Chloe Basterfield
Chloe Basterfield 18 June 2015

3 Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Social Apps

Vine. WhatsApp. Tinder. Very different apps, doing very different things - most of them social. Surely nothing there is of interest to a professional marketer dealing with B2B Big Data every day?

Vine. WhatsApp. Tinder. Very different apps, doing very different things - most of them social. Surely nothing there is of interest to a professional marketer dealing with B2B Big Data every day?


Surprisingly, there is. While these little phone apps look simple, what they do is actually the essence of Big Data marketing - distilling a mass of hard-to-quantify inputs into easy-to-understand outputs. (With clearly measurable results.)


So what’s the secret of their success? Here are three thoughts for marketers,  all applicable to database-driven marketing at all levels.


  1. Trade a long questionnaire for a simple action. Take Tinder. It’s an app that lets people meet interesting strangers nearby, such as in the same gym or bar. (All the app does is scroll through photos of consenting users and invite a “swipe” left or right to indicate approval - or not). Mutual approval frees them to exchange messages and meet up.


Compare that to the long questionnaires found on many dating websites, or sadly, on many marketing signup forms. By attempting to squeeze every morsel of pre-qualifying data out of the prospect, signup forms scare away almost all of them and conversion rates nosedive.

Hence our first learning: trade precision for appeal by making it easy for prospects to express interest. The size of the potential sale should not be proportional to the number of fields on a newsletter signup. (As the classic Lightspeed study confirms.) For cold suspects, your goal is to get a friendly touch in… not a stern winnowing.


  1. Look to remove that fraction of a penny of cost. Many professionals don’t “get” short messaging app, WhatsApp. It seems to offer little more than SMS messaging - with the added hassle of a download.


WhatsApps’s mostly young users see it differently. Their contacts run into the thousands; they manage such lists through social media - not a list of phone numbers. Predictive text to them isn’t a useful extra, it’s a fundamental human right.


WhatsApp messaging uses a Web connection, with no impact on the user’s SMS monthly allowance. For anyone on a student budget or studying abroad, that’s a big benefit.

These tiny savings of cash and effort, multiplied by many millions of users, add up to a lot of brand value for WhatsApp. So to our second learning: what tiny extra can you offer that customers might find disproportionately loveable?


Perhaps a Call-me-now button on your marketing emails, instead of a phone number? Or an alternative to Captchas as they work but everybody hates them? Look for that bit of effort that may result in an abandonment and remove it.


  1. Learn the principles of gamification. Six second videos? What’s the point of that? It’s what Vine does: let users upload and share (very) short videos they’ve made.


Vine’s real USP, however, is murkier: it’s a game. Videos on Vine must “loop” - end their six-second run with roughly the same image they started. It’s hypnotic, gives rise to clever creativity and leads to videos being watched millions of times.


Vine’s success lies in the way it specifies a narrow rule with a big reward. That’s a principle of gamification, making people work harder by making aspects of their jobs game-like. Any gamer who’s spent an entire weekend searching for that unusual laser gun in an apocalyptic wasteland knows what effort he’ll put in if the weapon’s rare enough.


At six seconds, a Vine isn’t asking for much investment of your time. (Especially compared with the minutes the average marketing presentation movie takes to get started.)

Hence our last and broadest learning: make engagement rewarding.


There are numerous ways to do this. Instead of your Security Question being the usual Mother’s Maiden Name, ask for their favourite colour. Then use that colour as the backing on the thankyou page. Or add “Do you know your name’s an anagram of XXXXX?” to your acknowledgement email and ask them to enter it at your website for a special offer.


(Back in the 1970s, Epson asked for prospects’ favorite singer on its magazine ads - and briefed telesales on greatest hits before the prospecting call. A creative use of customer data.)

Such little twists do what Vine does: keeps prospects in the loop. (And gives your sales executives some free icebreaking facts to use in that first meeting.)


Three little apps - with three Big Ideas. B2B marketers can use the same principles.



  • Don’t ask a prospect for too much info - concentrate on getting one simple action.
  • Every sliver of effort you can take away boosts your clickthrough rate.
  • There are ways to make the engagement process fun!


Learn more about how to use your marketing data! Check out the Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Data Management. 

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