This post is number 500 for the BlackFin360.com/blog. Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have made professionally. It provided me with a platform to share original thoughts, cover industry trends and serve as a repository for speaking and media coverage.
It has evolved significantly from the early beginnings in 2007. The blog was originally under the domain TheBlackFin.com. Now that domain is simply a redirect to BlackFin360.com. “BlackFin” was a nickname given to me by a co-worker at the time and the blog name came directly from my Xbox Gamertag “TheBlackFin“.
Here is a screenshot of the original look for the blog from 2007-2009. Why green for a blog named the “black” fin is something I still wonder about to this day.
Over the years the look and feel of the blog has changed but the core content focus on marketing, emerging technology, and gaming has remained to this day.
I officially moved the blog from theblackfin.com to blackfin360.com in 2009. By 2011 at least there were black/techie elements in the look and feel.
Now in 2018, the blog continues to serve as the primary entry point for speaking engagements, advisor opportunities, university lecturing, media coverage and over the past year it has shifted to more of a Vlog.
The look of the site will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond.
Whether this is your first time here or you have been a subscriber since the beginning, I sincerely want to thank anyone who has stopped by and spent time with my content. I am incredibly grateful for this platform and I would highly recommend to anyone to find their industry voice and build their personal brand in addition to their professional.
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Over the past six months, my team and I have evaluated the top emerging technology trends that will fundamentally reshape how marketers will connect with consumers.
Here is a brief preview:
The full analysis includes 68 trends categorized by our trend framework of Empower, Enhance, Feel & Ambient Computing. This will replace our original framework of Connection, Cognition & Immersion.
Empower to create content, engage and connect through new interfaces and touchpoints.
Enhance your daily life activities and responsibilities through intelligent systems and proxy’s.
Feel emotional experiences like pleasure and excitement delivered through immersive computing.
Ambient computing is the alignment of all three behavioral drivers.
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I look forward to Facebook’s F8 developer conference each year. It’s a great opportunity to see how Facebook is prioritizing and adjusting their 10 year road map based on shifting consumer behavior and new advancements in technology.
What was fascinating about this years conference is the rate they are accelerating the convergence of technologies that connect us, immerse us into new virtual worlds and advancing innovation well beyond what we would expect from a company that identifies itself as social first.
Facebook wants to redefine how we think about reality and the not too distant future when all reality is augmented and virtual. The following provides analysis across the consumer centric filters of connection, cognition and immersion.
- Connection – Trends that reimagine how we connect, enable and empower consumers
- Cognition – Trends where machine based intelligence will disrupt and redefine data assets and how we work
- Immersion – Trends that align technology and presence to evoke emotion, entertain and power commerce
Here are few examples of the 15 territories analyzed starting with:
The Camera as the First Augmented Reality Platform – Facebook understands that in order to truly create scale the key is to empower consumers, developers and other 3rd parties to create experiences on their behalf. Consumer empowerment is powerful and will accelerate adoption and ultimately influence consumer behavior towards a new normal.
The democratization of augmented reality (AR) powered by advancing artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to redefine advertisers approaches to content marketing, making it less about content and more about enabling experiences through compelling and contextually relevant effects.
Frames & AR Studio – Two sets of tools comprise the new Camera Effects Platform. The Frames Studio allows for quick deployment and creation of effects that can enhance an image, video or even Facebook live stream. This platform allows artists, creators and brands to create frames that can be targeted using Facebook targeting abilities for distribution.
The AR Studio is where it’s possible to create light weight AR effects that can developed and enhanced with elements such as real-time data to build highly contextual AR experiences. This is where brand marketers have an opportunity to align data + experiences.
Gaming & eSports
Convergence of gaming & video has been a massive trend over the past 24 months. 2B people play games each month. The rise and consumption of game streams now consists of 665M people watching people play games.
On Facebook people watch, play & create. Facebook’s gaming video product supports eSports (14-31% of live gaming consumption), developers, gaming entertainers and social connection for consumers of game stream content.
Gaming content is digitally native baked in real time interactivity. With gaming video the audience is more than a spectator. They participate in the experience via comments and getting involved in the gameplay.
Messenger 2.0 – 2016 was considered the year of the bot. Primarily fueled by Facebook’s Messenger beta which accelerated the development of a bot ecosystem to further enhance the Messenger experience.
In 2017, Facebook is positioning Messenger as Messenger 2.0 with a sharp focus on integration of other services via chat extensions giving 3rd party bots the ability to seamlessly connect other services such as Spotify or Apple Music.
Facebook is also keen on driving discovery among the 100,000 bots now on the platform via the new discover tab.
Data Design & Artificial Intelligence
Facebook is focused on leveraging multiple facets of Artificial Intelligence to power their products and accelerate 3rd party ecosystems.
Computer vision, natural language processing, and algorithms drive content discovery and their newly launched AR experiences. AI is now a foundational element to Facebook’s go-to-market strategy.
Facebook’s ultimate goal is to develop intelligent systems that go beyond computer vision and truly understand the world. This will then converge with their vision of an AR driven future to create a unified experience.
The Rise of Proxy’s – In the very near future we as consumers will have intelligent systems serving the role of a proxy. Facebook is betting on M to first serve as a virtual assistant that will eventually become a predictive service that is the foundation for their virtual computing future.
M will integrate into multiple facets of a users life from sharing location to recommendations. In the near future M can become the connection between a recommendation and AR object recognition action.
Virtual Reality & Facebook Spaces – Facebook officially launched Spaces for Oculus. This was first teased at F8 last year and the experience has definitely advanced from the grainy avatars from a year ago.
