in the email, IM, video and audio call space. Direct communication is an incredibly important and lucrative space evidenced by the fact that there are dozens of mobile carriers that have a higher turnover than Google.

Out of control – no more

It might seem unrelated, but Twitter cutting LinkedIn off from receiving its updates, is part of a new trend of reasserting control. Jeff Jarvis famously said that modern companies should become platforms to grow their business, and one way to do this has been through open API’s. (We’ve explained what an API is before, here). For Twitter this approached paid off massively, helping it grow. Maybe even causing it to grow in the first place. Now Twitter is backtracking, increasingly reasserting control, leaving erstwhile partners that built on top of Twitter behind. The reason is rather old fashioned really: It’s because businesses like Twitter increasingly see themselves as selling their audiences via advertising, and therefor need to own their media.

Tumblr stumbles – Pinterest now bigger in the US

Pinterest overtakes Tumblr in the US

This blog post looks at various sources for statistics, and concludes, that while Tumblr might still be bigger internationally, Pinterest has overtaken Tumblr in the US. PS: On the topic of closed (or owned) media, the main difference between Tumblr and Pinterest is that the latter is a united network in one interface which Pinterest controls themselves. Mmmm

Mobile is “growing like a weed”, disrupting online business models

2012 is seeing a stronger than ever shift from web to mobile. The use of mobile devices to go online is growing rapidly, a new US study shows “tablet usage is exploding” and tablets are becoming embedded in people’s lives. As NY venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote earlier this week, mobile development presents serious challenges to existing online business and service models. Mobile apps are small and feature focused. They do few things and do them well, which is radically different from the big feature-rich platforms of, say, Google and Facebook who may have to repackage their goods in the near future.

Newspapers might be in trouble but journos are in demand

As we predicted, a new report highlights how content marketing is a fast growing phenomenon. It warns, however, that content marketing is not for the uncommitted. Not spending enough on it could have the same inpact as flighting a sub par TV add. It adds: what you need is not marketing personnel. You need people that can write, make videos, and understand news and narrative. If you’re interested in this topic, be sure not to miss this seminar on Tuesday, featuring RAAK’s own Wessel van Rensburg.

Labour launches Twitter based network

No doubt hoping to emulate Barack Obama, the Labour party has launched a Twitter based network through which it hopes to organise and energise its base. We’ve signed up to it, checked it out and were rather impressed with the no-nonsense, well thought out but simple features. Most media companies in the UK – including The Guardian – has yet to launch such a bang-on product.

Creatives of the Week – Indianen

Evil Eye - Indianen

Now this is a reason to give up Spotify and treasure the old vinyl. Belgian collective Indianen have created a “record player” that reads graphics printed on something that looks like a record. Their app works both ways: it can transform an audio file into a vectorized waveform, which can be printed, but it also works the other way round: you can make random interesting patterns and then explore what they would sound like. Possibly quite awful, but as Mark Wilson says in this piece: how much fun would the world be if you could figure out what your wallpaper would sound like? Brilliant!

Everybody – except advertisers – hates page takeovers


Uniqlo did a veritable page takeover on Pinterest this week, creating a full-page scrolling animation-like effect with pins. It was to promote their new Dry Mesh t-shirt range. Over a hundred Pinterest accounts were set up and pinned from simultaneously to create an animated billboard of colour and graphics that run uninterrupted down the page for what seems forever. One of those disruptive ads that made us keep scrolling.

Google Plus is here to stay, but it's still not Open

Google+ now has more than 250 million total accounts and more than 150 million monthly active users. More than 50 percent of Google+ users sign in daily, and they also spend more than an hour on the site every day. Pity then that it still does not have a full read/write API. Yes, Google has just announced a History API, but that is more akin to Facebook's Open Graph that sends actions (like I have read an article) to your timeline. Google Plus also launched events, but Robert Scoble ranted (on Google Plus) on how spammy it was.

Foursquare becomes an even better App platform


Foursquare's always had an API. Quite an adequate one, which proved to be their saving grace, handing it some of the traffic of successful apps like Instagram. Well, it seems they've realised that, and they've turned their adequate API into a great API. This might just get them to the forefront again. In a nutshell, they've launched an API which lets your app know when one of your users checks in somewhere. On top of that, it allows your app to attach stuff to the checkin, like photos, links or text. Since the app knows about your checkin, it can also respond to it, by sending you push notifications. On the topic of app platforms, and possible trojan horses – Google has managed to get Chrome onto iOS! Yes, the bull is in the Cathedral! They were not allowed, however (and will probably never be) to bring the Chrome Extension ecosystem with them. They've brought quite a nice bag of other tricks though, like synching your open tabs and bookmarks from desktop to mobile, and my personal favourite, the universal bar, which let's you search and type URL's in the same box.

Google Glass – What's the fuss?


I'm putting myself on the line here, to be proved ridiculously wrong within a few years time, but I really don't see the potential behind Google Glass. In fact, Sergei Brin's obsession with it proves to me that he's an engineer, and not a UI expert. I just don't think putting a small screen in front of your eye will be the future of Google. I think Google's driverless cars are. A related cool project (albeit only conceptual), is Instaglasses, a retro set of goggles that lets you experience the world around you through Instagram filters. They will not change the world either – they might not even build it – but it's fun!

Weekend days are Tweet days

If you have been following the @RAAKonteurs Twitter account you probably know one of our mantras: most marketeers Tweet at the wrong time. Or rather too much in the week, while weekends are the real opportunity. For more on that go here.

Life: reassuringly expensive on a Mac

Finally a reason to get a PC. In his book, The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser argues that increasing personalisation is leading all of us down a road where we experience less diversity, less serendipity. But shit just got far more real. Orbitz – a site that sells accommodation – shows more expensive rooms to those visting them on a Mac.

Creative of the week – Dan Malec


After last week's Lego Turing machine, we're starting to see Lego everywhere. Google is teaming up with the manufacturer for a Google/Lego map project, but it was Dan Malec who made us smile the most. He's built a fully functional mini display that can be integrated into your Lego construction. For instance, who wouldn't want his Lego train station to show a realtime train schedule? Exactly. And of course it's all open source.