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This is one of my favorite (PG rated) some ecards. Current or former iPhone owners can relate. Your apps are in a sense like players on a team. You have your team captain, the most important app. For most this would be either email or Facebook. And then you have the rest of your starting lineup: Alarm Clock, Maps, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Safari. You also keep the second string around for when you’re traveling or killing time: Netflix, Yelp, Flight Tracker, Angry Birds, Draw Something.

How often do you use apps? Would you say you’re addicted? If you’re anything like the 762 smartphone owners surveyed in Apigee’s 2013 Mobile App Behavior survey then I bet you are. Of those surveyed, 82% said there are critical apps they can’t go without — not even for one day. Those include email (57%), Facebook (41%) and alarm clock apps (31%).

Curious about how much time you spend on apps on your phone? There are (of course) app’s out there that will actually monitor your app usage and supply you with all the horrifying details. But meantime, let’s see how smartphone owners across the U.S., UK, Germany, France and Spain use their apps:

2013Apigee_Infographic_02

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Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter feed has most likely experienced FOMO (an acronym meaning “Fear Of Missing Out”) at least once in their life. For most, it’s a weekly or even daily occurrence. I first learned about the condition during a brief autumn vacation to the mountains of North Carolina. While basking in the warm sun splashing down into our hotel’s pool area, I flipped through a copy of Glamour magazine for a little mindless entertainment. An article about women’s relationship with social media caught my eye. According to the article, the constant connection provided by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is hurting women’s self-esteem. Turns out when women see others, particularly their peers, posting (a) awesome pics of last weekend’s amazing bar crawl, (b) updates about their adventures in Mommyland, (c) a video of themselves wind-sailing of the coast of Fiji, or (d) anything better than what they are doing at present, they turn a critical lens on their own lives. Yes, our ability to tap into everything about everyone else’s lives has left us feeling highly dissatisfied and depressed with our own.

Since reading this article I’ve watched for signs of FOMO in action all around me. I quickly discovered that FOMO is everywhere and it’s not just impacting the ladies. At the MTV Music Awards the underlying theme seemed to be “NOW.” A live Twitter feed spit out real-time updates of red carpet appearances while fans were encourage to connect/comment on video generated from the awards show on Facebook and MySpace. Then all the social buzz was reported on by the MTV hosts. It was a hodgepodge of action, reporting the action on social media, and then reporting people’s comments on social media. The sponsor of the MTV awards was Pepsi featuring their “Live For Now” advertising slogan. Social media hashtags like #YOLO were bandied (“You Only Live Once”) about without abandon. The heartbeat of the MTV nation seemed to pulse “now, now, now” with each update on Twitter.

As a culture, we’re so obsessed with “now” that we’ve forgotten the beauty and simplicity of the mundane. Constant planning of and reporting our experiences to the world around us is making us want to say yes to it all and then fretting when we can’t. We’re wringing our hands, constantly checking our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds to see who is doing what, and attached to our smartphones so we don’t miss a thing. Brands and marketers have picked up on the potential power of encouraging consumers to do more by hitting that tender FOMO button. Recent marketing campaigns from AT&T and Smirnoff featured slogans like “Don’t Be Left Behind” and “Be There.”

This holiday season I encourage you to wake up and smell the FOMO in your life. Look at how much time you spend tracking your social media feeds and engaging in digital rudeness (checking social media and email while engaging in conversation or activities with others). Notice how pop stars, movie stars, advertisements, television shows, and major television networks are obsessed with the here and now. Then, take a deep breath and realize that what you’re doing this very moment is important too and forget the hype.

For more details on the FOMO phenomenon check out this in-depth analysis on the causes, effects, and implications of FOMO by the creative minds at JWT.

As you know, Hurricane Sandy is wreaking havoc on our east coast but unlike other hurricanes, Sandy is also taking over social media networks. Social media is playing a major role in this hurricane in multiple ways. Phone lines are getting bogged down with people checking in so instead people are posting to their loved ones as a way to check in and let them know what is happening. FEMA even recommended texting and posting online via their  Twitter feed. They also told their followers to use these networks to help give tips to others about the storm path and to offer tips about how to stay safe.

According to USA Today, “#Sandy has had more than 4 million mentions by almost 400,000 unique sources on Twitter, says Radian6, which tracks social media use. “Hurricane Sandy” was the top phrase on Facebook in the USA in the past day, the social media giant says. Other terms in the top 10 include “stay safe,” “storm,” “East Coast,” “my friends” and “prayers.” On the mobile photo sharing site Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, there were 233,000 photos with the hashtag “Sandy,” 100,000 under “Hurricanesandy” and 20,000 under “Frankenstorm” as of Monday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.” Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom reported, “There are now 10 pictures per second being posted with the hashtag ‘Sandy’.”

Sandy is definitely a unique storm, not only in how it is moving, changing and dumping a TON of water, but how people are reacting and communicating. Social media has changed how we act on normally, but it is nice to know it can come in handy in severe situations like this. Our thoughts are with all of those who are affected by the storm and keep posting so we know you are safe and sound!!

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare…never really my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have a Facebook account. But, if I had to classify myself I’d say I was a “light” user, checking it maybe two or three times a week. Social media didn’t play a daily role in my life.

That all changed one Sunday afternoon when my Mom convinced me to “just build a board or two” on Pinterest; coaching me through how it worked, the idea behind assembling collections of themed images to a board, how to follow her and so on. I recall the conversations changing to the dangers of social media addiction next. Little did I know how slippery that slope would be.

