What's Working In Marketing™: The Future of Social Media with Andrew Delaney, Senior Manager of Social Media at HubSpot
What's Working in Marketing™ is a podcast where we uncover what’s working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world’s best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. Join us if you're ready to learn what's working when it comes to your marketing efforts.
On this episode, we spoke with Andrew Delaney who is the Senior Manager of Social Media at HubSpot, the leading growth platform that provides marketing professionals with the tools they need to grow better. Andrew shares his take on the current state of social media, where the best opportunities for brands are today, and how to position your brand to capitalize on the future trends.
Here's a full transcript of my conversation with Andrew:
Charlie Grinnell: On this episode, we're talking with Andrew Delaney, Senior Manager of Social Media at HubSpot. Andrew, thanks for joining me today.
Andrew Delaney: Thank you, Charlie. I'm excited to be here.
Charlie Grinnell: You and I used to work together at Red Bull and you've gone on to do some really cool things at HubSpot. Can you share your background with the audience so that they can have an idea of who you are and what you're all about?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah, sure. I've been working in social now a little over 10 years. I started back in 2008, 2009 working promoting concerts across different venues in the New England area. Really was giving up truly to learn a lot about social and just kind of now that I've worked in it for 10-plus years, I've really had a chance to see it evolve, I've seen new platforms come up, new types of utility, new ways users share content. The platforms have evolved a lot. I think also user behavior has changed a lot and it's just been a really exciting journey thus far. I'm excited to see what comes next.
Charlie Grinnell: You've worked in social a long time across a variety of different industries and verticals. What keeps it exciting for you?
Andrew Delaney: I'm super grateful to have had the change to work in social for as long as I have. I think a lot of people maybe in the past have seen social as like a short-term thing or a stepping stone to something else, but I'm pretty committed to having a career in social, which is maybe not unique but maybe not the most common path, either. I think part of that is just because when I joined social I felt like it was still the Wild, Wild West, at least in terms of businesses and pitching products to consumers versus it's been consumer product all along, but the business side back in 2008. 2009 was still really starting to develop.
Andrew Delaney: Having worked in it for so long, I still feel like it's the Wild West and I still feel like there's new changes coming, new platforms, new features. You have to continually stay on your toes to figure out what those are and to adapt and to change to make use of them. That's what keeps the role so interesting for me.
Charlie Grinnell: With social always changing, how have you structured your team at HubSpot?
Andrew Delaney: Sure. My team is structured in four pillars. The first one is content, and that's the team that covers all of our written content, our video content design content, all of the stuff we publish across our channels. The next pillar is insights, analytics reporting, whatever you want to call it, and that's a team that builds all of our dashboards, reports on all of our performance, and provides insights across the whole team into what's working best.
Andrew Delaney: It's kind of like a pillar that extends across the entire team. Another pillar is our campaigns pillar, and we work in that pillar to support all of the different teams within HubSpot to get all of their different products and services and initiatives and launches and announcement, all of that good stuff out to the world. They're kind of like the main point of contact for the business as a whole internally to then coordinate with the rest of the team and get all of the messaging out into the world.
Andrew Delaney: The last one is community team, and that's where all of our publishing, our community management, engaging with the audience, kind of keeping track of what's going on on social. I find the four are set up in that way, really. Just like if you think about it, none of those teams can be successful on their own. They all need someone else and it really forces people to work really cross-functionally, which I think is a great benefit.
Andrew Delaney: Another upside, and something you've probably seen before, is other businesses might structure teams via platform where there's like a Facebook team, an Instagram team, like a YouTube team. I prefer not to structure teams like that. I think it creates less flexibility. You do sacrifice maybe a bit of expertise or even on the people that people focused on each different platform, you can build a high level of expertise in those platforms, but the downside is as new platforms come up, you can't always quickly enough adapt into taking on a new platform with that structure.
Andrew Delaney: Another downside is with a structure that's platform-based, it creates more competition amongst the team itself. If the Facebook team is doing well and the Instagram team is not doing well, it's creating conflict between those two teams and it might not necessarily be the work they're doing. It might just be the audience that exists in my channel or the way this campaign was messaged or the goal of the campaign. If you start looking at it on like a very granular level, you can kind of create more competition between team members and I don't think that's healthy. I do think some competition is healthy in the sense of encouraging growth and encouraging people to be better, but I don't think team structure is the right way to solve for growth.
Charlie Grinnell: That makes me feel good to hear you say that because it makes me feel like I did things the right way when I was building teams.
Andrew Delaney: I think the context you add definitely helps make it really clear and really kind of illustrates some of the different benefits and disadvantages to structuring teams in different ways. There's a lot you can talk about on that topic, but it's definitely something that I enjoy thinking about.
Charlie Grinnell: Continuing on, I'd like to talk a little bit about your approach to strategy because I've always found you to be an incredibly strategic thinker. I'd love it if you'd break that down and talk a little bit about your approach.
Andrew Delaney: Sure, yeah. When I think about strategy, the first thing I think about is goals and goal setting and really trying to make sure I understand the problem at hand so that as I work through that problem, I'm solving for the needs of my business, or my team, or my customers, or my clients. I think that's always the right place to start. I tend to be like a realist as well and...
