iMedia Agency Summit May 2015 Keynote Panel

Next week, I will be attending the 2015 iMedia Agency Summit and will participate in the Keynote Panel discussing the topic of how to remain agile in the face of change.

iMedia Agency Summit, May 2015 Tom

Definitely looking forward to discussing shifts in the industry, agency models of the future, cross company collaboration and finding a common vernacular internally between teams and externally from agency to client.

Let me know if you will be in attendance!

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3 Things to Know after 72 hours with the Apple Watch

After spending 72 hours with the Apple Watch I was recently asked to summarize my thoughts about what I like, what needs work and what marketers should consider when creating an Apple Watch experience.

What Do You Like About the Watch after spending 72 hours with it?

From Apple’s first announcement last September, to receiving the Apple watch on launch day, I have consumed a significant amount of information about what to expect from Apple’s latest tech. All of the research did not prepare me for the full experience.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 3.11.47 PM

The watch is beautifully designed and the 42mm face was just the right size. The interface is very smooth and responsive and I am getting a good feel for which elements add the most value for me and how I want to extend my iPhone experience.

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Setup was incredibly easy and was primarily facilitated through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. After language selection and visually pairing the Apple Watch and iPhone I dove into setting up my application preferences.

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The key thing to consider if you are looking to invest in an Apple Watch is to understand that it is NOT an iPhone on your wrist, but it is an extension of the iPhone experience. It WILL streamline lightweight tasks such as text, notifications and quickly reviewing e-mail.

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I like the flexibility of the interchangeable watch bands and I already see 3rd party band options appearing on eBay. I ordered a second Apple Watch band and it literally takes seconds to completely change the look of the watch.

Tom Edwards Apple Watch

What Needs Work?

Outside of the passcode keypad, there is not a consistent input mechanism outside of voice. Responding to messages either consists of predetermined phrases, emoji or voice response. This is fine 90% of the time, but for those times when it is not convenient to speak your response it will require you to pull out your iPhone. #FirstWorldProblems

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The same goes for making and taking calls on the Apple Watch. Be prepared to look like Dick Tracy when you are speaking into your wrist. Calls are better meant for taking on your actual iPhone.

Dick-Tracy

One surprise was that Facebook was noticeably missing from the Apple Watch app store on launch day. You still receive notification from the apps but there is not a native Facebook Apple Watch experience as of yet.

apple-watch-event0304

One additional missing element is a browser experience. There are third party apps that provide an abbreviated browsing experience but there is not an official Apple Watch browser. Siri is voice based and any search query that is not tied to an existing app function is handed off back to the iPhone.

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I have experienced accelerated battery drain on both the Apple Watch & paired phone. Also, handoffs between the watch & app can be awkward in some 3rd party apps. Upon initial setup a number of applications have to be pre-configured via the phone prior to just “working” with the paired Apple Watch.

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How can marketers benefit from the Apple Watch?

For brands that have a native app in market, the Apple Watch can provide a way to extend the value of the application if marketers focus on creating utility. From a shopper marketing standpoint Target’s focus on list creation is a good example of taking a single element of the app experience and using the Apple Watch to drive a specific user behavior.

Target Apple Watch App initial user experience

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Target Example highlighting item location via Apple Watch

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For me I have used the Starbucks app extensively over the past 48 hours. From the “glance” which tells me how close I am to a Starbucks location as well as extending their loyalty program, to leveraging passbook to pay quickly for my morning Americano. I have been impressed by the ease of use and value the app is bringing to me through a simple experience.

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The key areas of focus for marketers is understanding how to leverage both short & long notifications to influence certain behaviors while also leveraging the most relevant data to visualize via a glance to sustain ongoing wrist engagement.

Example from American Airlines Simplifying the Boarding Experience

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By focusing on extending applications through the lens of consumer value and lightweight interaction marketers can capitalize on staying top of mind through a users wrist.

Example of Uber’s Apple Watch experience

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Apple Watch Arrives Today What Marketers Should Know

Today is the day many of us have been waiting for. Today the Apple Watch will arrive. I was on a flight from NYC yesterday when I received the news that I would in fact receive my Apple Watch on launch day.

Apple Watch Shipping

After weeks of diving into the WatchKit SDK and watching each new update description and how brands were creating new Apple Watch experiences I went to my local Apple Store for a personal fitting.