Facebook took research and learnings from Oculus Rooms via the Samsung Gear and refined an experience that lets your virtual avatar interact with Facebook content and friends in a virtual environment.
From virtual selfies to watching 360 video. It’s very clear to see that Facebook is focused on creating a new for of social interaction via a virtual environment.
The Future – Facebook took the first major step in achieving their 10 year goal of fully immersive augmented reality by launching the camera as their first augmented reality platform.
On day 2 of the conference, they outlined in detail how they view transparent glasses (deemed more socially appropriate) or some equivalent that is paired with a general artificial intelligence system to enhance our daily lives.
This includes improving memory, cognition, recognition and redefining how we interact with the physical world and collaborate with one another.
Here is the full recap consisting of all 15 territories analyzed plus implications for brand marketers to consider based on the trend identified.
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I had an opportunity to sit down with AdExchanger during Facebook’s F8 developer conference.
We discussed how Facebook’s new focus on Augmented Reality through camera effects can impact the future of marketing.
From the creation of effect based advertising and the intersection of artificial intelligence and the role of data.
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I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeffrey Hayzlett of C-Suite TV to kick off season 7 of Executive Perspectives. We discussed digital disruption, conversational experiences, artificial intelligence and best practices for leveraging data to connect with consumers.
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I recently attended Facebook’s F8 developer conference in San Francisco and the event did not disappoint. Mark and the Facebook team outlined their approach to a ten year roadmap, launched the highly anticipated Messenger chat bot beta and showcased their first concepts of a social virtual reality experience.
The presentation below covers:
• The 10 year roadmap analysis
• The Rise of Chat bots
• Immersive Experiences & Social VR
The 10 year Roadmap
This was the 10 year roadmap presented at F8. It follows the lifecycle continuum approach outlined in the previous slide.
Facebook proper is the most mature and has a thriving 3rd party ecosystem as well as a sustainable monetization model.
Messenger has been identified as the next ecosystem with powerful tools that were released at F8 2016 to drive conversational commerce and a new approach to replacing apps..
VR, Connectivity and AI represent the near future for Facebook and Social VR will be a key area to watch. Developing strategies that capitalize on creating value today while experimenting for the future is key.
For analysis on Facebook’s 10 year roadmap including Facebook’s approach to product lifecycle, Facebook proper, the Live video API, approach to connectivity, artificial intelligence and Facebook’s investment in hardware and open platforms view slides 4-12 in the embedded slideshare.
The Rise of Chatbots
With 900M users and over 1 billion messages sent per month, Facebook felt that Messenger has progressed through their continuum approach to product lifecycle and now has hit the inflection point of scale to build out an ecosystem to solidify and sustain Messenger as the go to mobile application.
The key is that Messenger will support one bot to many pages. This makes it easy to seamlessly connect brands or services in a portfolio to create compelling and unique experiences that are 1:1.
Since Facebook does not own the mobile hardware or the operating system, they are positioning Messenger threads as a replacement for native apps.
For in-depth analysis of chat bots including an overview, conversational commerce, the send & receive API, wit.ai, discovery within Messenger, promotion and conversational advertising view pages 14-22 of the embedded slideshare.
In addition to this POV our Epsilon agency team wrote a comprehensive eBook that launched when Facebook announced the Messenger Beta. The ebook covers the shift from social media to messaging and the role data, chat bots and conversational commerce will play for brands.
Virtual & Augmented Reality
Facebook states that virtual reality is the next evolution of computing and is heavily invested in the hardware and experiences that will comprise aligning technology with presence.
During F8 Facebook outlined a path forward for active VR experiences, demonstrated social VR concepts for the first time publicly and identified augmented reality as a viable disruptor for the first time as to date all the conversation has been about VR experiences.
Virtual Reality experiences are coming and the key will be empowering consumers to create their own immersive experiences. Facebook’s long term goal is to create completely virtual experiences that recreate the physical world. For now wave 1 will be avatar based.
For in-depth analysis of virtual reality including an overview of the role of the Gear VR in the ecosystem, Oculus Touch, the first public demo of Facebook’s Social VR concepts and the bets of the future review slides 23-29 of the embedded slideshare.
For more insights and analysis follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
Today at F8, Facebook made the formal announcement to beta launch 3rd Party Chat bot support for Facebook Messenger. I have written a few articles on this topic and have consolidated the thinking into an eBook.
Social media—and now social messaging—is a path to understanding and being in a relationship with your customers. Social messaging is poised to become the most direct, direct marketing channel, creating immediate 1:1 conversations with customers.
As consumer behavior shifts toward more intimate forms of communication and away from public sharing, we’re seeing social messaging apps become more popular than networking apps. Social messaging apps are the new lifestyle platforms, where consumers can do everything from booking a vacation or ordering food to checking traffic giving rise to a new form of commerce.
This white paper provides a deep-dive into:
1) Shifting consumer behaviors towards social messaging,
2) The potential impact of these changes driven by chatbots and conversational commerce
3) Proposed best practices and future considerations.
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I was recently asked by ClickZ for commentary about what role chatbots can play for e-commerce.
Are Chatbots the future or fad?
I am a believer that chatbots are a key element in the creation of conversational user experiences and will become core to the messaging experience. Chatbots will introduce new interaction models with new rules of engagement and capabilities that will flow seamlessly based on user interactions vs. installing and swapping between multiple apps.
A messenger chatbot ecosystem could rival and ultimately replace traditional app marketplaces and conversational chatbots, be it artificial intelligence or a bot augmented by humans will become the new standard for content delivery, experiences and transactions.
We view messaging apps as the new brand portal, conversational user experiences are the new interface and chatbots are the new apps. What makes this approach unique is it’s permission based, contextually relevant, immediate and native to mobile.
