Memmee Founder Aly Racer On What Not To Share Online
12:15 pm, May 6th | by Sarah Devlin
Aly Racer has an incredible pedigree in digital media, working for companies like The New York Times and Daily Candy before deciding to strike out on her own with a new social platform called Memmee. We got to chat with her about the process of forming her own startup, how she sees social sharing evolving, and her own best practices for sharing personal information online.
Memmee is also doing a promotion for Mother’s Day, in which you can enter to win a Coach bag! The contest closes tomorrow, so be sure to sign up today.
How did you decide to strike out on your own?
My background is that I spent 17 years in digital media, so I was part of the original team at NYT.com and I spent 10 years there managing all sales and marketing on the digital side. Then I went on to Daily Candy…[while working in digital media] I noticed that I’m a woman, I’m a busy woman, I have a lot of areas of life, I have a family, I have a career, I have friends, and I noticed that like everybody out there, I was overwhelmed and pressed for time.
I would have conversations with my peers all the time and it would start something like “Hey, how’s it going?” and they would sigh and be like “Sooo busy, so overwhelmed, so tired, so this and that.” And after these conversations for a couple years I kept talking to friends and saying there’s gotta be a way for this to be better. We’re connected by technology and technology has been awesome to us — you’re connected to your 900 best friends on Facebook, you’re connected in so many ways. But the quality of these relationships, and actually the quality of remembering the little things, or what’s good in a day, sort of slips by.
I asked friends if they would journal or diary, and everyone had [the] hope of doing it, but the reality is everyone has a journal sitting on their night table that’s just collecting dirt. No one has the time to do this because every moment is structured for us. So I started to have conversations and focus with people on this notion of moments. If they actually remembered a couple of small moments from their day, they would be able to better reflect on life. And strung together, it sort of tells you a little bit about who you are.
Whether it’s something funny the kids said, a play by play recap [of something] from a friend, something you noticed, your mood, a conversation, a smile, just anything from your day — you can actually reflect and relive it. So I started focusing on this notion of reliving and a time machine, and from there Memmee was born. I said “I have to do something about this,” and I launched Memmee four months ago to a beta audience. [Memmee is based on] this idea of people remembering small moments. They’re stored on these beautiful digital cards, and I think the other differentiator is that I know there’s this sort of thing that happens where people get excited about new products: they sign up, and then 5 minutes later, whether it’s that app or site you signed up for after a day or two, life is busy and you forget about it. So I knew there had to be motivation in this.
So I send motivating emails about ideas for Memmee — how to capture small moments, how to identify them, why it’s so simple and easy, and I share my own, and we’ve added a kind of media component to it so that people can sort of identify with it and stick with it and build a habit. My other thing is from my Daily Candy days, and it was knowing that I was definitely targeting a woman like me: urban, busy, modern, in that I knew it wasn’t going to be a “Chicken Soup For The Soul” kind of voice, [like] “Be grateful for everything in your life.” While I can appreciate that, I don’t really identify with that. So the voice that we strive for is very much friend to friend.
I often make references to “Yeah I get it, you’re busy and so am I,” and four months into beta we have several thousand users who give me feedback and talk to me all the time, who say “You know what, I’m remembering more, I’m happier, I’m focusing on things, I’m using it to tell other people something that I remember about them and making them happy,” and people are really saying “This is really improving the quality of my relationships.” And of course that’s the goal here — is to improve the relationship with yourself and to improve the quality of relationships with the closest people in your life. It’s not for your 900 Facebook friends, it’s for you and your inner circle.
The reality is everyone realizes that life moves fast and you’ve gotta grab on to something, so the message is really resonating with both moms and influential women.
Is Memmee at forefront of a turn back to privacy and a reduction of time spent on social media?
Look, digital media [and] the connectivity that we have in this world is priceless. We're living in the golden age of technology and it's awesome. But there comes a time when on Facebook you see people who are oversharing or whatever, and it's kind of a drag. And I don't share so much of who I am on Facebook. I wouldn't ignore social sharing on the web because at the end of the day we know people love to share, and there is definitely a sharing componente to Memmee, but by default everything is private. And we always tell people "First take care of yourself, first remember something for yourself, and then make somebody else happy and share something you remember with them."
The foundation of Memmee was always to find your own voice, connect with yourself, deepen your relationships and remind yourself of all these little things that make a life worth living. And we'll always stick by that even though we'll continue to add all types of sharing tools and maybe even group Memmee at some point.
Are most of the Memmee adopters social media savvy, or not so active on social media but making an exception for Memmee?
Most have Facebook, some have Twitter, [and there are] very few on Tumblr or blogs. They’re not posting stuff on the go. I’m finding that the community is not so engaged with Twitter, it’s much more around Facebook and email.
The first 200 people [to use Memmee] were influencers, people in digital media and my peers, who agreed to use it and give me feedback while it was in beta, and these people are very successful New York and LA women who are really digitally savvy. And over and over again they come back to me and say “Memmee’s so refreshing.” It was done on purpose — Memmee doesn’t look like a lot of other websites, it’s all hand drawn and it’s got a lot of texture to it. It is a little bit of a throwback. But I wanted to make it a homey, comforting place that people wanted to spend time with.
[Memmee is] definitely connecting with moms a lot, because it’s always easy to remind yourself that time is moving fast when you have a kid and the kid always says something funny and you say “I’m going to remember this forever,” and the reality is that people don’t remember anything.
If Memmee technology resonates more with women, are you finding that its user base is skewed toward women?
Right now from the studies I’ve done (which is me polling the audience by sending out an email), it’s about 85% women. Of the 15% of men a lot of those are also influencers, investors, people who are kind of just watching.
When I speak to men all the time they say “I love the idea, why do you think Memmee is just for women?” I think this is a universal thing that anybody of any gender, of all ages and cultures I think would be interested in, but I learned early from the NYT and from Daily Candy that at the end of the day you have to speak to somebody. This wasn’t a tool I was putting out there for everyone to come and see what [I'd] done. This is a tool about motivating people, keeping them a part of a community, making them feel like this is a place where there are others like them. And I knew that I had to do that by speaking to someone, so I’m speaking to women because I know how to and because I know women are desperate for this.
I think it’s fair to say that women are documenters in the family, they take more pictures, they keep a baby book, they’re keeping the calendar and getting things organized, so it lends itself a little more to something like this.
We’ve had almost a decade with Facebook, Twitter and “big social media” platforms. How has your relationship changed with it, and what are your best practices for sharing online?
Like you’ll hear many people say, I think these tools are amazing for a lot of reasons — the ability to conenct with anybody you’ve ever passed in your life I think will truly have a good effect over time. The advice that I follow and the advice that I give is posting things you believe in — have a personality [and] don’t be afraid to be out there, but you have to stand behind everything that goes out.
The other thing is that I think that I reserve my opinions in some of these social environments bcause that’s just not how I want to use them. But look, I have kids myself [and I have a] nine-year-old daughter on Instagram. My rules for her are I don’t want [you] posting [your] face on Instagram, but if you want to follow your friends and take a picture of that manicure you got or your stuffed animal, that stuff’s fine. At the same time I think this is an interesting time to have a personality in the digital space, whether it is using a Tumblr or a blog or Tweeting about something that you’re passionate about. But I think there’s got to be more balance and there’s got to be a use for it. For [many] jobs [now] you have to know social media, you have to understand it. You have to know where people are spending time and why they’re enjoying the space. So I think it’s important to be there, I would never encourage anyone of any age not to be part of a community, but let’s be responsible about it and certainly teach our kids to be responsible about how they use it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.