As the Digital Revolution charges ahead and seemingly transforms everything in its path, it forces people to ingest content at an ever increasing pace. Early on the fixed Web was a relaxed environment where you could mull around on facebook, your favourite Portal and Tweetdeck maybe fire off an email here and there, but now we are all Mobile and the engagement window is massively reduced. This has spawned a barrage of platforms that’s take up is simply phenomenal and it’s all about Restricted Media.
Restricted Media is a term given to platform based products and services that encourage user generated content however with pre-set constraints such as Twitter’s 140 characters as a popular example. Others that have also arrived are Instagram’s single shot post and 15sec video, Vine’s 6sec video post, Snapchat’s 3sec photo view or GIFbomb’s short animated GIF clips.
Why are restricted media platforms and their services starting to rule the digital world? There are many reasons however the main reason is Mobile. As the Internet spreads into Asia and the developed world along with a much younger demographic in the western world, all those screens are Mobile. An enormous amount of users in the Asia are enjoying digital interaction via a Mobile screen, and that is the first screen many have ever had.
Most young people are interacting on Mobile screens also. Summarizing its recent BI Intelligence report on teen’s mobile-first usage, the publication wrote, ” we may be witnessing is the unravelling of a unitary, centralized social media landscape, dominated by Facebook, into a set of multipolar nodes. Facebook warded off the Instagram threat by buying the company, but it won’t always be possible for the company to neutralize threats with acquisitions.”
Restricted media apps make it easy to create frictionless content. Anyone can type in 140 characters, take a photo, or hit a button to compose 6 second of looping video. In contrast Blog’s, formatted Web sites and delivery networks require careful time consuming preparation and publishing.
More interesting is how these restrictions impact the simplicity of the product interface. These media restrictions mean that the product can support a smaller number of use cases, making it more personable, and easy to use. Often, you can power the entire interaction with one button, like Snapchat or Vine. Just tap a button to create content, and once you hit the limit, it’s a done deal and in the cloud, there are no issues with editing and rearranging the content.
Both the simplicity of the content, as well as the device UI, makes the whole experience much more directed and higher conversion.
In addition to simple content creation, there is the transition to context to communication, rather than publishing, which encourages a higher level of participation. The “90/9/1 Rule” is being smashed apart, (which refers to out of 100 people, 1% will create the content, 9% will curate the content and the other 90% will consume it). The content creation participation by restricted media is much higher, SMS is over 90% and so is IM, email, Skype etc. The point of communication is that all parties involved create content that’s directed at other people, and everyone participates.
Twitter has @mentions, Dribbble has rebounds, and Snapchat is all about communication. This invites people to participate, because the media can be directed at other people, and there’s a built-in context to communicate to one another. This leads to email notifications based on healthy user-to-user engagement. This drives frequency, virility, and all sorts of other interaction.
Creating content from scratch is hard. Similarly, being the first to communicate can be difficult also, anyone who’s introduced themselves to a stranger knows the feeling. However, replying is easy. If someone takes a picture of themselves making a funny face on Snapchat, then a natural response is to make a funny face back. Even more if you know that the picture was sent specifically to you, and then you feel like you owe a response. In fact most people try and respond within this virtual window of opportunity where the “hang time” in between responses can diminish the quality of the response and of course the moment.
Traditional media platforms tend to bring out the flamboyance in everybody and create show-offs, this in turn leaves people who tend not to participate because they don’t want to compete with those who are more skilled or who have more time.
Instead, restricted content creation reduces the variance in output between the low-skilled and high-skilled users, which makes it so that everyone can interact and have fun. Take Instagram and its very user friendly image filters which can propel anyone into the spotlight with a great time piece of photo brilliance, with instant feedback from many-to-one. In contrast updating a blog or a personal site would not reap the same connections.
All of the above translates to more frequent, more inclusive content creation. This fuels traction. More frequency of use means there’s more opportunities to take users through viral loops, as well as firing organic user-to-user notifications that power retention. It becomes easy, for instance (in Snapchat’s case), to ask the user to include a couple extra recipients of a photo after you’ve replied. Or after you’ve created a 6 second video, it’s easy to ask the user to share it onto a couple different social networks.
Restricted content creation needs to be seamless and with very limited user interface interaction and must be bound to a communication protocol. All these factors are inherent on the Mobile platform and the next billion users will interact for their first time on the Internet on a Mobile device.