How can brands use chatbots to enhance their ecommerce?
Conversational commerce will be a key value proposition from messaging platforms. Our Epsilon research shows that messaging significantly impacts purchasing behaviors. Notably, consumers take photos, screenshots, and conduct video chats in real time to seek out assistance during their shopping process.
Brands can build bots with topical response decision trees that align with creating seamless paths to products and services. An example is how Sephora recently partnered with Kik to create a bot driven experience that led a customer through a personalized journey that ends with conversion directly within the conversation.
With Facebook’s upcoming launch of 3rd party chatbot support, they are empowering chatbot developers with tools to create structured messages that include images, descriptions, call-to-action and URL’s to connect conversation to commerce.
The key for brands to understand is that for now Chatbots are domain specific vs. general intelligence. This means that there is an opportunity to capture data upfront to establish a frictionless and personalized experience for consumers.
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On March 17th Facebook rolled out a simple update to Messenger just in time for March Madness.
By simply using the basketball emoji in Messenger a user can play a simple swipe and shoot mini game directly within the Messenger app experience.
This very simple integration could very well show the future for how brand marketers can capitalize on activating within the messenger ecosystem. This along with the potential rise of 3rd party chat bots could fundamentally change how we interact with our mobile devices, social media & apps moving forward.
Facebook Messenger has over 800 million users. And in January of this year Social Messaging Apps such as Facebook Messenger passed Social Networks for the first time when it comes to active users.
I have written a lot about Facebook’s plans to convert Messenger into a commerce hub and a 3rd party development platform. Next month Facebook is rumored to release their Chat Bot SDK at F8 and that could quickly accelerate a massive shift in behavior.
The basketball emoji example shows how a brand can potentially activate in a contextual way through a conversational UI and activate emoji, stickers and other experiences directly within the messenger experience.
As of today, 43.7 million players worldwide have played the Basketball Messenger mini-game. It hit the 300 million sessions mark just a week after launch, and the game took place in 61 million different conversations on Messenger.
Facebook would join Telegram as the only two Messenger providers that support open 3rd party apps 100%. You can see examples of bot integrations in action as Uber & Lyft are already integrated with Messenger.
This move by Facebook would provide scale and a massive audience and I am seeing additional enhancements being made prior to F8 such as the testing of in-line bots before the release of an SDK. This is similar to Telegram & Kik and allows users to connect directly with existing bots.
The example below shows in-line bots for Facebook Chess and Daily Cute.
A Messenger Chat Bot ecosystem could rival and ultimately replace app marketplaces. Conversational chat bots + AI through messaging could become the new standard for content delivery, experiences and transactions.
Building on the models we have seen in Asia with WeChat and Line, brand marketers will need to rethink the role their brands play to enable conversations, entertainment and convenience through bots vs. how they engage today through social and other channels.
Going back to the Basketball example, this means that brands could theoretically own the activation of unicode emoji as well as custom stickers and experiences. There is also a stickiness to the experience as high scores and other messages are shared between both parties.
Bots can also reduce the need for whole mobile apps for multiple phone operating systems, offering lower operational costs. Chat will quickly become the mobile portal, just like Google dominates Desktop search, Facebook is looking to dominate Messaging on mobile.
We cannot ignore the shift of consumers to more intimate means of sharing as well as the potential of comprehensive messenger based ecosystem that can allow the delivery of information, rich media, location services, e-commerce and traditional commerce.
I will be on the ground at F8 and will bring live coverage of all of the details if and when Facebook formally announces their 3rd Party Chat Bot SDK.
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Today, Twitter announced the integration of native GIF search support. This feature is designed to enhance a conversational user experience and is yet another signal of an impending shift that validates the importance of supporting visual language usage behavior (emoji, stickers, GIF’s).
Over the past few months I have talked a lot about the seismic shift in consumer behavior towards intimate sharing as well as platform and publishers integrating new features and testing conversational user experiences to keep pace with the shift from social media to social messaging.
This shift will redefine how brand marketers approach connecting with consumers. It will be less about the hallmarks of social media marketing which included personification of the brand in a witty way and more about enabling conversation and finding the key points to passively enable a conversation through visual language or by creating compelling customer experiences through messaging channels.
Publishers such as Facebook and Twitter as well as ephemeral platforms such as Snapchat are redefining the future of social media. In recent briefings with the Snapchat team, they stated emphatically that they are not a social network. And some brand marketers may not be comfortable with the pending new normal.
I recently discussed with iMedia how Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp’s go-to-market approach is key to their long term strategy to remain relevant with younger audiences and serves as a precursor to the shift that is coming.
Facebook is a microcosm for what’s happening in the industry. They have over one billion users engaging monthly, yet they are laser focused on evolving beyond social media and are doubling down on social messaging.
Facebook sees that consumer behavior is shifting towards intimate connection vs. broad-reaching social platforms. As a result, messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and SnapChat are dominating engagement with key demographics.
In addition to stickers, animated GIFs, and emojis, messenger applications will also focus on enabling customer service to serve as a primary commerce hub for publishers. Facebook has already tested programs connecting local service providers with consumers through Messenger, as well as enabling third-party developers to create new experiences that enable the messaging experience.
It’s not just about Messenger and WhatsApp. Facebook owned Instagram now has improved DM capabilities that focuses on intimate shareability of content. Instagram made it easier to share content without tagging as well as the ability to share with up to 15 people, respond with emoji or add additional images with a threaded approach. This is another signal of the importance of a conversational user experience.
Now Twitter is continuing it’s product evolution by adopting new functionality that is already prevalent with ephemeral messaging platforms. They announced support of native GIF search functionality across iOS, Android & web.