Charlie Grinnell: What do you mean by that? I'd love to know what you mean by realist.
Andrew Delaney: I love thinking about what could be and I think later we'll chat about the future and we'll talk about a lot of things that could be, so I can get out of my realist mindset, but when it comes to like really thinking about what makes sense for the business where I work in or if I'm consulting for somebody else, is really trying to think of like, "Hey, your business might not be the number one brand on social media." That's okay, but trying to do that as like tomorrow is also not realistic.
Andrew Delaney: I have a lot of conversations with a lot of people who want to do great, huge, big things and those are great ideas, but it's just not attainable because at the same time, I believe so much in the value and power of social media, so to have to tell someone like, "Yeah, it's just not realistic", it's really hard because it makes it almost sound like I don't believe in it. I do, it's just there's the path to get there. It's not overnight.
Charlie Grinnell: I absolutely agree. I think that there's almost like this myth of virality with social media. It's like you hear these stories where it's like, "Oh, with an iPhone I made this video and I got 10 million views and now my business has exploded", and blah, blah, blah. I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, it's that easy? Cool. I have an iPhone. I'll do that." On one hand, I admire the low barrier to entry or the democratization of social media, content creation, that sort of thing...
Andrew Delaney: Yeah, me too.
Charlie Grinnell: But I think on the flip side of that, people in business, I've seen this in the past where they're like, "Oh yeah, it's just social media. Go figure it out. Get phone and go. Why do you need budget? Why do you need structure? Why do you need these things? Can't you just go make a video that gets us a ton of views and go from there?" I find it tough like with you, where I do believe in the value of it, but I think gone are the days of like, "Oh yeah, just go and kind of shoot something or create a piece of content or do this without really thinking about it." I think you do have to look before you leap because of how saturated it is. It's interesting to hear you talk about that and have experienced that as well because it's going to continue that way.
Charlie Grinnell: I believe that we're still going to see more and more people on social media. That's what we're seeing. We're seeing internet usage around the globe go up. We're seeing social platforms are growing and getting bigger. More people are coming online, and that means it's going to be noisier, which means that you're going to have to "look before you leap", and I'm using air quotes here. I also really liked what you said about practicality. I think that's something where it is that balance of you want to go, I'm using air quotes here again, "go viral." That word makes me kind of cringe. I think that what you said about going back to goals and linking things back to business objectives through a business context is bang on.
Andrew Delaney: Yeah, and thinking about virality, to me it's kind of like gambling. If you're going to make some really high-quality piece of content, the chances of that really striking gold, it could totally happen and maybe that would be great, but that's not the realist side of me. The chance of that actually happening is so slim that I have much more of like a non-flashy approach, and I think maybe that's just me as a person, but at Red Bull, like say we had a video that has 200 million views. In our team, that's great and that's a big success and that's wonderful, but when I look at like over the course of a year, if we just keep grinding it out what we can accomplish, that's just a small percentage of what we actually achieved and in the grand scheme of things not that big of a deal.
Andrew Delaney: It's crazy to be like, "Yeah, 200 million views. What's the big deal?" All of the little pieces of content we made all year leading up to it have far more of an outcome than that one big piece.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, it's interesting and it's almost like the sum of the parts is worth more than the one big one, right? Or the one big one is because of the sum of the parts.
Andrew Delaney: Right, that's another way of thinking about it. You're building up that audience, you're continuing to engage them, to retain them, and then you're dropping some awesome piece of like A+ content. Now, you have a much better chance of that being successful versus you have a tiny little community and you're dropping a piece of content that cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. The chance of it doing something is probably slim.
Charlie Grinnell: That's definitely an interesting topic is like this idea of, and I think you and I have talked about this in the past, is raw versus polished. What does the perfect piece of content? We're never going to get to that like, "This is the perfect thing." There is absolutely luck that goes into it. I like to think that the good get lucky, right?
Andrew Delaney: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charlie Grinnell: The harder you work the luckier you get. That's a phrase that my Mom always says to me, but I think about there is some things that you can't explain. Even from an analytics perspective, there are always anomalies. Our team at RightMetric sees that. I'm sure you and your team at HubSpot have seen that where you're like, "Yeah, this went well. We don't really know why, but it went well." There may not be a way that you can kind of recreate that as well.
Andrew Delaney: That's kind of like a nice transition, actually. When we look at different pieces of content, we don't normally measure success or failure based on a single piece of content because there's way too many variables that could impact why it did well or why it didn't do well. Instead, we set up a lot of content tagging and we look at a number of different variables across a number of different pieces of content so we can try to look at trends over time. I think RightMetric does a lot of that as well.
Charlie Grinnell: One of the things that you and the team at Red Bull used to do was called Party Time. Can you explain what Party Time was?
Andrew Delaney: Party Time started off just kind of like this, just a conversation that evolved into a series of conversations and then became a thing across the business at Red Bull, which was pretty wild. I used to have a slide that explained how Party Time worked, and it was like a little flywheel, and the first phase was like, "Let's talk about ideas." We would just talk about different things that we thought might be interesting to try. The next step would be like, "Can we measure any of these things? Okay, what can we do? How can we do this? Or can we not do it? Is there another way to do it?"
