What is the BeReal App? With Mike Hanley Ep. 9

Episode 9 December 21, 2022 00:30:14
What is the BeReal App? With Mike Hanley Ep. 9
The Recombobulator Lab
What is the BeReal App? With Mike Hanley Ep. 9

Dec 21 2022 | 00:30:14

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Hosted By

Jason Graham-Nye Chris Dominic

Show Notes

Social media is an unwavering conversation in our lives today. But was it this way 10 years ago? You and I as well as Mike Hanley, our guest for today’s episode of The Recombobulator Lab, would agree it wasn’t. But unlike most of us, Mike was part of a digital content agency before social media even became a thing. So, he’s witnessed its explosive growth more closely than a majority of us, and even contributed to some of the biggest marketing trends, like including a quote with a person’s picture on social media, for example!

Mike has also served the World Economic Forum for over eight years before founding The Content Engine, a team that combines new technologies, including machine-learning, with best-in-class editorial and workflow processes to generate tailored, high-quality content at very high volumes for its clients. He comes with a trove of insights about social media, content marketing, and the degree of “realness” of social media platforms, and what can be done towards improving them. In today’s episode, sit with Mike, Chris and Jason, as they dig into it headfirst.

Among the things they get into:

Social Media: A Beautiful Constraint?

A beautiful constraint, Mike explains, is a time or space constraint put to something essential, like explaining a thesis in 5 minutes for example. Social media relies on this beautiful constraint to capture people’s attention quickly. What one needs to remember, however, is that we don't have to capture everybody with every post/piece. As long as we capture somebody with every piece.

Social Media: Faking Reality?

Social media has democratized our society more powerfully than anything else in recent times, giving people authority over their lives, thoughts, and opinion, and strengthening free speech. But it has also become more toxic than flavorful, given how some people are using it to show lies and tinted realities. It’s also being used to create fake lives.

Be Real: A Better Future for Social Media

Be Real, a new social media app, is calling out on fake social media behavior by building what they call is the social graph – a network of connections that form by identifying the chain of people you know. There’s no advertising involved in their platform. It works by having everyone capture a photo within 2 minutes every day at a different time. While this sounds like a good place to begin the end of the fake social media game, we’ll have to wait for time to tell if it turns out well.

Listen to this conversation to dive deeper into Mike’s knowledge database, including his experience meeting some of the world’s most renowned personalities like Bill and Melinda Gates, and discussing Microsoft’s neo-Nazi sexbot!