This is in addition to their recent testing of Snapchat stylized doodles and photo editing and expanding the character limit via direct messaging.
It is important to consider the macro shifts in consumer behavior combined with the signals given by the platforms in response to where they are placing their bets for the near future. If the Asian markets are any indication of future behavior in the US, we will see the rise of micro-messaging branded initiatives similar to WeChat.
Here is an example of Starbucks leveraging WeChat in China to conversationally connect with consumers. By sharing their emotion they can engage with branded content and offers.
From a marketing perspective, it is important to begin thinking about how to create or leverage a conversational user experience as well as begin to understand the shift in approach to supporting messaging apps with an “enabling” approach vs. social personification or brand centric messaging.
Consider the role that sponsored brand chats, stickers, emojis or a 3rd party app in the Messenger app ecosystem can provide towards building connections with consumers.
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Recently the International Business Times asked me to provide commentary and analysis of Q3 2015 earnings reports for multiple digital and technology organizations. I find quarterly earnings calls to be incredibly insightful, especially towards the end of the calendar year as new product investment announcements are made.
Below is my multi-article commentary about the future offerings that may impact new products and digital marketing experiences for Google, Twitter & Facebook.
FACEBOOK: Facebook had an impressive 3rd quarter as they continue to invest in core products and services. What was most impressive were the latest numbers being touted, specifically for private groups, messenger and WhatsApp.
Facebook’s approach to aligning products with varying levels of consumer intimacy while also keeping an eye towards the future of computing was impressive all while turning in impressive quarter over quarter earnings.
Post Earnings Facebook Commentary
Pre-Earnings Facebook Analysis
TWITTER: Twitter definitely faced turbulence with the release of their Q3 earnings report. I do believe that the renewed focus on maximizing interest-based connections through Moments is a key addition to better engage the existing & logged out users.
Time will tell if this will be enough to convince investors to stick with Twitter as a long term investment. But their recent emphasis on creating new experience based hubs is a strong move towards a maximizing the value created by their existing audience.
Post Earnings Twitter Commentary
Pre-Earnings Twitter Article
GOOGLE: I recently posted about Google’s Q3 earnings. Google’s decision to streamline their organization into a house of brands vs. a branded house will ultimately have a positive impact on their advertising business and more details about revenue and profitability will become clear in Q4 once Google & Alphabet separate revenue by business unit.
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From a strategy perspective, Instagram is one of the more misunderstood social platforms when it comes to outlining it’s role and business impact along the path to purchase.
Below is a breakdown of three Instagram use cases that outline various levers that can influence user behavior that can ultimately lead to awareness, advocacy and offline conversion.
Instagram’s numbers are impressive. 300 Million active users, 30 billion photos shared per day, 2.5 billion interactions per day as well as support for iOS, Android and web presence make it an ideal consumer engagement channel.
Instagram Session at F8
When crafting an Instagram brand strategy, I always start by mapping the objectives and goals of the brand against the various use cases and scenarios outlined below.
Depending on the desire of the brand marketer, it is possible to execute each of these as stand alone elements, but the greatest impact can be achieved by integrating multiple use cases.
Typically, I map Instagram strategic initiatives into three primary use cases: Brand Channel, Cooperative Content and Direct Response.
1 – COMMUNITY FIRST = BRAND CHANNEL – Some marketers desire to have a robust branded Instagram presence to round out their social channel ecosystem.
1.1 – Why have an Instagram brand channel? Over the past few years, Instagram marketing strategy has been approached in a very similar manner to other social platforms that came before it. This included extending the persona of the brand, fostering transparency and extending their visual storytelling efforts.
An Instragram brand channel can serve as a brand anchor on the platform, engagement driver and point of personification for the brand and connection with the Instagram community. But it is important to understand there are limitations to this approach if a brand has any desire beyond awareness and engagement.
1.2 – Can I extend organic reach through engagement? When I met with the Instagram team at F8, Instagram has what’s called a deterministic newsfeed. This means that all content that you post will be seen by your followers. The issue is that unlike Facebook’s previous algorithm that rewarded additional reach to your followers and beyond for interaction, Instagram engagement does not equal additional organic reach.
They reiterated that Instagram brand channels should NOT be treated as 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 (Think ReTweet) functionality limits branded content sharing.
1.3 – What does it do for my business? It is important to understand the parameters and set client expectations accordingly about what to expect if a brand channel is the only use case that is realized. Understanding that organic reach is limited to existing audience, a brand channel strategy alone would simply garner awareness and engagement.
1.4 – Conclusion (Awareness & Engagement) – If your brand has a robust social strategy that includes visual storytelling and is primarily focused on awareness and engagement as core drivers and are okay without having additional reach through engagement then a branded channel is right for you
2 – INSPIRE CREATIVITY = COOPERATIVE CONTENT In a recent meeting with the Instagram team, they expressed that the true power of the platform is the creator community.
For those marketers looking to move beyond awareness and engagement, it is possible to foster intent while maintaining the authenticity and connection with Instagram’s community through curation based use cases.
For most product based businesses, they expressed the importance of driving behavior and using the content created by users tied to hashtags as a cross-platform advocacy play.
This is an example from Sephora, that takes user created content and aligns it with the products that created the look to create contextual alignment between the brand and consumer.
2.1 – CALL FOR COOPERATION – The call for cooperation is the key element to maximize a UGC curation strategy. The key is to specifiy the behavior that is expected, provide a relevant hashtag and actively deliver the call to action.
The call to action can manifest itself in many forms. It can be tied to promotional activations that drive a specific behavior, such as the ATT #BeTheFan promotion.
Or it can come in the form of leveraging influencers to drive the call to action to create content on behalf of the brand.
