Social Media

I s the marketing hype killing Jelly, the new Q&A app?

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Gary Smith Jan 27, 2014

When a social media network or app reaches prominence, you can bet there’s also a sea of marketers thinking “How can I utilize this as a brand?” Typically, this comes after the network has had a chance to build a large user base (Snapchat is a recent example). In Jelly’s case, that buzz started on day one.

Wait, what’s Jelly? Can I eat it?

If you haven’t used Jelly (and maybe even if you have), you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about – and that’s part of the problem. In a nutshell (jar?), Jelly is a Q&A crowdsourcing app, fueled by Facebook and Twitter, where your friends can answer questions just like this. Thing is, Jelly has received most of its headlines from the fact that the startup’s CEO is Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.

Vine’s got Twitter pedigree and that’s doing great, isn’t it?

Indeed. Vine had its one year anniversary on Friday, and despite initial criticism, it’s been something of a surprise success. That puts a lot of pressure and media attention on Jelly – before it has an established user base, and before it’s had time to come into its own. Most of the articles out there right now are putting Jelly at 28,275 users on the day of launch (January 7th). That’s not too shabby for the first day, but it’s still only a drop in the bucket, and the surge of new users has reportedly trended downward following launch.

At the end of last year Facebook had 1.19 billion users, and Twitter had around 232 million. Without these networks Jelly doesn’t really work, because the app doesn’t have its own user pool. Instead of connecting you to other Jelly users, the app draws on your Facebook and Twitter contact lists. You can post a question and forward it manually elsewhere, but if none of your friends have the app (a likely scenario at this point), your home screen will look like this:



Okay. But how is the marketing hype killing Jelly?

When a social network launches, users tend to flock to it gradually. They bring their friends, and the platform spreads from there – then, once it’s sufficiently popular, it’s time for the marketers to get creative with a business presence. This happened somewhat in reverse with Jelly. A week after launch, Mashable – which is popular in business circles – posted about a few prominent brands experimenting with Jelly. It didn’t take long for the “5 ways to use Jelly as a brand” type articles to appear, and before long there were brands flooding in from everywhere, trying to figure out how to leverage Jelly for their business.

David Meyer over at Gigaom had this to say about the current state of Jelly:

“As a rough guess, going on how it currently feels to use Jelly, I would say that 1 in 7 “questions” are tentatively trying to big up a brand or drive traffic to a site or post (around the same number are good questions, and the rest are just people messing around).”

Social media is great, but it can create echo chambers. As social media marketers, we’re eager to find new ways to connect with our audience – sometimes a little too eager. It’s important for brands to have a social media presence, but it’s also important for the brand-to-user ratio to be weighted heavily on the side of users. Right now, that isn’t the case with Jelly – and that’s a problem.

When your new social app is mostly riddled with brands trying to figure out their next step in marketing, you run the risk of alienating all the normal users straight off the platform.

What’s the general reaction to Jelly right now?

It might seem unfair to judge Jelly when it hasn’t even been out for a month, but that’s part of the app’s core dilemma; it was born in the spotlight, and that’s where it’s going to have to mature – growing pains and all.

And there will be growing pains. When I first installed the app, I only connected Facebook, assuming I could connect Twitter later. Not so much. The app was patched last week to address that particular issue, but if you sign in with the wrong account for some reason, too bad. From the website’s FAQ: “We currently do not support the ability to remove a social network once authenticating it.”

It’s pretty clear that brands are loving Jelly. Mashable called the app a “new play toy for brands,” and that’s right on the money. User reviews, on the other hand, aren’t particularly glowing at the moment. Jelly has a 2.5 average on the Apple Store, and a 3.3 in the Google Play Store, with most users agreeing, “Neat idea, but kind of useless right now.”

At its core, Jelly is an attractive concept. You snap a picture, ask a question, and wait for the answers to roll in from your friends. You’ll get your answers faster on Google (and possibly more reliably – mark my words, the “loljelly” posts are coming), but Biz Stone’s vision for Jelly is a social search – one that’s more entertaining, and more personal than the search we’re used to.

Whether or not that vision comes true remains to be seen – right now, Jelly has a lot of growing up to do, and it might be wise for marketers to let it do just that.

No wine (Jelly) before its time, right?

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