Since that Sunday I’ve been an avid Piner and find myself ‘selling’ or arguing in Pinterest’s defense from time to time. So, you could imagine my excitement when I stumbled across Clive Thompson’s recent article in Wired, In Defense of Pinterest. The article talks about how a therapist has been using Pinterest with her clients as a way to “paint their internal worlds.” To help express the nature of their depression, clients use Pinterest to collect photos and organized them based on themes to encourage categorical thinking and describe their emotions (and have done so successfully).

Indeed, Pinterest offers users a chance to step out of their world to create virtual worlds – fantasy dream home decor and landscaping, Cinderella weddings, and “oh the place’s we’ll go.” How is this different from other social media sites? As Huffington Post writer Bianca Bosker argued, Facebook and Twitter are inwardly focused (“Look at me!”) while Pinterest is outwardly focused (“Look at this!”). It is the world as seen through not your eyes but your imagination.

At W5, we are using the power of Pinterest to help us understand consumer behavior. Similar to the therapists struggle of helping her clients express their emotions, researchers struggle to capture the unspoken ‘whys’ that drive their behavior. You hear time and time again, “consumer can’t tell you what they want.” But they can Pin it.

Lately there has been a movement toward embracing quirky personalities and offbeat cultural trends. Do you have a beard and like to beat box Haikus? Or do you wear geek-chic glasses and say catch phrases like “wonka wonka”? Well then congratulations! You’re the new kind of “cool” weird. Society’s recent embrace of modes of style, behaviors, and human interactions that go against the status quo has become an all out pop culture obsession. In the past year, geeky cool has been celebrated in the media on screens both small (Fox’s “New Girl”) and large (the recent theatrical release ParaNorman). Now the trend has migrated to major label brands like Nike. To promote the new “weird is cool” attitude proffered by the ParaNorman film (a tale of a young boy who can see ghosts and is shunned by his friends and classmates), Nike has released a special edition of film-inspired Nike Air Foamposite One sneakers. Nike announced the new shoes via the following promotional ad:

The Foamposite One shoes, released in a small batch of 800, were up for grabs via a Twitter campaign challenging fans to tweet the @ParaNorman account with pictures of themselves being weird as a kid with the hashtag #weirdwins. Fans who tweeted the weirdest photos won a pair of the limited edition sneaks. The Nike ParaNorman campaign not only represents a great cross-brand promotional strategy (for the film, the shows, and their master companies) but also plays into a bigger cultural movement toward embracing oddities. It’s also important to note the irony of the campaign: a coveted symbol of hyped fashion trends (Nike shoes) are a reward for celebrating those very uncool, awkward, and socially embarrassing moments of childhood.

What do you think of Nike’s spin on weird as the new cool? Tell me in the comments.

A question I see a lot of lately is “how can we get consumers to be involved with our brand?” Companies want consumers to think more and raise their involvement with brands to gain a competitive edge. Historically this has only been the realm of lifestyle brands like Harley Davidson. One category that might lend some hints to how to raise involvement is sports. Sports fans are the trailblazers in terms of taking involvement to new levels.

This is clearly evident in a new ESPN short film regarding the lengths to which some fans go with this obsession, taking it well beyond their day-to-day lives. While I don’t think consumers will get to this level with everything, there may be lessons to be learned from sports about raising involvement and creating loyalty.

It’s out there waiting for you whether you like it or not. Maybe you’ll be settling into a chair by the pool when your ears pick up its sequence of cascading disco strings. Or maybe you’ll be headed to that hip neighborhood restaurant when a car drives by blaring its hook. That’s right, no matter where you’re headed this summmer, Carly Rae Jepsen’s perfect pop ditty “Call Me Maybe” has probably made it there first. But what’s the story of Jepsen’s summer song success? How doesa pop song by a little known Canadian pop songstress elevate itself from a mere blip on the tween music map to a number one on Billboard?

The answer: Justin Bieber’s social media muscle. Jepsen’s song-an ode to an innocent exchange of digits and a whole heap of anticipation for a new romance-caught a slow burn when Bieber first praised the song via his Twitter: “Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepson is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol.” After that Bieber and other pop tarts (Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale) fanned the flames by releasing a YouTube tribute to the song (notably featuring plastic mustaches and some well-placed dance histrionics). That’s all it took for the song to take off in the social media sphere and become a full blown meme. A meme is popular and long lasting because of its adaptability. And Jepsen’s song takes the cake in adaptability. Bieber and crew’s initial lip-sync inspired over 20,000 different YouTube takes on the song featuring everyone from your local tween girls down the street to celebrity pop artists (Katy Perry), celebrity personalities (Jimmy Fallon and house band The Roots) and even the male models from Abercrombie & Fitch. So with a little help from her friends (well one very important fellow Canadian friend) and the power of Twitter/YouTube world wide domination is in Jepsen’s sites.

This leaves me with just one question:How can we apply the Bieber/Jepsen “meme” model to brands?

There is no denying social media has transformed the consumer landscape over the past decade. (Whether it has been for better or worse is a conversation for another day.) Companies do not have a choice whether or not they want to be ‘social’ – nor do the industries in which they operate. Market research is no exception as seen on the infographic below, working to uncover brand insights and drive sales in the digital era.