The call to action and galvanizing Instagram’s creator community is the first step in curating cooperative content.
2.2 – App Centric Approach – Many brands leverage Instagram primarily through the lens of the consumer and the native filters of the app. For marketers that are looking for more brand equity out of user created content and have a strong branded application install base, it is possible to create custom filters through the brands native app and tie the share into the Instagram share stream via an API.
Tiffany’s integrated custom black and white, peach and Tiffany blue into a native app experience and then curated the best images as a part of their True Love in Pictures campaign.
2.3 – Choose the Right Moments – It is important to have an asset management system that allows you to have a flexible workflow to review submissions, facilitate rights management and connect pathways to cross-platform publishing of the content.
One of my go-to partners in this regard has been Chute.
2.3 – Display for Impact – Once you have aligned with your community about a call to action, curated images or videos natively or through a 3rd party application and have worked through rights and asset management, it is now time to display the cooperatively created content for impact.
This is an example from WestElm that highlights professional and user created Instagram content into their product pages.
Here is an example from ThinkGeek that highlights consumers with products in action.
2.3 – What does this mean for my business? Associating user generated content with products has shown a direct correlation to sales lift according to a recent IPSOS study.
For brands that are focused on leveraging earned media to create advocacy and impact “intent” (middle of the purchase funnel) a cooperative content curation strategy may be the right choice.
2.6 – Conclusion – For certain brand marketers 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 cross-platform branded experiences and display for impact.
3 – SIMPLICITY MATTERS = DIRECT RESPONSE – What we have seen over the past 6 months is a fundamental shift in social platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and now Instagram towards better supporting offline conversion through direct response ad types.
From an investor perspective, awareness and engagement are not always seen as the most viable way to invest dollars that drive tangible business impact. This is one of the primary reasons that Twitters CEO stepped down as they did not have a viable way to measure true impact of spend.
3.1 – Why Paid Advertising on Instagram? Instagram’s paid advertising offerings have evolved significantly over the past year and we as marketers are starting to see the influence that the Facebook acquisition has had on the platform.
Recent announcements highlighted advanced targeting will be coming soon to the Instagram ad products. In partnership with parent company Facebook, Instagram’s ad products will allow for greater specificity to deliver a contextually relevant message that may drive a direct response from the consumer.
3.2 – What does it do for my business? With improved targeting capabilities thanks to Facebook and now an option launching this fall to support direct response call to actions such as shop now, install now, sign up, learn more, we see an increased emphasis on driving a user to action. One element that has been missing from Instagram.
Also, the news that an Instagram ads API will be available this fall to support both small and large organizations is important news for those marketers that are not spending millions of dollars on the Facebook ad platform.
3.3 – Conclusion – Instagram’s ad products are continuing to evolve and the addition of direct response units is a very welcome addition. Initial signals are positive, but it will be important to see what changes a more comprehensive ad product suite will have on a platform that has prided itself on simplicity and community.
As you can see, there are various strategic use cases that can drive different outcomes depending on your objectives. Understanding when to activate one vs. the other, or multiple elements simultaneously is key to fully maximizing the highly creative and engaged Instagram audience.
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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.
Anthology is a creative brief based program that combines the insights and scale of Facebook with the reach and relevance of large publisher partners.
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.
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)
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.
Oh My Disney – Ability to leverage assets and properties of Disney in short form content that is designed to be shared.
The Onion – satirical news content creator
TasteMade – Mobile centric video network that reaches 25 million people monthly
Funny or die – Original & UGC Comedy & Pop Culture Content creator
Electus Digital – Properties include Collegehumor.com, Dorkly (Geek Culture) and Nuevon (Hispanic)
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the recently released Facebook TV ads.
Mobile Marketer – How unprecedented is it for Facebook to do a strict branding campaign like this? Why is this symbol of the social media/mobile age going to television ads, a traditional tool generally used for branding?
Tom Edwards – The brand campaign aligns with recent shift towards a reach and frequency approach vs. social engagement. Facebook is now positioning itself to drive incremental revenue from television while also focusing on discovery and video as key drivers moving forward. By using traditional media, it can create a bridge and further align itself as a mass media entity in it’s own right.
Mobile Marketer – What opportunities or challenges can this campaign open for FB?
Tom Edwards – Facebook does not have an awareness problem, however the usage behavior, especially within the younger demographics are shifting. By positioning the brand and the core promise of what Facebook delivers, connections with the people that matter the most and share your life, they are reinforcing the core value of the platform.
Mobile Marketer- What do these ads say about how Facebook is positioning itself for consumers?
Tom Edwards – The campaign reinforces some of the core behaviors associated with why consumers engaged with the brand in the first place and it carefully highlights multiple audience segments while reinforcing the value of connection.
Mobile Marketer- What does the ad say about the internal challenges Facebook is facing?
Tom Edwards – Facebook has reinvented itself multiple times over the past few years. In order to maintain it’s massive user base Facebook will need to continue to evolve. You see this in the acquisitions of Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus and Live Rail as well as the parsing out of messenger from the native app. Creating relevant points of connection and value across physical and digital while creating value and scale for advertisers will be key areas of focus moving forward.
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This is the first of three posts taken from my recent interviews with iMedia. This post & video discuss aligning social and mobile strategy.
To think that your social strategies and mobile campaigns can continue to exist in silos is an antiquated idea. Consumers are as attached to their devices as they are to their social networks and followings. Agencies know that these two worlds must collide for client campaigns to really take off. A campaign on mobile has a lot to compete with on its own, but if you integrate ways to make it easily sharable, likeable, and give it social legs, your chances for engagement are much higher.
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Here is a preview of my latest take on the evolution of social media marketing.