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Music. Hey Jason, what the heck are we doing this week? We are talking to my oldest friend from Mike from school. I'll start again. Hey Jason, what are we doing this week? We're going to brew some coffee because I haven't had one yet and I'm stumbling over my words. How are you? Sorry. 06:00 A.m.. That's right. We are here today with Mike, Haley and Serendipity. So we were the same school together 35 years ago and I hadn't seen him in 35 years. And he happened to study Japanese the year ahead of me. And we ran into each other in a small village in Switzerland in May, which we'll get into in a minute. But yeah, this week we're going to talk about digital content and social media and be real the cool new thing out of France. So yeah, we're going to talk to Mike. Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Mike, how are you? Good morning. Good afternoon. Chris and Jason Good to be here. And just to be clear, I'm in Sydney, Australia. Chris is in Portland, Oregon. And Mike, you're in? I'm in. Chamonis, France. Now that sounds fantastic. Let's talk Shamani for a second. What's happening in Shamani right now? It's September, nice snow yet, but it's beautiful. The seasons here are a bit like clockwork. So on the 15 September, it went from being, I don't know, 25 and sunny to being twelve and sunny. And right about now the boiler maintenance guy gets a whole bunch of calls, including mine because nobody's looked at their boiler all summer. But all of a sudden it's cold. Jason, you want to translate the metric for no idea. American audience fahrenheit 911. I have no idea. That's a book. Okay. From nice and warm to a little bit. Yeah, there we go. That's good enough. I got it. Wow. Great to meet you, Mike. The other cool connection with Mike is he says he splits his time between Bondi Beach, where I am, and Europe, and I was sort of Switzerland. But it's France. Is that right, Mike? You split your time? No, I have a place here in the mountains. But the reason I'm half my time in Switzerland is because I have a company there called the Content Engine. Brilliant. And so I come over here to the Content to see those people and we're going to get into the Content. We're going to get into the Content Engine in 1 second, but sorry, Chris, lead us off. Well, obviously Mike, I'm just meeting you for the first time and I'm fascinated by well, first of all, I have to just say I'm completely intrigued by the idea that you could I don't know if this is a snowbird thing, but the idea of Bonde Beach and Switzerland or France, either one, that sounds like a pretty good arrangement. What are you doing at the Content Engine? So the Content Engine is digital agency and I founded it about three years ago after I left the World Economic Forum, where I was head of digital communications, and now at the content engine, we do for other organizations what I used to do for the forum. Basically. Very cool. I don't know if that makes sense, but maybe we can. Yeah. You guys had an overlap or a connection at the World Economic Forum then? Yeah, Kim and I had this invitation to go to Davos, which is amazing, and we've never been there before, and it's a bit of a zoo. It's like a three day sprint. Mike can tell us more about the three day. It's like a triathlon. And I was sitting at the SDG tent and Mike came right up to me and said, Hi. And I'm like, oh, my God, that's incredible. So when you have seen someone for 35 years, it was just so cool. But Mike was a bit more I was walking past the window and I looked at Jason, who was on his laptop at the time, and I kind of tapped the window and waved, and he looked as if I was a crazy man because obviously he didn't recognize me at all. Go away, Mike. Yeah, we had to explore our common part for a few minutes. Aren't you Graham? You're graham jason somebody. Yeah, that's Jason's rosy retrospection is what I'm getting. I think he's never done that before because I added the NY to my surname, which doesn't help. And then, yeah, maybe pre Alzheimer's, I don't know. But we got there in the end, Mike. The early onset does not help. So maybe we can talk a little bit about the Davos experience in terms of what you were doing, Mike, and then how that gets us to where we are today, and then we can get into Real and all other stuff. Yeah. How did you get the devils from South Wales? Yeah, so I was doing content for UTs in Sydney, and I was recruited into the forum as head of editing and digital content in 2020. And over the course of the next ten years, eight years, really, social media became a thing. The forum became a thing on social media. So I don't know if you've seen the little videos that go for about a minute and tell a story of some technologically determined solution to some global issue. We invented those. We invented the memes that have a person and a quote next to them on social media. We did a whole bunch of pioneering things. And I built a team of, I don't know, 1520 people. We built an audience of, I don't know, 15, 20 million followers across all the different social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Latterly, TikTok, all that kind of stuff. And I learned a lot about how to run a team, a lot about digital and social media and a lot about how to represent organizational stories on digital. Very cool. And then I did a bunch of davos in the meantime, obviously, ten of those. And Jason, for Jason, it might have been a three day sprint, but for us on the inside, there is like a three month sprint. Does it start the day after stops? Yeah, it starts. Basically you go around the Congress all and you were like, well, that was great, but might have been a bit better if it was red instead of blue. Debrief and all that kind of stuff. And then things really start get rolling round about October, round about now. Just about anything is possible now because it's going to happen in January, so you could still have rename it