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Social media continues to evolve rapidly. There’s a constant stream of new apps being released to take advantage of public demand, but one recent social media tool stands out from the crowd. Last week saw the release of Jelly, the creation of Biz Stone (Twitter’s co-founder) and Ben Finkel. The social media and business community have reacted unusually to the software. Immediate responses ranged from confusion to delight; many users have already pointed to the software being pointless, spam heavy, and bug ridden.

Biz Stone’s reputation was always going to put Jelly under intense scrutiny, but a week on from release the initial misgivings are giving way to appreciation. The business world, however, remains unsure about the app. As Jelly continues to draw derision and delight in equal measure, we take a look at 2014’s first new, and very divisive, social media format.

What Jelly Does

Jelly’s premise is based around crowd-sourcing questions: a user takes a picture of something (such as a building) and writes a question next to it. From Jelly’s user database, someone will see the question, know the answer, and respond. All concerned are then, presumably, gratified for the experience and move on with their lives. Indeed, as Stone has stated, this would appear to be Jelly’s purpose, “No matter how sophisticated our algorithms become, they are still no match for the experience, inventiveness, and creativity of the human mind. Jelly is a new way to search and something more – it makes helping other people easy and fun.” It’s a truly social idea, and the mantras “Let’s help each other” and “Point. Shoot. Ask.” have been pushing the app to iPhone users.

Divisive Reactions

There have been unusual issues with Jelly since it launched. Some media circles have suggested it has no real point. In its defense, Stone has indicated Twitter itself seemed superfluous during its early days. Elsewhere, Jelly is already receiving complaints regarding spam and bugs in the software (the latter can be solved, and isn’t a long term problem). Regardless, those who have downloaded Jelly are using it, and the statistics are encouraging. In one week there were 100,000 questions asked, and a quarter of them were answered (an impressive 25% hit rate — courtesy of TechCrunch).

One of the more frustrating issues for Jelly has been, ironically, from Biz Stone’s Twitter. The @Jelly handle Stone was no doubt keen on is occupied by a gentleman from Long Island, NY, where he advertises his band The Rats Asses (we’re not making this up). As a consequence, they have been forced onto the monikers @AskJelly and @JellyHQ whilst they attempt to wrest @Jelly away from the man. This does not appear to be possible;  on the 10th of January @Jelly announced he had no plans to relinquish his username as it has personal meaning.

Despite reasons to be optimistic, Jelly remains a a contentious social media too. The most prominent issue is the implication for businesses, many of whom have been left worried. As Jelly offers a radical new way to search online, hard-fought Google PR rankings could potentially be ruined. Another problem could be subjective thought. If a potential customer photographed a store, asked a question, and received a negative response, the impact on marketing could be unpleasant.

Marketing Possibilities

Whilst some businesses have fretted over Jelly’s existence, other brands have latched onto the technology in an attempt to steal a march on rivals. Brands such as Nandos, ASDA, and Lowes have been seen experimenting with answers. Lowes, having spotted a question about DIY, responded with successfully to a user. This was an important moment, so much so Jelly’s Twitter account acknowledged the incident. Clearly one marketing option is to monitor Jelly for questions within your niche, and respond to them.

Whilst businesses experiment, Jelly will be eager to build up celebrity support, and one huge positive has come from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. He has already used it to identify a spider in his bathroom,“What kind of spider is this, and is it okay to let it keep living in my shower?” he asked the app’s community. A mere 9 minutes later someone informed him is was a red-backed jumping spider, which are apparently widespread in western North America. With backing like this, the app could well be a major hit.

It’s been noted businesses won’t need to build up a following with Jelly (a major source of hard work with other social media formats), as you simply find your Facebook and Twitter followers courtesy of the app. This is an effective time saver, yet there are still the teething problems to be ironed out. What’s clear is, despite a shaky and controversial first week of existence, Jelly could well be one of the hits of 2014. It’s an interesting piece of software and certainly worth keeping an eye on.

About Alex Morris

Alex Morris has worked as a copywriter, digital marketer, creative SEO, and social media manager for a leading small business in the UK. He now spends his time reporting about the business and technology industries, whilst developing his blog and working on a debut novel. He has been a business writer and blogger since completing a Journalism Masters degree in 2007.

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