Andrew Delaney: Then, the next step would be like, "Okay, let's create content to try these different ideas." Then, the last step would be, well, I guess there's five steps. The fourth step would be to publish that content, see how it does, and then the next Party Time or a few Party Times later, because sometimes content doesn't all get done in a week, is to look at how it did and kind of measure those results and to keep trying new content formats, new ways to look at things just to kind of keep trying to optimize the content we're making.
Andrew Delaney: At Red Bull, we were already operating at such a high scale that like a 1% improvement could be huge for the business and it was much more of us trying to find the small areas we could improve versus some radical step change. I think depending on where your business is and how advanced it is, if you can take on those big sweeping changes and make those huge radical changes for amazing growth, you should totally prioritize that first. Once you're a little more established and hopefully have already covered a lot of that white space, then you kind of need to take the next step and try to figure out where you can make those incremental gains.
Charlie Grinnell: I want to dig a bit deeper into the content tagging aspect of Party Time that you mentioned. How did that work?
Andrew Delaney: We know there a lot of like existing metrics that are common across social measure we already use to measure performance on, when you try to go deeper, a lot of times we're looking at ways to improve our content and we would use content tagging to do that. We would create different custom fields. If you have like social tools, some social tools allow you to do this, and then directly, if you have a Google Sheet you can do it in a Google Sheet. We basically just like make a column, add the name of the column, and then a bunch of values within it.
Andrew Delaney: An example could be like let's say you're doing a bunch of Instagram content and you're testing different font colors. You could have a field that's called The Font Color, and the colors could be red, blue, green, whatever, and then as you're making different content, you can see what's working best. Now, that's a bad example because most brands you already have your brand colors and you can only play so much, but maybe you're doing that across two or three of your primary and secondary colors. You switch them when you can. Other examples of fields would be like aspect ratio or, is the caption a statement or a question? Or, this is one of the hardest we ever did. Does the post have an emoji in it? Does that make any difference?
Charlie Grinnell: Oh, interesting.
Andrew Delaney: Just all different ways to think about things just to see what would drive more engagement from the audience. Then, if we were trying to pull those insights from a single post, it's not usually enough because maybe we'll just like the post. There's just not enough to know for sure, so we do it over a wide range of posts to figure out like trying to just control as many different variables as we could and to see over time if there's any trends we see with any certain types of posts doing better or worse than others. A lot of times, results are inconclusive and that's kind of something you have to be okay with, but there's definitely a lot of good findings we would find along the way, so it's super worthwhile.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, and it's just like one of those things where just because you can drill down into that one specific post doesn't necessarily mean you should, right? Am I hearing that right?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. I think that's definitely part of it, and the other thing, too, one of the tough things we found later on with doing this was you get into such a place where things are so optimized, it gets hard to try new things. You have to really make time to try new things and bring in new fields and to try new experiments, even if you kind of think they might not work because otherwise you just get to this place where it's like you're super optimized for what's worked for the last three months, but then you just kind of like, "Okay, what's next?" Just kind of continuing to ask yourself that question and trying new things is a crucial part of it where if you just focus on the data, you can definitely go for luck.
Charlie Grinnell: Before we talk about the future of social in a little bit, I'd like to touch briefly on the present. With us currently in the middle of a global pandemic, what steps did you take to adjust your strategy at HubSpot during this time?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah, it's definitely interesting times right now. We have made a lot of changes as things started to develop. The first thing I have always learned in different let's call them crisis situations is we just try to cut back, at least in the very short term. You don't want to be part of the noise because it can come off as really insensitive and hurt your brand. That's generally the safest. For steps, sure, maybe there's still opportunity you're missing, but I'd rather sacrifice a little opportunity in the short term and not do any long-term brand damage. I think that's just an important thing to keep in mind.
Andrew Delaney: Then, it's kind of like you start to think about what people are going through. How can you help the people in your social audience? Your customers? Your partners? Are there any opportunities there where you can kind of do some good that would also align with your brand and what you can do and what you can change? I wouldn't never talk about anything medical-related because I don't have any sort of expertise there, but if we're talking about like how to run virtual events, there's a time after a little while where people are probably interested in running virtual events.
Andrew Delaney: They're trying to figure out, "Okay, how can I still grow my business? What can I still be doing?" I think there's different kinds of content you can make and you can share a lot of what you've learned that can be valuable to those people without being insensitive. It's certainly a fine line to walk.
Charlie Grinnell: I have a related follow-up question. How do you think all of that ties into brands building community?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah, I think it's super valuable to create a space for consumers to be able to chat with each other. We already see it now where you or I might be researching a product and we read product reviews and we care about what other people are saying. It's almost sometimes like you might trust the review on the internet of someone you don't know more than what the brand is saying about the product theirselves. That is kind of incredible to me where it's like someone on the street said something to you, you might not like take their word for it, but if you read it on a product review like on Amazon or something, you'd be like, "Yeah, I'm going to try it because this random person suggested it."
Andrew Delaney: I think there's more we can do there in bringing people together through Facebook Groups or other channels. Having people have a conversation with the other, share what they're learning, make recommendations, I think that is super valuable and I think if you can build a more human connection between your brand and those people by creating that space, it really allows people to build a lot of affinity towards your brand without your brand needing to be such a big part of the conversation.
