Jelly has officially launched. The Q&A app has drawn attention from early adopters and experimenters, most likely due to the affiliation of Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. At this point, I estimate that only about one in every ten questions I see on the site are from someone genuinely asking for assistance (e.g. I'm traveling to Boston next month, what's a good non-seafood restaurant downtown?), while most posters are testing (e.g. asking "who is this" while posting a picture of a colleague) or trying to be funny (e.g. "what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow").
Some brands have been experimenting within the community as well, which makes a lot of sense. Searching for brand-relevant content in social media can be described as looking for a needle in a Mt. Everest-sized big data haystack; Q&A sites with a clear taxonomy can provide a direct path to discovering unmet consumer needs. Moreover, expert and endorsed opinions carry weight; authoritative answers are highly valuable. We've already seen this type of interaction on Twitter -- think Best Buy's Twelpforce or Intuit's TeamTurboTax answering general questions about consumer electronics or income tax asked publicly but not mentioning any brand in particular.
Given that brands have become familiar with the rules of consumer engagement on social networks, I'd expect that they'd put their years of lessons learned into play when experimenting with a new site like Jelly. But after a couple days, it's clear that old habits die hard:
It appears that some brands can't resist the urge to push messaging at consumers, rather than building credibility by listening to conversations and providing value to others BEFORE promoting their own wares, if ever.
Let's face it: the Klout-bait tactic of asking slightly relevant and totally mundane questions generates meaningless "engagement." (For examples click here; for an example on Jelly, read this.) This is a cheap trick that should be banned by smart marketers -- who should focus their energy on creating content that helps drive business results.
I certainly commend the early adopter brands (and their agencies) for their courage to experiment: General Electric, Kenneth Cole, Livestrong, CNBC, Meijer, Travelocity, Marriott, Life Is Good, Tom's Shoes, and Molson have all been noticed by users. But brands must remember that they're held to a higher standard of participation, even though a human on payroll writes the copy, takes the pictures, and hits the post button.
Jelly's functionality will certainly evolve in the months ahead and we will likely see features already common on other social networks, such as:
- cross-posting to social media accounts on other platforms (think Instagram),
- user mentions and notifications (think Twitter),
- ability to filter questions and answers seen by user lists (think Facebook),
- user ratings and badges (think Yelp),
- topic segmentation (think Quora), and
- most importantly for brands: ability to search for keywords, phrases, and hashtags (think Twitter).
Naturally, as Jelly appears to be a mobile-first service, its ability to deliver location- and/or time-based opportunities for brands could be a strong differentiator. For example:
- Any retailer concerned about showrooming could geofence its stores and monitor questions being asked to drive conversion (e.g. Target brick&mortar vs. Amazon ecommerce)
- Guerrilla marketers could monitor specific areas during events and answer questions to drive awareness and consideration (e.g. competing against the official sponsors of the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Cup)
- News organizations could create flash polls during the midterm elections to gauge real-time voter sentiment (e.g. opinions in red vs. blue states by county)
Brands with the bandwidth and budget should certainly get involved with Jelly -- in a way that integrates with social, digital, and overall marketing strategy. Companies shouldn't forget the lessons learned from past efforts when experimenting, which will help guide how to use new functionality -- whether in Jelly, Snapchat, WeChat, Line, or whatever comes next. Many brands will draw criticism for using yet another service to create corporate noise, but the best brands will create signal in innovative ways that build business.