Monday, June 20, 2011

Ashton's App

For some time now I've been toying with the app - Ashton Kutcher's Twitter client which launched in late May. It was a brave move but one that not only cemented Ashton as leader of the Twitter flock, but also changed the game for branded apps. Writing about it further for a case study today at work, it really hit home how Ashton not only understands the needs and wants of Twitter users, but also their likely acceptance of branded content in return for intelligent interface.

Here's how it works. is a desktop Twitter client which splits into three key content areas. There's your personal Twitter stream and the ability not just to tweet, but also to quickly add links and @ mentions, as well as a slightly dubious "tweet shortening" tool. The tool basically removes vowels and makes for some pretty hideous tweets, but the sentiment is there. Secondly, there is the Live Preview. It's this which really sets the app above Tweetdeck et al - by clicking on a tweet in your stream, the Live Preview shows you the webpage/image/video right there in-app - no more new tabs and clicking back and forth. It's brilliant.

And in return for all this lovely previewing? Streaming content from Ashton world - updates from Ashton himself, his wife Demi Moore, his company Katalyst and his charity, DNA Foundation. Or, by scrolling through the channels listed above, further content from Ashton supported streams linked to Apps, the Arts, Campus Life and so on.

Ashton really is a clever bitch. has gone beyond hoping that people will actively seek out or notice tweets from brands - or in his case "Celebrities" - and positioned it right there next to your Twitter stream. As Twitter, and indeed other social networks, age and grow, the idea that your brand's voice will be heard through the noise just because you're good at tweeting is not a risk worth taking. What proves, is that if you have the insight on your audience to give them something they'll truly use - like a great Twitter client - then you have also created the opportunity and right to give your voice, your message priority. Genius.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Check This: CheckThis

Online, there's nothing that says VIP like getting in early on a Beta. "Beta" is the testing period for new tech. It's usually limited-invite only, meaning only people close to the developers and their resulting network get a look in. And, if the product's good, there's really no greater way to build buzz than restricting availability to a few geeky influencers. Especially when those influencers are also doing the testing leg work to make it great ahead of mainstream launch. It's old school marketing in a new school sphere.

One new Beta I was invited to recently is CheckThis - "a beautifully simple publishing tool designed for the new web". At first, I couldn't work out the point of it - if I want to share content, I post it to my blog, or Twitter, or Facebook. So a week went by, and I forgot all about it. I had basically failed as a Beta tester.

But then something came up that made me want to make something - a little collection of content all in one place in a context of its own to be communicated just to the people I chose. And suddenly CheckThis had a point. Because we don't really sit down and write letters anymore, or make mix tapes as a way of connecting with people. To convey our state of mind, feelings and taste now we update, tweet and "Like". In front of everyone. It was time to find a corner of the web that could be personalised and shared, but shared quietly.

Meet checkthis from checkthis on Vimeo.

CheckThis allows you to create a unique webpage and easily add copy, images and video. The page can then not only be protected to just those with the link, but also set to expire after a day, a week, a month. An interesting feature in an age where we're all worrying about that Facebook update from 2008.

Makers can never really be sure how consumers are going to adopt their product into their lives, and that's why the Beta stage can change the whole direction of how that product is communicated on launch. I can imagine CheckThis generating a huge and loyal user base, but I would not be surprised if most of those users are protecting their pages. Saving a small part of themselves online for just one other person, not the networked whole.

ps. I have ONE invite for CheckThis left. Get in touch if you want in.