Andrew Delaney: Now, I think what social meant in the past, it's like friends in you network sharing content with other friends in your network or brands that you follow sharing content with you or would be putting ads in your feed or whatever. One of the things to keep in mind is when you're seeing content from your friends, you might be friends with them for a particular reason. Maybe you go cycling together and you have that in common, but if that person posts something about their car, maybe you're not into cars and that's just not for you. You're seeing a lot of content in your feeds that is not that relevant to you beyond the connection that you have to that person.
Andrew Delaney: You start having different groups around topics and communities around those topics, you can find people with maybe similar views as you or maybe different views than you, if that's what you're interested in learning more about. It really creates a place for people to expand their networks and build community in that specific space, like that niche, with people who are interested in talking about that same topic. I try to think of like you and I. We can talk about social forever.
Andrew Delaney: If we were in a social group together, it would be great, but like there might be things that you're interested in that we wouldn't talk about just because we don't share those same interests, and that's okay. It doesn't hurt our relationship at all, but you might want to have other people in your network that you do talk to those things about. I think for brands, it's the same way. I might be really passionate about a brand and you might not be, so us having a chat about that kind of feels weird, whereas if I can find other people who feel the same way about that brand, I think that creates a big opportunity.
Charlie Grinnell: Do you think that the current climate that we're in will accelerate this concept of digital communities and that brands will realize the value of being a facilitator, so to speak?
Andrew Delaney: I totally think that this shift is going to accelerate. The thing is, I don't think most brands are equipped and prepared to take it on, so I think we're going to see a lot more user-created communities and I think a lot of brands are going to be left out, at least at the start.
Charlie Grinnell: Whew, that's interesting. I like this.
Andrew Delaney: Because I think this shift is really forcing people to find new solutions to their problems and I don't think brands are as aware of all that's happening in that space right now. I think while groups were and still are a huge opportunity, I think this shift that we're going through right now is going to make it more difficult for brands.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that's interesting. It makes me think back to the rise of kind of unbranded brand accounts. What I mean by that is I think there was an account that you and I probably talked about back in the day. It's the NFL's @Checkdown account. It's an account that's run by the NFL, but it's more of like a theme page, and I think at Red Bull they have The POV page or that sort of thing. There are a bunch of different theme accounts out there. There's nothing new, but the fact that those theme accounts were being run by brands I thought was like very, very smart at the time. We're talking a couple of years ago when that stuff started or more.
Charlie Grinnell: What do you think brands are missing in terms of doing the same thing with groups? Why haven't they seen it? Or why aren't they seeing it that way? When you say you think brands are going to miss this? Why?
Andrew Delaney: I think the examples that you pulled on the NFL @Checkdown account is a great example, and that was definitely like an example of a brand building the community to really go after people with a specific interest. I think that's great and I think that opportunity still does exist in groups, I just think the situation in society right now is forcing more people to create more groups and are really looking for that place to connect. I don't think in these last few weeks brands have been as active in rapidly building it out of those groups. Up until this situation happened, I don't think they knew to be.
Andrew Delaney: I think there was a lot more runway there, but now, I think that space is going to be much more cluttered just because people are creating groups out of necessity. I think that it's just going to be harder for brands to capitalize on that. I still think there's opportunity there. I don't want to overstate it, but I just think that the path is going to start to become a little bit more difficult. Just like, I don't know, creating a new Facebook page. When you did this way back when, it was pretty easy to grow the page. You do it today, it's just that much harder.
Charlie Grinnell: What would your advice be for brands to be able to cut through the noise with things being so saturated?
Andrew Delaney: I think that this next phase is going to really create a lot of different opportunities in social media for brands and for users, whether it be new platforms that come up or new utility within platforms and new features for people to use and for brands to use. While it can be really hard in your day-to-day to try those new features and to try those new platforms, I think if you're a brand that can do it, I think it's hugely important to be an early adopter.
Andrew Delaney: For me, if I try a new platform for a brand and it doesn't work out, okay, maybe we've wasted some time or some resources or some money, but that to me is not as big a problem as if we like kind of missed the wave, so to speak, and then trying to catch up is so much harder. It'll cost you so much in the long run..
Charlie Grinnell: Yep. Try everything once. I feel like that's a good life motto. Try everything once, and then test and see if it actually makes sense. I want to talk a little bit about behaviors because I think this is something that you and I have both talked about previously that we're interested in. The one example I go to is in retail. Instagram released shoppable Instagram tags a while back and I think a lot of people when that came out, people were like, "Oh, this is the future." Then, maybe if you're an E-commerce brand, you still get a lot of traffic and conversion from Google. You still get a lot of traffic and conversion from Google.
