Parked in Neutral: One Girl’s Vote on “Thumb”

(Assignment Snapshot: Midterm Project for Intro to Multimedia Communication, MMC5006, University of Florida (Masters Program in Social Media) Comprehensively review a social media channel assigned to you (in this case Thumb) and become a subject matter expert, providing history, effective practices, enhancements, etc. Your mid-term should be from a brand’s point of view, meaning don’t explain how to use your channel on a personal level, but how a company would)thumb_logo_black_high_res_tagline-b54394a04038935e0c41361fd06e7acd

I’m going to date myself a bit here but in the few weeks, I have spent as a Thumb user, I feel like I tapped my inner Siskel and Ebert.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert

Thumbs up.

Thumbs down.

Thumbs up.

Thumbs down.

As my time comes to an end with Thumb, (and it IS coming to an end) I was planning on giving the basic consumer app and site, a  Thumbs down for businesses and brands. Moreover, I was all prepared to spend this article blasting Thumb as a giant waste of time…period.  Then I gave it some more thought. Who am I to judge how people spend their time? Given the app’s popularity however (infograph below), there is clearly a consumer for everything.

Data from September 2012

Data from September 2012

A couple of things to note: I used the regular, basic, consumer-focused Thumb. It has its issues, which I will get into, but I can see the concept’s potential.  As I researched, I came across  Thumb Pro for Business…a little redemption, in my opinion, for this growing app. Brands and companies should pay attention to Thumb Pro. More to come on that in a moment.

So what is Thumb & How did it come to be?

Thumb is a social network geared primarily toward mobile users but also comes with a web version. The company is based in New York City and according to LinkedIn employs 11 to 50 people.  In a 2012 interview, co-founder Dan Kurani identified Thumb as a mobile, opinion- based social network that facilitates instant opinions from real people, in real time. Thumb was created by Kurani, Mike Melli and Matt Holloway in 2010 and launched under the name Opinionaided. (Devindra Hardawar) (Gabriel Machuret) The app rebranded in 2011 as Thumb. It is similar to other Q & A sites like Yahoo Answers and Quora but what makes it unique is its focus on opinion instead of facts. (Devindra Hardawar) While Thumb is labeled a social network, it could also be considered a content community because some of its features.

What does it do & How does it work?

Here’s a little demo put together by the makers of Thumb:

 

So as you can see, Thumb is an opinion polling platform. You could call it a digital focus group. Users ask questions and receive answers. From my experience, no question is off-limits. Users give a thumbs up, a thumbs down or a neutral vote and can add comments.

Questions include an image which you must insert to post. You can add your own from a gallery, take a new one or insert one from Google images. Then let the opinions commence!

Features:

To use Thumb, users create a profile.  Thumb offers the option of creating a friend list manually, via Facebook, Twitter and Contacts. Users then ask questions. The network completely lives and dies on votes so once you pose your own question, a pop up window encourages you to “help others and go vote while you wait on your own results”. You don’t have to ask questions. You can simply be a voter but if you do ask, you should return the favor and go vote. Users can choose to ask questions to men, women or both and can choose to ask to the public or just their friend list. Additionally, there are several categories (see below) that you can post your questions to.

The categories above are why one could make an argument that Thumb is also part content community. For example, I posted a question about a handbag with a photo and sent it to the Style & Fashion category. I engaged in a chat (another feature) about Thumb with a voter after revealing my newbie status.

 

As you can see, Joel (who I do not know personally) likes Thumb because he works in the Fashion industry. He searches this category to focus his votes in an area he has an interest. Thumb also utilizes hashtags so someone interested in fashion but with a more specific desire could search #shoes. Once again, the hashtag brings like-minded people together.

Social Channel Integration & Mobile Friendly?

Thumb integrates with the two big guys in the social sphere by allowing you to additionally send out your question to Facebook and/or Twitter.

 

That feature though appears to be only available on mobile.  Speaking of mobile, Thumb gets a thumbs up for its mobile-friendly nature but since it is designed for mobile, this is to be expected! There are more features on the mobile app than the web-based version such as the social channel integration.

Coins & Stars

On both web and mobile, users can accumulate stars from other users as a mark of achievement or status. Stars are given for voting or making comments. There’s no rhyme or reason…it appears to be purely subjective. The more stars you receive, the higher your status. If you get enough stars, you become a Top Advisor in that category. On the Thumb site under their FAQs though, a number isn’t given to quantify a “Top Advisor”.  Users can also view their friend list in a leaderboard and see where they rank as a result of the stars.

 

So what does that status give you? In my opinion, nothing really. You can share your achievement on Facebook or Twitter. On the mobile version you can also use stars to buy coins. The coins are virtual currency that can be used for many things including acquiring more votes, upgrading to a banner free version and seeing who has viewed your profile.

 

Users can also pay good old-fashioned real money to buy coins and upgrades.

