Karen Freberg: Life with Spectacles as a Social Media Professor

By Karen Freberg, Ph.D.

I tell my students all the time I have three weaknesses: coffee, shoes, and technology. I have always tried to integrate as much technology into my work, research, and teaching as possible. So, when Snapchat announced their latest venture into the camera sector with Spectacles, I was beyond excited.

What was impressive to me was the fact they launched the product in a pretty innovative (and genius) way to create as much FOMO as you could possibly imagine. We'll be talking about the Spectacles campaign for a while since it really tapped into the notion you had to be somewhere at a specific time (as shown on their map page) to get these exclusive devices. The fact they were more affordable than Google Glass ($130 compared to $1500) was another deciding factor.

Investing in new technologies like this is not new to me as as professor. I was a Google Glass Explorer back in 2013 and it was interesting to see the comparison between the two different campaigns. With Google Glass you initially had to send out a tweet to them and state how you would use the glasses. I remember getting the notification I had been selected to be part of the Explorer group and I was super excited. My dad and I drove down to Venice Beach to pick them up in person.

However, as Edna Mode classically states in “The Incredibles” –  this was in the past and it distracts from the now. Now is all about Spectacles, among other emerging tools of technologies.

GETTING A PAIR OF SPECTACLES IS DIFFICULT (INITIALLY)

With that being said, getting a pair of Specs was NOT an easy task. Most of the locations were no where close to Louisville, KY. I also noticed most of them were in CA (not too far from my hometown) and everyone in my network was talking about it.

I saw some people who were able to get a pair and I was waiting in anticipation on what types of videos and coverage they would share with them. Some of the more innovative ways came from some of the professional sports teams, which was cool to see.

I had a few friends who were able to get a pair from the store in NYC, and I initially reached out to a couple of them to see if I could possibly get one from them. Unfortunately, I was not able to get one this way. So, I thought to myself – how can I get a pair? I realized I had to be resourceful (and creative) to see if I could get a pair in time before the spring semester starts.

The answer? This article from Mashable. Definitely check it out. I ordered a pair and a few days later, I got a package in the mail with my pair. Fully charged and ready to go!

INFLUENCERS WERE NOT THE FIRST TO GET SPECS

This was something I felt was both surprising but also refreshing in many ways. Some voiced this and were publicly reaching out to others to see if they could get a pair of Specs to test, review, showcase, and share with their own networks. We’ve seen a few reviews of Spectacles and the story behind how they got a pair (see Carlos Gil’s review), and I do think the way in which these products were distributed definitely influenced how people perceived them.

We have seen influencer and influencer marketing become more mainstream as brands integrate them more into campaigns and other product/service initiatives on social media. They are the first ones to get the products most of the time and get the chance to share their reviews and feelings.

Some influencer campaigns are successful, but there are others that have not gone off so well and have actually (in my opinion) shifted the focus away from the product from a positive perception to a negative one. Exhibit A: Robert Scoble with Google Glass. When brands hand over power, control, and brand message to an influencer, they are giving them a lot of influence that may not be the kind they want. Scoble was still able to get a pair, but it did not have the same reaction as his initial posting with Google Glass.

With that being said, I think Snapchat did not want to be in the same category as Google with their product, so this is probably one of the main reasons they went a different direction. Do I think this is a turning point for influencer marketing? Yes to some degree. I think influencers have to be aware that not all brands are going to give them first dibs on a product and it all comes down to their vision, objectives, and relationships they have as a brand. We have to all recognize the differences among brands when it comes to this type of strategy.

INITIAL THOUGHTS OF SPECTACLES

There have been many reviews, blog posts, and even descriptions of ways you can use these devices in the workplacemarketing, brands, etc. I have been able to use Spectacles now for about two days, and I have to say there are a lot of things I found surprising about the devices, including:

  • Battery life: There were some reviews (like the one Carlos wrote) that discussed battery life as a main point of concern. I actually had no issues with my Specs when it came to using them on an ongoing basis. I took them out on a hike, walked around town, recorded a bunch of videos at my local coffee shop, and STILL had a lot of battery left.
  • Sync capabilities: I was concerned about this because Google Glass really didn’t sync up well unless you were either on wifi or had a really strong connection. Spectacles was able to sync up immediately, even on top of a mountain (yes, I was able to do this today). No worries there if you need to get your video snaps from Specs immediately.
  • No concerns for recording (or really knowing what they are!) from public. This was a HUGE issue for Google Glass. However, the glasses that are part of Specs are actually pretty useful. I picked out a black pair and they look like regular sunglasses. In the time I have had them, only one person said they only noticed when I moved my head they realized something was different about them.
  • Audio: Audio comes out pretty clear as well. I was surprised with how much it actually picks up from the snaps I was able to create.
  • One function for the product: Snapchat really did stay in their lane when it came to these glasses. They record video and allow you to upload it to Snapchat. That’s it. No apps, voice control, etc., like Google Glass. Essentially, they were able to make it simple (and effective) for the user to create and focus on content.
  • Cool factor: I felt exactly like the first time I got Google Glass. Spectacles are COOL! I got flooded with private messages, DMs, and emails about how I got a pair. There are many ways you can get a pair without following the bots at this point (at an affordable price).

HOW TO (POSSIBLY) INTEGRATE THEM INTO CLASSES

I will be trying to do this for my social media class at the University of Louisville (#Freberg17). And while I am still in the process of brainstorming different ways this could be accomplished, here are some initial tactics:

  • Immersive storytelling: This is similar to what we had with Google Glass, but it would allow the professor (and students) to create stories from their perspectives. A day in the life via Snapchat (possibly for a takeover of a university account?), fan experience, showcasing announcements (college acceptances, awards, graduation, etc), behind the scenes experiences, etc. The list is endless.
  • POV Interviews and features: This was what I loved about seeing what BBC was doing with their Snapchat (way to go, GiniCanBreathe!) You can give the power to the students to do an interactive interview where they are able to get both perspectives.
  • How to videos: If you wanted to showcase a tutorial via Snapchat perhaps for your students in specific amount of time, you are able to do this accordingly.
  • Different view of presentations: If you can multitask, this could be fun to share with others on what it is like to present in class (if you want to wear glasses inside), a conference, or a group setting. There are prescription lenses that allows you to change out the lenses, so that’s something to consider if you don’t want to have just sunglasses. This was also a feature that was not available for Google Glass.
  • Snapchat creative movie content: Imagine if you had footage from your POV and then were able to use your phone to capture other views to create a true integrated view of a story? 

Let me know what you think!


Karen Freberg is an assistant professor in Strategic Communications at the University of Louisville and an adjunct instructor for the WVU Graduate Online Program Freberg’s research has been published in several book chapters and in academic journals such as Public Relations Review, Journal of Public Relations Education, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management and Health Communication. Freberg’s social media pedagogy practices have been featured in Forbes and in USA Today College publications. You can find more from her at karenfreberg.com/blog.