Charlie Grinnell: You still get a lot of traffic and conversion from Facebook or other channels, but people were like kind of throwing the arm out there and going, "This is the future." Like, "Instagram shoppable tags, we're only going to shop on Instagram. I think what we've seen with other things like Peloton or even ZOOM like Happy Hours, that sort of things, do you think there are some behaviors out there that are going to stick and be accelerated by this, i.e. digital fitness or whatever? Are there others where you think... I think about Houseparty. Houseparty is killing it right now because people are trying to get connected. Whatever our new normal is after this, do you think Houseparty... is there going to be a massive drop-off because people are going to be like, "Oh, well, now, yeah, I can go outside with my friends, I don't have to sit on an app"?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. I think as we come out of the situation that the usage will drop, but I think that it's created a new pattern that will stay. I don't think it's going to go back to where... Like, say something like ZOOM or Houseparty, I don't think it'll ever be as small, and I use small very like roughly as it was prior to this. I think it's going to stay a much bigger part of society and of our culture.
Andrew Delaney: I think we'll also continue to see growth in digital fitness. I don't see that going anywhere, but similar to ZOOM, I think it'll decrease as to how it is now because I think once this is over, if people will want to go back outside but they'll want to be careful about how they go outside and how they choose to spend their time. I think it'll be a slow exit, let's say.
Charlie Grinnell: Let's shift gears a bit here. There's been a lot of doom and gloom talk about recessions and other things. You lead social at a large brand. What are some of the things that you're most excited about?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. I think people chatting more on video I think is super interesting. When I think about Houseparty and ZOOM and like Messenger calls and WhatsApp calls, there's so many different platforms that are doing like video chat, FaceTime, like whatever. The thing I wonder is like coming out of this, it's still so fragmented. I wonder if it's always going to be that fragmented or if like one would will win? Kind of like maybe you say Amazon is the go-to place for buying stuff and having it shipped to your home.
Andrew Delaney: Maybe you could say that. When you think of video chat, is there like a winner? I don't think there is yet and I don't know if there ever will be, but it's really interesting to think about where we're at right now and like, "Okay, if you were going to guess who would be a winner", who'd it be?
Charlie Grinnell: If I was going to guess, oh, I think it's an interesting one. My mind initially goes to Facebook because they have Instagram, they have WhatsApp, they have Messenger. I don't know, have you taken a video call through Instagram?
Andrew Delaney: I have not, no.
Charlie Grinnell: It's amazing.
Andrew Delaney: I've done it through Messenger, but not Instagram.
Charlie Grinnell: It's amazing. I don't know how else to say it, it's amazing, and I actually did this pretty recently. I'd encourage anybody listening to try this out if they haven't. Taking a video call through Instagram was fascinating for a couple of reasons. Number one, the quality was great, so as you would expect, audio quality, video quality great. The thing that really got me was, and this is like definitely speaks to the nerd in me, but the thing that got me was I started applying filters to myself, which you can do. I'd apply a unibrow filter, like the kissy hearts on the cheeks. I think I made myself into a Pokemon at one point, and still incredible quality. The filter was like perfectly mapped to my head. I'm moving around, I'm sticking my tongue out like a goofball and, again, no lag, no nothing.
Charlie Grinnell: On top of that, I applied the filter. I'm talking to someone, I have the filter applied, I'm doing all of this goofy stuff, but it looks great, it sounds great. Then, I can actually minimize it and it goes into the corner and I can still scroll through my feed while I'm talking to someone. As you start to layer on all of those things, I was just shocked by the quality. Then, and I'll go even a step further, then you can actually co-view things.
Charlie Grinnell: I was throwing up posts that I was seeing to the video call all in one place, and that's something where I was like, "Whoa, damn." From a nerdy computer aspect, that's really cool. From an experience aspect, I can do all of the different things that I would like to do, which is using goofy filters and that sort of thing. Then, on top of it, it sounded great. Then, to tie that kind of all together in a bow, it's on Instagram where a ton of people, me included, already spend a lot of time.
Charlie Grinnell: If I was going to make that prediction, I would think that Facebook would be the one, and I say Facebook here, Instagram would be the one because they just do such a kickass job of that. Now, that said, I recently joined Houseparty and I'm new to Houseparty, so the way that I joined that, I was like, "Okay, what's this Houseparty thing about? People are yelling about it. Okay, I'll go check it out." Download the app. I'm like, "Oh yeah, it looks cool, whatever." The thing that was so fascinating to me was the idea or the feature that they built in around network effects.
Charlie Grinnell: When I joined, obviously, it's like, "Do you want to plug in your Facebook friends? Do you want to plug in your Snapchat contacts? Do you want to plug in your phone contacts? They make it really easy to like add friends so to speak. That's social media basics, most platforms are doing that. The thing that I thought was fascinating was once you're sitting in Houseparty and you're kind of on it, there are different rooms that you can join. That's the basis of the app. What was so fascinating was you only need to be connected to one person to be able to join a certain room.
Charlie Grinnell: I would look at the rooms that were available to join and I might have only been connected or friends with one person and there was a room of eight other people and I could join that room. The discovery in that app I thought was really, really fascinating because I was able to instead of just having one, it was, "Yeah, okay, you import your contacts." Then, all of a sudden, it just starts to compound on itself. That was an aspect of Houseparty that I thought is probably what has fueled this kind of massive spike. Obviously, people are sitting at home, but the second thing, it's easy to get on. The third thing is like the compounding network effect.