on the stage there and then things kind of settle down to what is actually going to happen in mid January. And so I think of just our bots, but it's not I mean, world economic form is this massive organization, so your digital work must span lots of different events and all sorts of things. And your videos are so iconic. That 1 minute short video with text and this beautiful imagery. I just feel like you really set the bar so high to tell a really difficult story quickly. Yeah. Learn an enormous amount about impactful storytelling. If you're going to capture somebody on social, you have to do it in the first second. And how do you do that? How do you take somebody on a journey within a minute? By capturing their attention and then fulfilling against the promise there. It's really a lot of I don't know if we're doing so well on this podcast, but we'll have to speak to my producer. She'll let us know. Maybe if we only had a minute, we'll know by if this bit makes it through the edit. Speaking of which, though, there's an idea of the beautiful constraint, right? A beautiful constraint is something where actually, when you only have 30 seconds to say something, or I just had to do something. At university, I had to explain a PhD thesis in three minutes, wrote Learn Bang, and it was like, you hear and go, how could I ever do that? But similar for you, Mike, I feel like in social media, we'll talk about it in a minute, but the attention economy is fascinating and you have to catch them so quickly and you must see all the day where it's like, we got them and we lost them. It must be fascinating. It's a numbers game. What you don't get in longevity, you can get in frequency. The team at the forum probably still today, tweets 100 times a day. Facebook 50 or 60 posts to Facebook 50 or 60 times a day. Instagram four, 5610 times a day, LinkedIn 1020 times a day. And not everybody, not all of your followers see all of your content. However, if you're putting good content down the pipe all the time, then a lot of them will see a lot of that stuff. And so you don't have to capture everybody with every piece as long as you catch somebody with every piece. Got it. Well, let's set up the big discussion here, which is maybe not something you have to think about every day, but the kind of thing we think about on this program, which is there's really two sides to something like social media. It's this amazing tool that democratizes the world in a way. It gives everybody a voice. In a way it really has changed the gig economy and all these other sorts of things. And yet, of course, there's also another side to it, which is it seems to there's a lot of people who get kind of addicted to it. It seems to make a lot of people sad. It seems to lead to a lot of terrible things for certain types of people. There's a lot of people who create fake lives as a result of this. So I realize that this isn't the kind of thing that you've got to grapple with every day, probably in terms of something you got to think about. But do you have any sort of big picture takes on that dynamic? Yeah, well, there's a couple of things. The first is social media is the digital space is what happens when you put all of humanity in the one room. Right. There are good people in the world and there are not so good people in the world. I've heard of this. If you give them more the capacity to talk to each other, you're going to witness some really bizarre and not always positive behavior. So that's one of the functions of getting everybody online. It means you get all the bad people online as well as the logobots. And we saw a lot of you know, we see a lot of that in the electoral staff and the stuff around misinformation and missing disinformation bad behavior online at the same time. The tools that Mark Zuckerberg and all the bros invented, a lot of them started off just doing what seemed natural and then discovered that there are dark sides to what they do. The point of a social media platform is to capture attention. And the way you do that is you attract people through their worst instincts. You tell dark stories and provide dark places and that's where people will hang out. What did they say about us? I know, that's amazing. When we first brainstormed an episode where we talked about this, the thing that got us talking, Jason, was the fact that you had started this new social media app, be Real Mike. This was Mike's fault. This is all Mike's problem. And it's not lost on my editing France because Bereal is a French startup. But I'm going to sit back and listen then. Yeah, I was on LinkedIn reading Mike's Content Engine newsletter a few weeks ago and he said, oh, there's a new thing called Bereal and it looks kind of interesting and I'm going to jump on it. And then there was an interaction where Mike was describing how his daughter said to him, please don't be on Bereal, because it's just not for you. Of course, Mike's. Like I'm on. And so then I said I'll be your friend. So I went on bereal and I jumped on B Real and I found Mike and Mike friended me and I felt really cool. And then which is a really funny twist, so I didn't want a friend or my son's like, if you friend me, I'll shoot you. So it's just me and Mike for a while there. Then my son did friend me. So it's the three of us. Then. His mate friend me, so there's four of us. But then out of the 7 billion people in the world, chris, Dominic's wife Laura brings me. So now I have a gallery of all the crap we do each day at the moment. The broll goes ping, because what happens is broll goes ping and everybody stops and you take a photo of exactly what you're doing. Front facing, backfacing camera. One of the things I wanted to talk about with Mike was, given that you work across all of those platforms, is broll the next big thing or is it just about to die? Yeah, no, it's just about to die. It's just about to die. TikTok, it's a one gimmick thing, right? Whereas TikTok instagram all those