The presentation starts with a trip down memory lane by reviewing the rise of social media platforms across the globe.
Next is a look at the impact social media trends have had on consumer behavior. Everything from viral videos, #selfies and the rise of YouTube celebrities.
Then focus shifts to the evolution of social marketing globally and the role that content plays in today’s social marketing programs.
The journey wraps with a look at the future state of social marketing.
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A lot of industry attention has been directed at the recent Facebook shift to reach and frequency and the relevance of engagement on social platforms. The key areas of emphasis from Facebook is so much content is being generated that it is not possible to consume 15,000 potential stories so Facebook’s edge rank algorithm allows for ~300 to show in the news feed. The impact for brands was to rethink their owned & paid strategy approach on the platform.
The shift impacted the ability for brands to create reach through engagement on Facebook which had been a viable strategy. There are still ways for brands to maximize organic content distribution and create reach through engagement socially. I have written previously on the benefits of Tumblr for organic content distribution and extending the shelf life of content. Today, I am focusing on the potential to create reach through engagement with Instagram but with a caveat that this may only be for a limited amount of time.
Recently, Forrester studied more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks. The key takeaway was the fact that Instagram blew the other platforms away when it came to organic engagement. The Forrester study showed that Instagram delivered 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.
Another example in the CPG space is on display in a recent social media analysis by Zuum. Their report highlights that Oreo’s 184,000 Instagram followers generate more engagement than their 37 million Facebook fans.
I recently spoke to team members @ Facebook to discuss the organic Instagram algorithm and the unofficial answer is that we should expect Instagram to closely mirror Facebook’s approach in the near future… “to reach the right audience brands will need to invest to get the scale they need to impact business results. There is too much content being created to get meaningful organic distribution and it will be required to build ideas that will have scale to the right audience“.
The recent launch of Instagram Business Tools validates the pending shift. The current approach allows brands to track both organic performance through the account insights dashboard, highlights paid performance through the ad insights and even allows cross-agency collaboration with the new ad staging tools.
Here is a screenshot from the Instagram Blog highlighting account insights
The key is to leverage the organic capabilities while you can and then plan on shifting to a similar approach to Facebook with content that is specific to Instagram.
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Instagram recently announced they are taking major steps to enable brands by providing greater insight into the performance of both organic and paid content. These tools are a welcome addition to the highly visual platform and will create tighter alignment with business goals as it pertains to tracking impressions, reach and engagement.
The tools are built around three primary areas of account insights, ad insights and ad staging.
Account Insights – Account insights is the primary dashboard for mapping performance and engagement of organic content. This includes insights around the weekly performance of content, aggregate impressions over time as well as additional insight into the brands audience.
Here is a screenshot from the Instagram Blog highlighting account insights
Ad Insights – Ad Insights is the campaign performance hub for Instagram paid media that houses brand analytics (impressions, reach and frequency). Instagram, similar to parent company Facebook, are heavily focused on reach and frequency vs. engagement as a primary value proposition for brands. The Ad Insights dashboard is a quick and easy reference against the current campaign goals and all of the data can easily be exported for additional client reporting.
Ad Staging – One of the more exciting tools, especially for Social Agencies that partner with Media agencies on behalf of their brands, is the Ad Staging option. This tool will allow cross functional teams to collaborate together to preview, save, and collaborate on ad creative.
These tools will be made available to all Instagram advertisers and will enable tighter campaign integration as well as invaluable data around how the brands target is engaging and interacting with both organic and paid content. Building recommendations on a strong data foundation is a key to maximizing the impact of a visual content strategy.
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Facebook is rolling out major changes to their platform that greatly affect marketers. To help navigate this shift, I have worked closely with the Facebook team to understand the nuances of the shift and created a white paper that should help organizations to understand the shift and what steps to consider next.
The overarching point you need to understand is that organic Facebook reach is being reduced dramatically and it will cost you to reach your own audience. Facebook is now less about brand-published content being the sole driver of engagement. You must pay to amplify your content and you must create multiple variations of your content based on targeting different segments of your audience.
Here is a summary of what you will find in the white paper:
1) Past: Facebook Reach = Earned Media. Present: Facebook Reach = Paid Media
2) Trend of organic reach of content on a brand’s Facebook page:
- October 2013 reach = (approx) 12% of followers
- February 2014 reach = (approx) 6% of followers
- Soon reach = (approx) 1-2% of followers
3) Now, more than ever, brands must pay for reach on the platform
4) Near Term considerations:
- Re-evaluation of your creative
- Frequency of posting
5) Defining the “Way Forward”
- Reach and Frequency Focus
- Engagement Focus
- Community Focus
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Recently, I was asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about how iBeacon can add extend the reach of entertainment brands. The discussion also included insight into the current challenge entertainment brands face with iBeacon as well as recommendations to effectively leverage iBeacon technology.
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With the recent rollout of Facebook’s new mobile news reader app Paper we see the next step in their single purpose app strategy. This post does dive into what Paper is, but more importantly, it focuses how brands can potentially capitalize on Paper now, and into the future.
The launch of Paper is directly targeting Google News, Flipboard, Twitter and other more visually centric news services. The key differentiator for Facebook is by integrating core functionality (engage and post across the Facebook ecosystem, native functionality like messages and notifications) combined with a highly visual curated user experience, it goes beyond the simple utility of consuming news into an engaging experience built on top of Facebook’s social graph.
Here is a brief overview of the app
Having talked to numerous Facebook representatives it appears that there is NOT YET an opportunity for brands to create a unique experience or impact the curated content in categories… the key word is yet. The following section is speculative based on potential directions Facebook may take the Paper application to create value for brands and potentially monetize the platform.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL BRAND OPPORTUNITIES WITH PAPER?