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This was my first exposure to the hardware

I get very excited on Apple launch days. When an Apple white box arrives on my doorstep I take great care in the unboxing of the product.

Apple Watch Unboxing

Today was no different as it was a very smooth setup process. A review will be forthcoming.

Tom Edwards Apple Watch

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to outline the opportunity for marketers and the Apple Watch.

Mobile Marketer Apple Watch

(Mobile Marketer) How big is the opportunity for marketers in apps for the Apple Watch?

(Tom) “The Apple Watch provides a great opportunity to extend unique app use cases by leveraging the capabilities of the Apple Watch hardware and the WatchKit SDK.  The key to fully unlocking it’s potential will be driven by marketers ability to create optimal user experiences built on relevant behavioral touch points and value connections with consumers.

(Mobile Marketer) What do marketers need to keep in mind in considering or having apps for the Apple Watch?

(Tom) “One key area to consider are actionable notifications. The Apple watch will support short term and long term notifications. Long term notifications support app-defined actions, so it is feasible to leverage functionality from the app directly from the notification bypassing another step for the consumer.”

(Mobile Marketer) Is an Apple Watch app something every marketer should have?

(Tom) “I would not say that every marketer needs an apple watch, but any marketer that focuses on content creation or distribution should take note of user behavior after launch and fully understand how to create an ideal experience on the platform. 

(Mobile Marketer) What are the hottest topics or category of apps you have seen for the Apple Watch?

(Tom) “Content delivery apps such as Buzzfeed and Flipboard as well as retail apps such as Target and Starbucks are all prepping for the release on the 24th. Buzzfeed is focused on delivering daily polls which may work well as they are short form. Flipboard is focusing on providing summaries of news stories and using the handoff feature to allow for consumption of long form content. Starbucks is porting many of the iPhone app features into the Apple Watch such as store locators and paying with passbook.”

(Mobile Marketer) Are there any examples of Apple Watch apps that seem especially noteworthy?

(Tom) “The Target Apple Watch App looks interesting as not only will it provide list building within the application, it will also provide value while in-store by mapping the location of the items on your list and the glance option will provide simple utility by seeing if the store is open, how many items are on your list, and how many may have deals associated with them.”

I am truly excited to dive into the various use cases that are being deployed today and how we can create new ones for our marketing partners.

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Art + Science = Facebook Anthology Initiative

I recently attended the latest Facebook Openbook event in NYC. The topics included the latest video product updates and the new Anthology initiative was unveiled.

Openbook

Anthology is a creative brief based program that combines the insights and scale of Facebook with the reach and relevance of large publisher partners.

Anthology

Facebook is providing access to insights rooted in detailed analysis of target audiences to inform publisher creative. Their goal is to combine art + science to inform the creation of highly relevant & shareable content that drives business.

Facebook Anthology Purpose

There are 7 initial partners in the program.

Vox Media – Millennial Focused media entity targeting: Sports (SB Nation), Tech (The Verge), Gaming (Polygon),  Real-Estate (Curbed), Food (Eater) & Racked (Retail/Shopping)

Vox Media

Vice Media – Millennial Focused media entity that creates over 6,000 pieces of content daily across 10 primary channels covering news, music, tech, food, sports and fashion, all by young people, for young people.

Vice

Oh My Disney – Ability to leverage assets and properties of Disney in short form content that is designed to be shared.

Oh My Disney

The Onion – satirical news content creator

The Onion

TasteMade – Mobile centric video network that reaches 25 million people monthly

tastemade

Funny or die – Original & UGC Comedy & Pop Culture Content creator

Funny Or Die

Electus Digital – Properties include Collegehumor.com, Dorkly (Geek Culture) and Nuevon (Hispanic)

Electus Digital

Each publisher partner created a mock “anthology” based on Facebook insights and a hypothetical brand/agency creative brief. Each anthology program had it’s own unique creative slant based on the insights provided by Facebook and the unique perspective of the publisher.

ForD Anthology

The publishers produce the content and partner with Facebook to distribute the content both through Facebook’s media network as well as their own distribution properties.

anthology example

The Anthology program can be beneficial for brands and agencies alike as it is a quick way to collaborate with some of the most relevant millennial focused publishers as well as leverage proprietary user data and insights provided by Facebook.