guys. All they have to do is add a camera with a front facing and back facing recording capability and a global notification, and off you go. I don't know about you, Jason, but how often do you actually be real in the two minute window? Like, never? Also, I discovered a weird thing when I came from Sydney. It kept my Sydney notification, so I keep getting notified, like, in the middle of the night. So obviously I'm not I'm not posting then. I'm curating in the same way that you would on any social media. I'm like, When's the night? I just posted now. Because I'm like, look, I'm on a podcast with two other old white guys. Well, he's not wrong. Hey, just quick side step, because we do that sometimes and then we'll come back. Are you doing the predictable? Like, as soon as it gets starts getting cold in France, you got to go back to Bondi? No, I need to do it so when it's cold in Sydney, that's when I'm there, because it's summer in Europe and nobody's working. So I go over to Sydney for August and nobody notices I'm gone. And then I come back here when things start to get a bit fright of the seams. And then my family's coming over for Christmas. I get it, okay. We've only just started this because in the pandemic, my family I had two sons in Bondi and we were stuck in Switzerland and we couldn't get to them. And my wife Clare was like, I'm done with this. I'm done with this. Separate, we're going to all be together. So now we're all together. Except me. Really what she was saying was, all right, just because I don't understand any of this. I try to, but I get the marketing piece. Is be real. Just kind of fun. Or is it making money through advertising, or is it being used for some other reason? I think Be Real is just building a social when they call the social graph, which means Graham's connected to me, connected to Chris, connected to Chris's wife, connected to god knows what they'll do with it. And I don't know what the venge capitalists are thinking or what their thesis is, but there's no advertising involved. It's really a one trick pony. It is very popular, though. Especially when I picked it up, my daughter was like, oh, it's a teenage thing. So she still hasn't friended me. I don't know if your son's friend of you. One of them has he's so embarrassed. The other one's like, no. Yes. Once a day he gets no, I'm in the supermarket in my slippers, right? Oh, look, I'm at my desk again. It's so weird. But it's interesting because you must grapple with this, with your current work and with your previous work with Dallas. Each of these platforms has other algorithms. The algorithms change. You've got to kind of stay ahead of them constantly, and you see where Instagram shoved a bunch of their Reels product into their main thing, and that pissed off a lot of people. Reels is just a knock off of TikTok is that there seems to be, first of all, no IP. Everyone just copies everyone great. And it's just a race for eyeballs, Broll's not going to make it because there's no revenue model, and also because Instagram can knock them off quickly. What's the end game here, Mike? Where are we going? Look, it doesn't really matter. What matters is your ability. Look, if you're a brand or an organization or you have stories to tell, what matters is your ability to tell them and then tell them according to the medium, right? So reals is a big thing on Instagram. You can use Instagram, your real content. On Tik tok you couldn't do that before, but now you can do it. And so it's a matter of having a building your team in a way that is really adaptable, flexible, and innovative. And it's basically just all about telling stories. Got it? If you can tell stories, then you just do it in whatever's working at the moment. Facebook's algorithm changes all the time. Sometimes it's three minute videos, sometimes it's 1 minute videos sometimes, and it's just like, well, that didn't work anymore, so let's try something else. Or, that worked really well. Let's do really a lot more. Let's do a lot more of that. So with the Content engine team, that you have and they're sort of spread across the world. If you have a client, I can't think of a client's name citron. For some reason, you might put content on four different platforms, but is it four different production groups that do different things that are tailored for each of those platforms? Yeah, you'll have one team that does that knows everything about the brand or everything about the organization, and then it's all about the idea. You start with the idea, here's a new type of ecofriendly concrete. You tell the stories about the concrete and then you put it on the platform that is most appropriate for it, and tell the story in the way that matches your audience. Got it. Depending on the platform. Got it. That's great. That's very interesting. So Mike, I'm presuming with all the work that you've done, you've seen some pretty crazy stuff. What are some examples or stories that you have of when everything comes together, how awesome it is and how exciting it is and how good things it can produce. And maybe you've got a couple of lowlights in there too. Maybe a few things that are just like, this is how things go bad. Alright, I'll tell you my favorite dubbo story. One has to do with social media and the other one doesn't. So Dallas is a nutty place, and we haven't got enough time to describe exactly how nutty. But Wednesday night, 07:00, it's the busiest time of the week. It's the busiest slot and true circumstances that through various circumstances, I was what they call a session responsible for this session, which had Christine Lagarde, who is now the head of the European Central Bank, but at the time was ahead of the IMF, the International Monetary Fund. It was 2012, I think, and the global financial crisis was 2010. Actually, the global financial crisis was ruining everything for everybody. So there was Christine, the guy talking to the 20 top CEOs of the world. Literally, you name