Having worked closely with Facebook over the years I am projecting that in the near future there may be opportunities for content rich brands to infiltrate the experience with the goal of driving content discovery. Below are a few thoughts on how content rich brands may be able to leverage Paper in the future.
1) Category Inclusion – As the application gains adoption, there will be an increased desire from content rich brands to be included in specific category feeds. I would project that their may be a tiered approach to content positioning based on relationship factors such as Facebook media spend.
At this point there is not any type of self serve option or a rep based option to influence the content sources for each category. The natural next step is to expand the categories and sources or allow groups to create and curate their own categories. Very similar to how Flipboard (For more information on Flipboard, here is a previously written article on how to incorporate Flipboard into your content strategy) enables brands by allowing them to create custom curated brand magazines.
Here is an example of the Paper category user experience
Here is a brand example of a Flipboard Custom Curated Magazine
2) Recommendation Engine – Going beyond simple inclusion would be the coveted ability to gain visibility through a category recommendation engine. This could be in the form of category/content specific feeds. An example would be creating a “Gaming” category and having a content provider such as Game Informer feeding relevant content.
Example of Google+ Recommendation Engine
Example of OutBrain’s Content recommendation engine
3) Sponsored Content – This will most likely mimic some of the native advertising approaches we see from other native publishers. Eventually I would expect sponsored content to become the primary monetization option for the application.
Example from Buzzfeed and Sponsored stories inserted into the organic “news” streams
4) Social Graph Enabled Personalization – Facebook Paper is more focused on discovery vs. personalization and the initial roll-out reflects this approach. The Paper application is more about self-selection from the user against predefined categories vs. customizing their curated feeds. Over time there may be an opportunity for the application to be more connected with a users social graph and personalize the news experience in a more targeted manner. This could lead to further aligning targeted media based on consumption habits of the apps users to create a truly personal experience.
If this were the case the value to brands is the ability to potentially target specific messaging to drive engagement into conversion.
5) Geolocation Based Content – Another area of opportunity would be associating content recommendations based on location. This could either be curated location based content that is relevant through your social graph connections or simply mapped to a specific location with relevant news and tips.
One of the core benefits of Facebook as a platform is the ability to connect with local content that matters. Including geolocation based content could extend the reach of the platform to support event specific content and drive additional value for brands sponsorship dollars. An ideal use case could be to create curated feeds tied to an individuals NCAA College Football preferences and inject native sponsorship messaging into the experience that outlines where the sponsor may be setting up during gameday with a compelling value proposition.
Here is an example of the AT&T Fanzone Tour. A new point of discovery could be a personalized sports category that also aligns content recommendations based on locations with events that can enhance gameday and provide great value for sponsorship dollars
All of this is speculative, and Paper may go the route of Home & Poke but it is fun to think about the possibilities of extending the Facebook ecosystem. If the application drives a healthy install base eventually content rich brands will become a more prominent part of the equation.
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How we consume information is constantly changing. With the shift towards mobile centric visual storytelling and the decrease in organic reach by many social platforms it is even more important that your content tells a story and ultimately gets a users thumb to stop and take notice.
The following deck highlights best in class examples of visual storytelling, atomized content, thematics & real-time examples that are highly creative and drove engagement.
Many examples were featured by Facebook & Twitter teams as best in class.
Even though the deck focuses on best-in-class creative examples, it is important to reiterate that most of the examples are rooted in a formally defined social persona. The tone & voice of the brand is represented while also aligning with the online behaviors of the target audience to create relevant points of connection in addition to being visually appealing.
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I wrote this post back in May of this year when I was first briefed by the Facebook team about this potential product roll-out. It has been a long go for this feature to roll out.
I hear it now… “Wait, we can already promote a video via paid… how is this different?”
Facebook’s goal is to now incorporate sight, sound and motion in a users newsfeed on both mobile & desktop without a click. They had recently rolled out the feature to general users to test the response with consumers. They have seen a 10% higher engagement than non autoplaying videos since launching in September.
We know that the power of Facebook is tied to Storytelling & amplification. The goal with this new offering is to further extend social context via storytelling + great content = great conversation and to capture a users attention without a click to initiate.
Seeing it in action is impressive and definitely gets your attention as it is ALREADY active when you scroll down your feed. The video starts as soon as it enters your frame of view within the newsfeed.
Initially the sound is off with subtitles and an option to turn the sound on is then prompted to the user.
Here are the details…
- The view is defined by 3 carousels, similar to how multiple images show in a post
- The first video is a 15 second brand reveal spot that is also subtitled and initiates upon visibility in your stream
- There are two other spots that can play the extended cuts of video content 30, 60, 90 to a 10 minute trailer within the carousel
- The user is then prompted to share & comment directly within the video post view
- The video will pause and start back up again when the user scrolls back up
- Each video has to be a minimum of 15 seconds (no vines here)
- There will only be 1 video campaign per day. You read that correctly. 1 video per day. Your brand owns that day
- Pure impression based pricing at the moment, no CTR or True View type option yet.
- Segmentation will be limited to (male/female 18-54) demos. The only segmentation available out of the gate is tied to gender and 18-54. As with all products, after launch the ability to further segment will come into play
- This is only available directly through Fb I/O no self serve option. Pricing is comparable to a day’s takeover on other channels
From a strategic standpoint this is a pure awareness driver as of time of launch the product is purely impression based at the moment with Facebook providing guaranteed reach.
From a measurement standpoint, Facebook is claiming guaranteed audience through Nielsen OCR (Online Campaign Ratings) as well as Video insights powered by Facebook insights reporting that will capture everything from sound, engagement (likes, comments, shares) organic reach and fans.