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Is Today Mobileggedon? 5 Things To Know about Today’s Google Update

Today is the day Google is rolling out a major update to it’s mobile search algorithm. Some are proclaiming this “Mobileggedon” others the “Mobilepocolypse”.

The reality is that this is a major update that will boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages. There are five things to know about how this update may impact your brand.

1) The Update Only Impacts Mobile Search Results –  This is a mobile first update and will only impact results from mobile queries.

2) The update does impact all languages – This is a global roll-out. Those that manage pages across locations should take note.

3) The update apples to individual pages vs entire web sites – This may not be apparent initially, but makes sense as a whole. Google indexes pages and queries map to intent which extends from the relevance of the content on the page.

4) This is one dimension for how Google will rank a mobile search query – This update does raise the importance of a mobile friendly experience, but this is not the only signal being considered.

5) Strong content can overcome… For now – User intent based on the query is still an important factor. If the content on a non-mobile friendly page is considered the most relevant for the query it will still rank high for now.

It is important to take the necessary steps to create an optimal experience not only from a search perspective but also from a user experience standpoint.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

 

Going Beyond the App with Actionable Notifications

One incredibly useful iOS feature has flown under the radar for most branded applications. With a recent flurry of adoption from brands such as Walgreens, actionable notifications are quickly gaining traction as a mechanism to drive action through iOS notifications without the need to open an app.

The actionable notification API was originally announced at the 2014 Apple world wide developer conference (WWDC) and officially became available with the arrival of iOS8 last September.

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Actionable notifications essentially allow a user to take an action directly from a notification. By simply interacting with the notification, the user is then prompted with unique app based actions that can be performed without the need to open an app.

actionable notifications

Repost of actionable notification animated example from Nick Jensen

I was recently asked by Mobile Commerce Daily to provide commentary around Walgreens recent deployment of Actionable Notifications. Walgreens is leveraging actionable notifications to provide utility for existing consumers by allowing them to directly refill an Rx directly from the notification.

mobile commerce intro

Walgreens’ leveraging one of the newer features of iOS8 tied to actionable notifications is a great example of a brand maximizing the impact and flexibility of the operating system to create a seamless experience that does not require the user to open the application,” said Tom Edwards, executive vice president of digital strategy and innovation with The Marketing Arm, Dallas.

By providing tools that reduce friction and extend beyond simple engagement they are demonstrating the power of mobile to enhance the customers experience.”

Actionable notifications will also be available as a part of the upcoming release of the Apple Watch. After going through one of the “personal fittings” I was impressed by the potential of how notifications can extend through various notification use cases.

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After trying on the 42mm pictured above, I was impressed by the size and responsiveness of the interface.

Apple WatchKit will offer two types of notifications short-look & custom long-look notifications. Short look gives attribution to the app, title and app name and is visible only briefly.

With custom long-look we can incorporate up to 4 custom action buttons and custom graphics. Long-look is activated when a user either taps on a short look notification or if their wrist is raised.

Example of Short Term Apple Watch Notification

Short Look

With custom long-look we can incorporate up to 4 custom action buttons and custom graphics. Long-look is activated when a user either taps on a short look notification or if their wrist is raised.

Example of Long Term Apple Watch Notification

Custom Long-Look Notifications

One of the key points to consider is that just because the API exists does not mean that it is ideal for all scenarios. It is important to test the notification threshold of your user base and focus on extending value to existing behaviors vs. simply pushing messaging.

If there is a viable use case to create custom notifications that are simple extensions of your branded application then this API could be a great way to drive a certain behavior without the friction of forcing a user to open the full application.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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10 Learnings from Facebook F8 2015

Today my recap of 10 Learnings from Facebook F8 is the lead cover story for iMedia. Here is a link to the full article and below is a repost of the content.

iMedia Cover Story F8

I recently attended the 2015 Facebook F8 conference. Below is a recap of my top ten takeaways from the annual developer conference. The following outlines the current and future plans of one of the world’s largest tech companies.

F8 2015 Top 10

Current State – The primary theme of the opening keynote delivered by Mark Zuckerburg was one of “people first”. Facebook is now positioning it’s core offerings as a family of applications that are designed to align with how people are naturally using technology to engage and share.

F8 2015 Current State

It was quickly noticeable that each platform now plays a very specific role in the Facebook ecosystem. WhatsApp will continue to be a simple messaging platform, Instagram will maintain a focus on simplicity and creative expression.