Charlie Grinnell: I would say like all of that said, Houseparty was a really cool experience. I think they're owned by the same company that owns Fortnight, and while that's very encouraging, I mean, Facebook's Facebook. How are you going to like... They already have so many people on Instagram, but what do you think? Do you agree with me? Do you disagree?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. I think it's a really interesting example, as you brought up, where I think with the Instagram example, in the sense of all of those different features that you talked about like a video call, not new. A lot of companies do video calling. A place where you're already connected to like a pretty big network, okay, there's a lot of social platforms you have a lot of people on, you have like all of the contacts in your phone, not that new.
Andrew Delaney: The filters, tons of companies now use filters. Not that new. I mean, sure, there's customization in everything, but it sounds like to me with Instagram, it's just the way they package that experience and how smooth it was is what made it so good. There's nothing that unique about what they did, they just did it so well, whereas Houseparty, the feature, I have not really used Houseparty, but having the random person in your contacts join a call with you that they know and other random people, to me that's like a new feature that no one else is doing and it reminds me...
Charlie Grinnell: You're absolutely right.
Andrew Delaney: Of when like Snapchat, they launched Stories, or even Snapchat when it launched Snaps way back, it created a new feature that a lot of other platforms took and adopted and then other people put that into their platforms with varying degrees of success is Houseparty, and this feature that Beth created is like the next Snapchat story in the sense of that feature that is created, that connects to other people in different ways and creates like that use of that feature. I don't know, maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I think to me that's like a big thing that stands out there.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, and I didn't articulate it as well as you just there, but I think that with people joining, it's like the serendipitous nature of when you run into someone when you're in town. You're like, "Oh, hey, how are you?" Doing that digitally, and that was the first time that I was on a platform where I felt I was like, "Oh, this is cool." There were people that I hadn't talked to in a while and next thing you know, we're on a video chat. That's someone that I would never video chat otherwise. I wouldn't necessarily do it, but here I am and it was like that surprise and delight.
Charlie Grinnell: The fact that it came together in a digital ecosystem, I was just like, "Whoa." That's what drew me to it. I remember saying to people, I was like, "Yeah, I'm on this thing, this new app that's Houseparty." I'm like, "I don't remember when I kind of like fell for something like this." I was like, "I really like the serendipitous nature of like running into someone digitally", because before, it wouldn't be that instant. The whole app is designed to be video chat, whereas everyone has that friend from high school who connects on Facebook. You become Facebook friends, you lurk each others photos, and on you go through life.
Charlie Grinnell: That's kind of no harm, no foul, you continue on, whereas this, the fact that it has the video chat element, I just think that it's unique. You're right, it absolutely is a new feature that has been rolled out. What I'd love to get your take on and if I was going to predict, I wouldn't be surprised if that feature gets taken and rereplicated across the Facebook ecosystem. What do you think about that?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. No, I think there's a huge chance of that happening. I think with Houseparty, the really interesting thing with that feature is that you mentioned the word "discovery" earlier. It's forcing, it's not forcing, but it's creating opportunity for you to discover other people and other connections and I think what's happened for a long time on Facebook is it's really all about privacy and focusing on the people that you kind of already know. I think with the addition of groups, that's really creating the opportunity for you to connect with other people with different interests.
Andrew Delaney: Also, if I throw it over to TikTok, I think one of the interesting things about TikTok is how when you open it it shows you like the For You page and it's not people that you follow, it's just... well, there's some people you follow, but it's also a lot of random new content where the focus is really on discovering. I think for Houseparty, again, as someone that hasn't readily used the app, you can do a video chat with your friend in your contacts on so many different platforms, but that's probably not why you use Houseparty. You use Houseparty for the chance of the random person joining. Is that why you use it? I don't know, but why...
Charlie Grinnell: Now that you mention it, probably.
Andrew Delaney: Yeah, which is really interesting to think about.
Charlie Grinnell: The psychological aspect of that.
Andrew Delaney: If you and I were going to video chat, I wouldn't go on Houseparty to add you, I'd just hit you up on any one of the other platforms. I'd only go on Houseparty to add you if I wanted to see who else would join.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. That's like some deep psychological stuff. I wonder why do you choose the platform that you choose to video chat? To your earlier, point, right? There's all these different platforms and that's kind of one of the things that I was thinking about. When I think about Facebook, because I believe Facebook Messenger has video chat, WhatsApp has video chat, Instagram has video chat, and so I'm like, "It's the same thing."
Charlie Grinnell: Is it more than just like the skin in which you want to use it? Like, "Oh, you're a Messenger person, you're a WhatsApp person, you're an Instagram person." Will we get to the point where you and I can hop on a video chat, but what you see is Facebook Messenger and what I see is Instagram, but it's still Facebook? It's like you can almost choose your own skin on your end or your own user interface.
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. I think Mark Zuckerberg hinted at that in one of his last, not last, but a while ago, but kind of like having a shared inbox across all the different platforms. I think maybe that was meant more for like messages. However, I would think for video chat and stuff, I think someday we'll see that for sure in the not-too-distant future.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. That's interesting. I wonder if that's probably tied to a bigger conversation about not being able to be split up? Here's how you put all of the platforms together so that they don't actually get forced to be spun off from a regulatory perspective. Who knows, not going to open that can of worms.
Andrew Delaney: Sure, sure.