them, they were in the top 20. They were in this room. The one I can remember is John Chambers because he was very anyway, so I'm in there, it's just me, Christine Lagarde, 20 top CEOs in the world, and two of my colleagues. And it was my first divorce. The blood was rushing through my head. I couldn't hear what I was thinking. Let lone what? Christine, the Garden, the 20 top CEOs in the world was saying. My colleague is next to me, frantically trying to find a moderator for the session. She was on her BlackBerry at the time, frantically trying to find a moderator for her session. And she kept nudging me and saying, you know, I need a moderator. And so I was BlackBerry and my colleagues. And then she's like, okay, I've got to go. So she gets up and leaves the room. So leaving me with Christine, the garden, the 20 top CEOs of the world. And this other colleague who is actually chairing the session. And he starts looking a bit fidgety and he gets up and he whispers in my ears like, I've got to go. So he leaves the room and I'm like, do you want me to sit in your chair? So he's like, yes, go and sit in my chair. So now I'm moderating the session between Christine the guard and the 20 top CEOs in the world with the Niagara Falls of blood rushing through my head. So all I can do is look at my watch because I knew that the session finished at 08:00 P.m. On the dot. So I'm just looking at my watch, looking at my watch TikTok and literally on the dot. I stood up ramrod straight and I said, well, thank you very much, everybody. Thanks for coming. I'm sorry Borga had to go saying, Christine the guard looks at me and she says, Why are you interrupting us? And I said, well, it's 08:00. It's time for the session to finish. She said, I think we'll take another five minutes. Okay? Christine proceeded then to eat my own faith. That's a good one. Oh, man. There was a time that I was in a translation booth just looking at actually Kevin Rudd, who is for those Americans in the room, was a former Prime Minister of Australia. And he was down on the stage in front of me and I was just listening to him and the door opened and in came Bill and Melinda Gates and into the translation booth because Bill was having a session with Kevin Rudd later and nothing much happened, but Bill said Kevin Rudd was speaking Chinese on stage at the time. And Bill said to me, how does he know Chinese? And I kind of mumbled something about he used to live in China. I think he used to run KPMG. Anyway, and then I got a coffee for the Bill and Melinda Gates. That's my big story. So cool. You both have a Bill Gate story now. That's pretty good. It's not really that good at all. My wife was walking along with someone at Davos in May and it was raining, so my wife's friend had an umbrella up and the person walking next to them didn't have an umbrella. And so she said to the person next to him, would you like my umbrella? And that person was Bill Gates. Which was kind of funny because after all the vaccines and all the conspiracies and it's like, hey, Bill, can you hear me? Good. That's awesome. That's amazing. That's a much better spot because you got a Bill Gates umbrella out. Exactly. Have you still got it? No, we lent him our umbrella, that's all. He was getting rained on. But speaking with just really Davis issue was in May because of the pandemic. So it was summer or spring or whatever. So it was quite you're in a ski town? Small ski town? No, snow, fine. But these things are in the depths of winter, usually. Like, how do you move around? You're in a ski village, there's 2000 people, 5000 people. Yeah, it was good this year because it was just one less thing. But when there's all the snow, people slip over and they break their hair literally all the time. Really? All the time. He can't come, he's breaking his ankle or whatever. And every time you go into a hotel or something, you unbundle. You take your thing. You have to go through security, take your coat, your boots out of the bucket, take it to the cloak room, all that kind of stuff. It adds a certain layer of inconvenience to the whole affair. That is yeah. Let me tell you my last ever story for this episode, okay. All right. Because it also involves Bill Gates, my team, social media team, we make a lot of content, and we make a lot of content in Dubbos. One of the tools of the trade is if something does really well, then you repost it because it's obviously striking accord with the audience. So we had run this story about a bot that Microsoft had programmed that it was an automated bot and within 24 hours became a Nazi sex bot. This, on Twitter, kept replying to people's tweets with kind of fascist pedophilic statements because the Internet is a bad place and bad things happen there. Right. But it made for a great social video, obviously. Of course. Obviously. So we produced this video before Davos, and then somebody had decided to run it during the double schedule. And immediately we got a call from, obviously, the general counsel at Microsoft saying, what the hell is this? And I had to go into kind of I had to go into the morning, the morning meeting with all of the senior leaders of the World Economic Forum and tell them why I was not going to fire I was not going to fire the person who was responsible. And I said to the team, guys, there was a Nazi sex bot associated with one of our founding sponsors. Did nobody's brain go dinga linga ling? That came through the schedule? There we go. I got to tell you that's the first time I knew that I did not know that there were Nazi sex spots. I didn't. Oh yeah. On that cheery note, off to Google we go. Yes. Thanks so much for being with us, Mike. That was really great. I love talking with you. I love meeting you. Thanks so much, Mike. Have a great day. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you for joining us at the RecomBobulator Lab with Chris Dominic and Jason Graham-Nye.

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