The Rise Of The Social Machines
When Twitter allowed users to embed a word or phrase preceded by the symbol formerly known as the “pound” sign into a tweet, it revolutionized social conversation. Suddenly people could talk about specific topics and find others who shared their interests. Eventually, Facebook and Instagram adopted this secret language and Google began tracking it. That’s when brands began using hashtags to codify social marketing campaigns, and smart developers started programming machines to react to them.
First came the vending machines. Companies figured out how to dispense swag (t-shirts, earbuds, plush toys)—sometimes even snacks and beverages—whenever anyone tweeted using a unique hashtag. When the practice of taking photos of oneself (selfies) became a thing, hashtags grew even more popular. Pictures that could say a thousand words might only say one or two words to pack a social punch. That’s when Photoboxx, developed by a wedding photographer with a vision to go beyond the photo booth, came up with an idea.
Adding Oomph To Interaction
Photoboxx is a portable system that prints branded selfies. The “box,” which can also be branded, contains a photo printer and software that scans social media looking for photos associated with a single hashtag. When it finds one (meaning someone posted a photo to Twitter or Instagram), it automatically prints a hard copy. Besides the hashtag, there’s a two-inch by four-inch space on the photo in which event hosts or brands can get clever. At $1,950 per day (including supplies) the solution also provides post-event analytics: prints, users, impressions, reach, and interactions.
Photo printers aren’t the only devices that Photoboxx has managed to socialize. The firm also offers social walls—video screens that capture the hashtagged photos as they’re released into the social ether. The printers and walls work well together. “Attendees are seeing those photos up on the big screen and then they’re also seeing them printed out,” says Sam Schoesler, business development manager at Photoboxx. For event organizers with an overly “creative” guest demographic, the selfie stream can also be moderated.
When Worlds Combine
Social machines could signal the decline of their non-social counterparts. Take photo booths for example. “The way we see it, there will be fewer and fewer physical photo booths. The goal of event planners is not only to get people into a booth. It’s to get them to talk about your event and your company on social media in exchange for a fun photo activation,” Schoesler explains. The Internet of Things will only make it more difficult for device manufacturers to avoid giving their products—from coffee pots to light fixtures— the capabilities they need to adapt to a connected world.
If Photoboxx’s client list, which includes CenturyLink, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Harley-Davidson, the Seattle Seahawks and others, is any indication, social machines are on the rise. Event planners and brands are looking to amplify the real-life engagement that’s happening at events as attendees add a second, social layer to their experiences. Photoboxx is leveraging the trend, which could eventually envelop other social media sites and devices. They’re even looking into developing a Software-as-a-Service platform to manage it all. Cup of coffee or a phone charge for a tweet? #check.