Charlie Grinnell: What you said about TikTok and the discoverability was really interesting. I actually have something that... There's a book that I read called Hit Makers and it's by a guy named Derek Thompson. He's a writer for The Atlantic and it's basically like why things become popular. In that book, he talks about there's this industrial designer, I'm butchering his name, I believe his name is Raymond Loewy, and basically he talks about this thing that's called The MAYA Principle. The MAYA Principle is an acronym for Most Advanced Yet Accessible, and so the example that he uses in the book, and I suggest you read the book, he's brilliant. I follow this guy on Twitter and I think he has a couple of podcasts and whatever.
Charlie Grinnell: Anyway, the example that he uses in the book is he actually talks about Spotify's discover algorithm. Apparently, when Spotify was rolling out this discover algorithm, there was a bug in the algorithm. It was designed to serve up new music, but there was a bug where some old songs were getting through. They were like, "Oh, we want to show people new music, so let's squash this bug. No new songs." What they noticed with their test group was as soon as they didn't allow some familiar songs in, that user engagement fell off a cliff. This idea of MAYA, Most Advanced Yet Accessible, is people like things that are new but not too new and have a sense of familiarity.
Charlie Grinnell: That is really interesting what you said about TikTok and the discover page because I'm like, "That sounds like they've deployed the MAYA Principle. Maybe there's one or two things that you see there that are familiar, whether it's you know the person or you've previously engaged or watched that type of content, and then there's going to be more new stuff that's similar to that. I think that that's something that you can apply that MAYA Principle time and time again. It's interesting to see how that kind of plays into discovery or the network effect within social media as a whole.
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. I think that's super interesting. It's not a principle I was familiar with, but the little bit you just explained to me, it sound really valuable and really apt. It would be really interesting if maybe in a future episode you're able to talk to someone who has some experience in either describing algorithms or, yeah, I guess basically just designing algorithms for social media to figure out what they're thinking about, what signals they're looking at, and how they're keeping user engagement up while still providing value to people without just putting junk content on their faces.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, fair enough. I know I should do that. I would also love to talk to Derek Thompson. Derek Thompson, if you're listening I want to talk to you. You're smart and I love your book.
Andrew Delaney: Oh yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: Continuing on this idea of looking at all of the different platforms, there's obviously Facebook Inc., so Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, whatever. We've seen like significant growth and people's attention going there. We've seen TikTok shoot up like a rocket. One of the ones that I felt has been kind of hiding in plain site or that hasn't seen as much hype recently is Snapchat. Do you agree? What do you think about that?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah, I definitely feel like for a lot of people for the last couple of years Snapchat's been kind of like second tier, if you will. I certainly don't know anything about the workings of Snapchat, but there's something about that platform that I'm still just personally really drawn to. I don't know if it's the simplicity of it or sending Snaps that expire or having chats with groups. We talked a lot in this conversation about features and there's so many different features in Snapchat I use. Okay, I'm not a huge user. I don't use Stories really anymore. I consume a lot of Stories. I very seldom post. I will still send individual Snaps to friends or to group chats within Snapchat, but we do a lot of almost like texting back and forth in there for group chats I'm with. People using filters are like, "Whatever."
Andrew Delaney: If you're like with the niece or the nephew, you're playing with filters. There's a lot of like fun things in there, too, if you're just like kind of fooling around, but I don't know. I just think it's such an interesting collection of features when you're talking about like the Instagram video call. To me that's like Snapchat has a platform. There's just interesting things that are part of it that I think people are going to stick around for even if other people kind of rip it off, which is weird because we've heard a lot about Stories and how it's been so successful on Instagram and now Facebook, but at the same time, I haven't abandoned Snapchat.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. That's interesting. I have a pair of like the first version of Spectacles and I think I bought then when we were still at Red Bull. I was like, "If I could hack these so that I could record HD video in a tiny camera that is like in sunglasses, this would be awesome for creating various different types of content." Never got around to it, but I think about... I saw their new Spectacles and they've still kind of continued to go that route. I haven't dabbled in too much, but I think they're self-serve ad platform is obviously like a welcome thing for marketers.
Charlie Grinnell: I guess the way that I look at Snapchat is I love how creative they are in terms of like the features they develop and the experiences that they're able to create digitally for their users. What I worry about is, and I think I worry about the same thing with Houseparty, is Houseparty and Snapchat are the ones who are creating this new awesome stuff and then all of the other kind of big incumbents are just going to sit back and be like, "Sweet. Everything they innovate, we're just going to replicate it and roll it out everywhere. If a fraction of our user base picks it up, great success."
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. Did you see... I think this news came out maybe like just a few days or a couple of weeks ago that Snapchat is working on syndicating their stories to other apps? I think they're building this API that allows different apps to build on top of like a Stories platform that Snapchat has enabled.
Charlie Grinnell: No, I haven't seen that.
