Jack Dorsey in 2006 created a simple,small group intercommunication tool for internal use at ODEO, and soon after, Twitter became publicly available. This new tool’s designed didn’t seek to replace or displace existing communication modes. it’s design served a specific need.
A similar need led Stewart Butterfield in 2013 to publicly release Slack, the IM based team communication tool that had proved useful to his own internal development team pursuing an alternative venture.
The originating intentions behind Twitter and Slack did not concern the personalization of messages. Both focused on small team communications with a dual purpose:
- Enable team members to give and receive answers to questions that arose while working, while remaining on task; and
- Avoid fragmentation or disconnects by keeping team members up to date on change.
Small teams working in the same room, makes it possible for team members to raise questions and respond verbally. But what about teams that were no physically proximate, or co-located, and frequency with which the same information needed to be repeated lead developers to create solutions that work for themselves.
It’s remarkable that others, non-development team members, with no working relationship also found great value in the short, convenient messaging systems.
Mobility has elevated the significance of convenient, immediate communications tools evident by the growth of text messaging, and the emphasis on personalization.
Today’s array of communications options challenges all of us to think through not only the content of the message we want to send, but also select a mode that boosts the effectiveness of the message.
Messaging is the grease to social interaction. Informal physical gestures signal intent that most, but not all of us, are wired to recognize. Language-written or spoken can clarify or distort the message as the content gets processed differently in our brains.
The strategy for communications remains an art form and sadly fewer people take the time to think through the proper pairing of message and mode.
Case #1: Potato Parcel
When Alex Craig launched Potato parcel in May of 2015, it’s unclear what his intent was other than to prove a few things to himself and his girlfriend about the state of communication today. Craig took the challenge of getting marketing messages and the art of personalization to an extreme. He created a personalized message system via US mail on potatoes.
Besides the message, Craig took advantage of surprise and convenience of long established messaging systems exploiting an underutilized communications channel–the US mail. The parcel post system permits his business direct message delivery, greeting card style, handwritten on a spud. In an hour, he put his programming skills to work and created a simple ecommerce website and then posted an ad on Reddit. He knew what I didn’t, that Reddit hosts 234 million monthly unique visitors, permitting low cost mass messaging.
By September of 2015, he reported $43,000 in sales. I have no idea how much it cost to ship a potato first class across the US. His service costs $7.99 for a medium spud with a personalized message up to 100 characters, and $9.99 for larger potato with messages up to 140 characters.
What I find refreshing about Potato Parcel is the marriage of technical and non-technical to rapidly scale his business and profitability. Craig demonstrated execution skills, and
- Bootstrapped his own business to try out his crazy idea.
- Took advantage of tools he knew to extend his own learning. In his case, at 24 he applied his knowledge working in business development at Bottle Rocket, a mobile dev company, developing campaigns for major brands. In this case, it required a website that he built in an hour, complete with ecommerce
- Disagregated the Value production and leveraged only his core capabilities. Notice his business success leveraged one insight across multiple channels. He used existing networks with proven capabilities to move large volumes to allow content creators to deliver personalized messages anonymously.