 

Since I am a rookie with Thumb, I did not achieve Top Advisor, super star status in the couple of weeks I played with the app. So I can’t show you screen grabs of what that can do for a user. I did find this list of  in-app purchases available according to the I-Tunes App Store:

  • 30,000 Coins     $4.99
  • 100,000 Coins     $9.99
  • Profile Visitors in the last 30 days     $1.99
  • Disable Ads Upgrade     $2.99
  • Question Boost 250     $4.99
  • 300,000 Coins     $19.99
  • Mustaches Sticker Pack     $0.99
  • 1,000,000 Coins     $39.99
  • Street Effects Pack     $1.99
  • Memes Sticker Pack     $1.99

Thumb’s Target Audience & A Look at the Numbers

For the basic app, there is not a target demographic. It’s truly a wide open field and founder Dan Kurani seems to like it that way. He told Apps with Passion, “that the main feature of Thumb is the ability for any person, young or old, to ask a question and instantly receive feedback from potentially hundreds of people in just a matter of minutes…” So who is using Thumb? Take a look:

Who is using Thumb?

Who is using Thumb?

The app is clearly designed to appeal to an audience without borders as well. Kurani explained that, “Thumbs were already a universal sign sentiment internationally – just picture two people who don’t speak the same language trying to communicate to each other, more often than not, they end up using a thumbs up/down…” (Gabriel Machuret)

The most recent published numbers for Thumb tout 1.2 million registered users. (Darrell Etherington) The company adds that the app has seen over 1.5 billion opinions come through the network. (Jordan Crook). Users spend an average 5+ hours a month on the app and receive an average 50 to 100 responses to questions. (Darrell Etherington)

What about brands & business?

So all these numbers look great right? Why shouldn’t a brand capitalize on such a targeted tool? The basic app has a filtering problem. Inappropriate content will pop up regardless of what category filter you set. There is also a lot of clutter. As a brand, I would worry about my legitimate desire for content getting lost in the noise. I am guessing the minds behind Thumb figured this out because  in March 2013, they launched Thumb Pro for Business. (David Teicher) This was a brilliant move on their part and a way to really propel their polling product forward. Take a look:

(Here is a direct link to the Prezi for those interested: http://prezi.com/zi4r8mjep8wf/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy)

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I can’t fully endorse Thumb Pro for Business because I haven’t had an actual user experience. I have to believe though because it is a paid service with the minimum package costing $95, it has to be a targeted, more thoroughly filtered experience. When it comes to the basic app though, clearly there are some issues to be worked out. There were multiple occasions when I was asked the same question not twice but three times. So data could be skewed.

One thing that bothers me as a journalist, there is no mechanism to bypass a vote. Your only option is “Neutral”. So if a controversial topic comes up that is politically sensitive, religious based or inappropriate, there is a record of voting. There were several questions I wanted no part of but had no way to bypass short of just closing the app. I’m guessing the makers of Thumb would not want that. So…my recommendation? Add a “Pass” button.

At the heart of the app though, is a great concept and a valuable tool if worthwhile content is presented. So until the basic consumer experience is a little more relevant, practical and the nonsense is filtered out… this girl’s thumb is parked in neutral.

_______________________________________________________________________________

 Just For Fun

Since I began this by going old school with Siskel and Ebert, I thought my Just for Fun this week should be an homage to them. I came across an interview on You Tube with Roger Ebert. He was explaining the origin of the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down that the duo became so famous for. He says he basically ripped it off from the Romans. Back in the day, the thumbs up meant a lion had permission to kill the Christian and a thumbs down meant the Christian lived. In honor of the almighty “Thumb”, for this week’s “Just For Fun” I give you a classic scene from Gladiator:

Sources:

Gabriel Machuret. (October 29, 2012).  Apps with Passion: Interview with Dan Kurani – Thumb. Retrieved July 3, 2014, http://appswithpassion.com/interviews/interview-with-dan-kurani-thumb/

Darrell Etherington. (September 14, 2012). Opinion Polling Network Thumb Sees Growth Rate Double, Tops 1.2M Total Users, Retrieved July 3, 2014, http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/14/opinion-polling-network-thumb-sees-growth-rate-double-tops-1-2m-total-users/

David Teicher. (March 21, 2013). Startup Watch: Mobile Polling App Thumb Opens Doors to Brands and Researchers, Retrieved July 3, 2014,  http://adage.com/article/digital/consumer-mobile-polling-app-thumb-pro/240410/

Shel Gatto. (May 31, 2012). Thumb.It, Retrieved July 3, 2014, http://thumb-it.appappeal.com/

Jordan Crook. (June 26, 2013). Thumb Social Polling App Merges with YPulse Research Firm, Rolls Out Thumb Pro For Brands, Retrieved July 3, 2014, http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/26/thumb-social-polling-app-merges-with-ypulse-research-firm-rolls-out-thumb-pro-for-brands/

Devindra Hardawar. (December 8, 2011). Opinionaided rebrands as Thumb, targets Facebook with plans for an opinion-based social network, Retrieved July 5, 2014, http://venturebeat.com/2011/12/08/opinionaided-rebrands-as-thumb-targets/

 

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