Andrew Delaney: It's kind of a way of almost connecting Snapchat Stories into different publisher apps. It's almost like they're trying to in a way get ahead of more clones and more people ripping off like the features that they've developed. Maybe it's too late, but maybe not. Maybe we'll still see more Stories on more platforms and if Snapchat can be part of that conversation, that could be good for them.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I agree. I hope for the sake of innovation that we don't see that happen. I want to continue to see these cool platforms come out of nowhere. I think I had heard of Houseparty, but before this week like not really, but now, I'm like, "Dang, they've really done some cool stuff." I do hope they survive this. I'm not saying that they're going to go away, but I hope that it isn't just kind of like their 15 minutes of fame and then it goes away because I think if they came up with those features that are blowing up right now in terms of relevance, what else do they have in there? I think that's something we could all benefit from.
Andrew Delaney: Oh yeah, and I think with everything that's been going on, it's almost like it forced you into looking for like this new platform, or you heard about it because other people were trying to solve this problem. Or maybe it's not even a problem in the sense of Houseparty. It's just like an interesting, fun thing. People are looking for something to do. It's just in a way it's just really good timing for them, and not in like a negative kind of way, that's just kind of how the cards fell.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, right place, right time. Okay, as we kind of start to wind things down here, one question that I always ask is, obviously, social changes really, really fast. How do you stay up to date with it? Where do you get your information from?
Andrew Delaney: I think I just spend a lot of time on the platform. I probably should read more about it than I do, but I think most of the times I can kind of see what's happening as things are launched, at least, just by staying really in touch with the platforms and the features. Just trying to be on the lookout. I'd say other than that, I am a part of some different Facebook Groups that talk about social media and oftentimes I do get interesting insights from them, but I don't often go on tech news sites looking for what's new. I couldn't even tell you the last time I did that.
Charlie Grinnell: I'm curious. What Facebook Groups are you following?
Andrew Delaney: The one I probably get the most value from is called The Social Media Geek Out.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I think for me, I do a ton of reading, whether it's on Twitter from following certain industry leaders, professionals. I am reading less tech websites, and that's interesting to hear you say that. I get asked a lot like, "Where do you get information from?" I'm looking and asking people where they get their information from, so it's interesting to hear you say Groups because I haven't really gotten into Groups to consume, but I'll definitely have to check out that Social Media Geek Out.
Andrew Delaney: Yeah. Just like a few nights ago, I was on Facebook, downloaded an app on my iPhone, and I opened up news feed and I saw this giant F, the Facebook F on the bottom center of my toolbar and I was like, "What the hell is that?" I took a screenshot of it right away. I figured it was just like a test or something. I went into that group and like within a few minutes there was a whole thread of people posting screenshots about this change to the app. They're like, "Why this? Why now?" Then, the next morning it was gone from everybody and there was a whole conversation about that. To me, that was just really interesting to see and being able to connect with people that want to talk about that, whereas like if I went to my girlfriend and I was like, "Did you see? There's this new like F in the bottom of the Facebook app." She'd be like, "So? What's the matter?"
Andrew Delaney: I totally get that, but you got to be really interested in this field and work in it every day to be like, "That's really interesting. Why are they doing that? Where are they heading with this?" It just creates so many questions for me and having the community of people to speak to that about to me is really exciting. That's why I guess I'm a part of a Facebook Group about Facebook because it's something that I'm interested in.
Charlie Grinnell: That's very meta.
Andrew Delaney: Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: This is more career-oriented, but what is the best piece of advice that you have received that has served you well in your various roles working in social media?
Andrew Delaney: That's a big question and I'd say the first thought that comes to mind is a quote from a guy I used to work with probably 15 years ago. He had this saying. I don't think it was his, but I forget who he attributed it to, but the saying was, "There's no such thing as a bad show, only a bad deal." That's always stuck with me.
Charlie Grinnell: Interesting. What does that mean?
Andrew Delaney: He meant it in the context of when booking an artist, if that artist is not going to sell out the building, that's okay as long as you're paying fairly for what you're getting. That's like the very short version of it. There's other ways to make money on shows as long as you're paying a fair amount. It's really about trying to find value in things and paying an appropriate value versus just overpaying for something because it's the hot new thing.
Andrew Delaney: It's something that I've always tried to keep in mind when it comes to social is always trying to find value where others may be overlooking it. It might not be the biggest, flashiest thing, but it might get the job done and it might be something that you can just kind of grind on and crank repeatedly. That may end up yielding a better return in the long run versus going for that one hot new thing that could be a big swing and a miss.
Charlie Grinnell: It's like consistency over sexiness?
Andrew Delaney: Yeah, and it's one of those things where there's some times when you need some of the sexiness, but you can't just only go for that. You have like those marquee moments where you do do that, but I think day in and day out, that's not that realistic.
Charlie Grinnell: The one parallel that my mind goes to is like business in general. When you think about things that Warren Buffett says or whatever, it's like the best businesses aren't very sexy, they just do a thing or they do a thing very well. That's interesting to hear you say that and apply that to social because we've talked about the new features that get people all excited for, but it's like, Is the thing that's actually moving the needle, and I'm using air quotes here, this "boring thing" that has been done for three, four, five years? That's really interesting to hear you say that.
Andrew Delaney: I think there's a lot of times where it's just about making the right information available to potentially the right user at the right time. It doesn't need to be groundbreaking, but just meeting that need can go a long way.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. That's very well said. Well, Andrew, thank you so much for taking the time with me today. I really, really appreciate it.
Andrew Delaney: Thank you, Charlie. Take care.
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