Messenger is quickly being positioned as the primary mechanism for 1:1 communication and direct connection with businesses and groups continues to be a go to for 700 million people who want to collaborate around specific topics.

The core Facebook experience is focused on further extending it’s video capabilities while highlighting how they will remain relevant in the future by setting the foundation to support deeply immersive forms of content such as virtual reality.

Enhanced Messaging – One of the highly touted announcements was the expansion of Messenger to a 3rd party development platform. This is an important move for Facebook, especially with WhatsApp confirming during the conference that they will not be providing API’s any time soon on their product roadmap.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 1

3rd parties can now reach and engage over 600 million active users. With the Messenger Platform it is possible to drive discovery, engagement and attribution through images, videos, GIF’s and sound clips.

Applications can either be stand-alone apps designed to enhance conversations, or it is possible for a brand application to create a workflow to share content through messenger and deep link into the messenger optimized experience in their native application.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 2

Facebook also announced the beta launch of Businesses on messenger, which is how Facebook envisions brands and consumers engaging directly through enhanced customer service and value add to the consumer through templates that can showcase product details and enhanced order details.

Embedded Video – Facebook users are viewing over 3 billion videos per day and Facebook took another step towards challenging Google owned YouTube for market share by launching a new embedded video capability.

The new feature supports view count synchronization, full-bleed video and includes social actions in video such as Like and Share. Key points to consider are the desktop version is flash based and mobile is HTML5.

F8 2015 Embedded Video

In recent Facebook briefings there have been discussions about Q3 introducing sequential storytelling into the fold. This is one area that the current embedded video option is lacking compared to YouTube. YouTube currently has the ability to create annotations and now “Cards” to create connections between assets.

Importance of Advocacy – With all of the talk about Facebook and brands lack of organic reach, it was confirmed that for users the newsfeed is still mostly deterministic in terms of the content that is served. This confirmed that peer to peer sharing is still the most viable option for content centric brands.

Another central theme was tied to sharing of content and the importance of creating relevant and engaging content that inspires consumers to share. It is also important to create content that is tailored for the audience and then selecting the ideal application from the Facebook family delivery and discovery.

F8 2015 Importance of Advocacy

While most social brand personification strategies have taken a back seat now on Facebook’s primary platform due to the shift towards reach and frequency, leveraging consumer and employee advocates as well as groups are still viable means to distribute a message outside of paid advertising.

State of Plug-Ins – Social plug-ins have been a staple of the Facebook ecosystem for years. The Facebook social plug-in’s team outlined their intentions to redefine the experience of many of the standard plug-in’s to create a richer mobile experience.

The first step is to relaunch Facebook moderation tools to allow greater flexibility and an optimized experience for moderation that includes bulk actions, custom lists and is being rewritten from scratch for a better mobile experience.

F8 2015 State of Plug Ins

The team also outlined they are testing a new form of comment mirroring that aggregates comments from external news articles to the Facebook page and vice-versa. This is a key point to consider as this will align different audiences and shift the potential engagement that happens on-page.

Instagram – The Instagram team reiterated their focus on being community first and maintained that simplicity matters above all else when it comes to their product roadmap and the overall experience of the application.

The team confirmed that the Instagram newsfeed is 100% deterministic meaning that the content posted from your followers will appear in your feed. Based on this feedback, potentially adding features like a ReGram is not currently on the roadmap as the goal is to keep the experience simple.

F8 2015 Instagram

They reiterated that Instagram is not a distribution platform for brands. Likes, follows and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of ReGram functionality.

For brands, the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors and create a relationship with passionate fans to showcase their view of the brand as the core assets to fuel your branded experiences.

Omnichannel – In recent years, Facebook has increased their focus on shopper and direct response capabilities. They stated that they view Omnichannel as the future of commerce and they are positioning their cross-channel approach as the ideal for brands.

Facebook highlighted the size of their network, the persistence of logged-in identity and their cross-platform approach as to why they should be considered as a holistic omnichannel offering.

F8 2015 Omnichannel

A key point of discussion was tied to cross-screen attribution without proxies. With their SDK and conversion pixel, they stated that they have the ability to capture accurate measurement tied to their real users.

