Today, Seesmic Look launched at a much-hyped event in New York City, albeit in front of a mostly empty room. Seesmic makes one of the most respected Twitter clients for desktops and mobile devices, but now it’s trying to target two new audiences: late adopters and brands. It should have an easier time with the latter.
While I’m a big fan of Seesmic’s desktop app, and I exclusively use Seesmic now as my Droid Twitter client, Look should be a harder sell.
Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur keeps trying to hit home the point that Look isn’t for power users; it’s for people who watch Oprah, as he noted at the launch event. That means people like me who have tweeted a few thousand times are not the target audience for this, and that’s fine. I think Twitter is undervalued as a tool for ‘spectators’ – those who just want immediate or intimate access to their favorite publications, celebrities, and brands. I’m just not convinced that the so-called Oprah set will want to download a Twitter client and try to sort through what still looks like this information overload.
So what’s new with Seesmic Look? Here are a few highlights:
1) The design’s more elegant. Robert Scoble noted Look is a major improvement over Twitter’s “dated” interface. And I will give Seesmic credit there – it does look prettier.
2) It doesn’t require a Twitter account. This clears a major hurdle to Twitter, removing the barrier to entry. But it also means Twitter will be far less engaging for those users. It’s like a kid sitting on the sidelines of a Little League game – sure, it might be fun to watch, but will they show up for another game if they’re not going to play? It also brings to mind my mother-in-law’s first experience with Twitter last spring, where many of her initial tweets were directed at Larry King, who didn’t bother to respond. But the idea that she could talk to him, that maybe he’d see it, and that she could share this with her followers all made it far more compelling than if she was just there to read Larry King’s tweets. Oh, and today, my mother in law has nearly 1,000 followers… yes, well above the average and more than many social media executives and gurus I know.
3) It directly incorporates brands. There are brand channels included here, such as offerings from Kodak, Red Bull, and Huffington Post. Brands get to customize the look and feel of their channels and then pick people or lists of people to feature; Kodak rounds up its own tweeters while aggregating its favorite people talking about photography, and Red Bull showcases its athlete spokespeople. For brands, it’s a great way – aesthetically and functionally – to round up the people and topics they care about and deliver that experience to consumers. But assuming more brands join, most will probably get lost in the shuffle, and they’ll probably find more value in interacting with consumers who are really using Twitter than trying to broadcast to the casual users here. Soon Seesmic will charge a monthly fee for brand channels, and that will also weigh on marketers’ decisions.
4) It’s touch-compatible. One thing Seesmic Looks hits out of the park is that it’s already equipped to work with touchscreen devices such as HP’s tablets and the anticipated Apple tablet. Loic even showed a demo of Look working on a TV with a remote control. If Look becomes a default application on emerging devices, it could scale with that first mover advantage.
The big question remains as to whether consumers will use it, and whether those who try it will return. That alone will be the biggest factor that determines whether brands will and should get involved, beyond the few who are getting the great PR value of being among the first launch partners.
We’ll report back on that, after we wait… and Look.