Future State – The most intriguing aspect of F8 was the insight into the future of Facebook strategy outlined by Facebook’s CTO Mike Schroepfer. In his keynote, he discussed the three core areas of focus for the near future. Those being planetary connectivity, natural interfaces and immersive experiences.

F8 2015 Future State

Services that scale and planetary connectivity are key areas of focus in the near future for Facebook. One of the key initiatives is tied to the Aquila unmanned solar drone. The drone is designed to stay aloft for three months at a time to deliver connectivity for remote regions.

Information overload was also an area of discussion for the future of Facebook. The goal is to build contextual systems that deal with information overload. One approach was the use of artificial intelligence built around the concept of convolutional neural nets that essentially create deeper associations between content elements at a faster rate than a simple algorithm.

The last of the three core pillars of the future state of Facebook is tied to the importance of creating and enabling the consumption of immersive content such as virtual reality. One of the key immediate takeaways was the fact that 3d spherical videos will be supported in the Facebook newsfeed. This is setting up for the immersive virtual reality experiences that are to come.

Parse + IOT – Facebook’s Parse was also a primary area of focus. Facebook acquired Parse in 2013. Since then, they are leveraging the platform as a service offering to provide additional rapid development services to mobile app developers such as user management, push notifications and analytics at scale.

F8 2015 Parse + IOT

Now with over 400,000 apps built on Parse, the Facebook team is now extending Parse to connect Internet of Things experiences. Facebook wants to make it easier for developers to leverage data from connected devices into their applications.

Many other tech heavyweights are investing in IOT data solutions. Apple, Google and recently IBM are all vying to unlock the key to leveraging IOT data.

Facebook’s approach is to connect devices and software that share common elements to increase the probability of systems working together. This could then lead to Facebook being the data aggregator between devices, software and data to create unique experiences across devices.

Virtual Reality – Virtual Reality played a key role throughout F8. Facebook referenced Virtual Reality as the next evolution of content experiences.

They showcased different applications from their teleportation stations that showcased what was happening in Menlo Park to their more immersive Crescent Bay demos that showed off the full capability of the Oculus Rift.

F8 2015 Virtual Reality

Facebook also spent half of a keynote simply showcasing the physiology associated with virtual reality and how the timing is now right as the cost of technology to create affordable consumer products is feasible, the experience is compelling and there is broad industry participation and a long-term commitment to advance the technology.

Facebook did a great job of balancing the short term vs. the future state while ensuring they are bringing their developer partners along the way. By shifting towards the family of apps strategy as well as building towards connected devices and immersive experiences, Facebook is in a position to remain relevant well beyond whatever happens with the core Facebook platform.

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MLB At Bat App Hits Big With Fans

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the early success of the MLB At Bat App as it has already hit 5 million downloads.

(Mobile Marketer) To what degree is the app a way for MLB to connect with younger audiences via mobile given baseball fans tend to be older on average than for some other sports?

(Tom Edwards) The key for MLB’s At Bat strategy is the portability and access to content. By providing a personalized approach to content consumption as well as live look-in’s the MLB app provides flexibility regardless of market. This is especially appealing to younger fans who may want instant access to content.

(Mobile Marketer) What do these downloads say about the power of mobile to enhance consumption not just of one game but of the whole universe of the Major League Baseball season for highly engaged fans?

(Tom Edwards) The MLB approach to accessibility and cross-device support is key to early success and success will be sustained throughout the season as MLB has struck the ideal balance between portability and personalization.

MLB - BlackFin360

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ESPN Gets Personal with Fans Through New Site

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the 20th anniversary re-launch of ESPN.com. The re-launch features the ability to further personalize the experience as well as provide a mobile first approach to cross screen experiences.

(Mobile Marketer) To what extent does this move reflect ESPN’s efforts to reach consumers on mobile?

(Tom Edwards) ESPN is focused on creating a mobile first experience that is tailored to it’s readers. By creating a responsive experience that also incorporates highly relevant content they are focused on delivering a contextually relevant and consistent content experience regardless of the device type.

(Mobile Marketer) What does the move to integrate ads into the site reflect about the needs/behavior of the mobile consumer?

(Tom Edwards) Initial signals of the ad offerings point to a more contextual ad experience that will be optimized based on the device type. This means that ads will be more of an extension of the experience which coincides more with how consumers are already interacting with the content.

ESPN - BlackFin360

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