There are a number of brands that are lining up to take advantage of this type of placement. For large programs that center around digitally centric content, this is a great addition to the platform.
Initial reaction even among my team was mixed. Terms like “fascinating”, “interesting” & “awesome” were also met with some concern. A very savvy team member made the point that he was concerned with the recent levels of driving monetization could be impacting the overall user experience… potentially leading to a loss of interest on the platform”.
My takeaway was from a brand perspective I like the opportunity to feature my digitally centric content and drive guaranteed reach. The motion seemed like a natural extension of the News Feed and the “sound off” option did not lead me to remember the days of geocities sites that blared music upon load.
It will be very interesting to see the impact that this new type of offering will have and which brands will be first out of the gate.
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I was recently briefed by the Twitter team about today’s formally announced tailored audience product release. The need to create custom audience segments based off of existing datasets is becoming increasingly important for organizations to further differentiate and target relevant messaging.
Twitters offering on the surface is very similar to how Facebook approaches custom audience targeting but with a few subtle nuances. Facebook’s approach allows organizations to use existing e-mail addresses, phone numbers or Facebook User IDs to create a match with users on Facebook to create custom segments.
This is represented simply by the Identify, Find & Reach visual below.
The way that Facebook’s matching works is your organization would map the selected customer base into groups of people you want to target with specific messages and then upload the list via the Facebook power editor. That data is then hashed via a one way hash. This information is not “kept” by Facebook and a rep recently stated an example… “You cannot run sausage back through a grinder to make a pig“. This hashed data is then mapped against existing Facebook UID’s and a custom list is created with a match rate of over 80%.
Here is an example of how it works.
One of the questions I receive a lot on this topic is if the brand has to do this or can it be administered by a third party? The answer is both. Those comfortable with the process can create custom audiences or pass to a 3rd party to facilitate the mapping.
This type of targeting is ideal to pair with paid to deliver a highly impactful message. An example would be taking an offline loyalty database, taking the top 5% of purchasers and create a custom mapped list based on past purchases to deliver a high impact message.
Twitters announcement today regarding what they call tailored audiences is a similar concept. Twitter already has a number of ways to target individuals on their platform.
What is interesting about their approach to targeting is that they can target off of both CRM and Web. From a CRM standpoint the process is similar to Facebooks where offline data such as e-mail is matched against Twitter users to reach them with Twitter Promoted Products.
Where it gets very interesting is Twitter’s ability to tailor web audiences as well. This is done by a data partner sending anonymized cookie ID lists composed of chosen audiences that is then mapped against Twitter lists.
With further dependency on paid due to lower organic reach, the ability to target and activate existing assets socially is going to be of paramount importance to the success of going beyond engagement to create intent with targeted consumers. The ability to further align offline & online behavior to those who have shown interest through purchase or other means is a key point of consideration moving forward.
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One of the questions I receive a lot is the relation between Google+ and search. I commonly hear “of course Google+ impacts search”, but when pressed most don’t fully understand to what extent. Google+ is one of the more misunderstood properties when it comes to mapping it’s value for a social strategy. The key is not to look at Google+ from just a social lens.
Google provides an incredibly powerful ecosystem for a brand but when it comes to strategy Google is often a secondary area of consideration because of the separation of traditional SEO and the entities that manage social properties or the disconnect between paid & owned strategy.
Think about the three primary points of entry, Google, YouTube & Google+. Google is the primary search engine for a majority of the world, YouTube is the #2 search engine and a key point of distribution for video content and the Google+ represents the future of where Google is building the intersection of search & social via contextual search driven by engagement.
You can see more emphasis on the ecosystem via Google’s new authentication Messaging
So I thought it would be interesting to test the impact of Google+ content on search and the impact of content discoverability. I continue to be impressed by how timely Google is mapping newly created content into search results.
You can see that a Google+ post that I added is already associated with the topic in a search query for a broader topic “5 Reasons to Consider Flipboard”. I wanted to understand the point of differentiation from a contextual placement vs. standard.
I enlisted the help of various team members to test the contextual mapping of the post:
Step 1: Please google a recent Google+ post topic such as “5 Reasons to Consider Flipboard”
Step 2: Try this while logged into Google+
Step 3: Try this while logged out to see if you get the same result.
Step 4: If I don’t appear in your results please follow me on Google+ and see if that changes your results.
Step 5: Please send me a quick note directly to me that outlines at which step the content appeared to you if at all.
Why the experiment? One of the key elements we need to constantly consider from a content strategy standpoint is the impact that posting through Google+ can have from a search perspective vs. engagement. If the domain is verified and the author is mapped as a contributor via their personal Google+ profile, content created will associate elements of the authors Google+ profile in search results (You can see my Google+ profile pic is shown in conjunction with the post). Understanding the reach of the end result of Google authorship and if this is purely contextual vs. standard is of interest.
The Results: For those who were not following me prior to the experiment my social content did not have any association with their Google results either logged into Google+ or logged out.
Here are the results without any contextual association
The association did not become apparent until the user had added me to their circle, then 100% of the users saw the content within the next 24 hours.
Here is what users who added me to their circles saw upon searching for the topic
Content that is optimized for contextural search, including correct usage of hashtags, keywords, etc… will show in search results within minutes of posting to Google+. If a user is following you via a circle and happens to search on the topic you just posted about in the traditional google+ ecosystem, they will see your post towards the top of the 1st SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
As a brand, topical content shows towards the bottom of the 1st SERP for those that in your circles. I am a follower of Callaway Golf, and their Google+ topical content now displays in my SERP.
The final signal to Google is via engagement. If the content gets a significant amount of engagement (Threshold TBD) then the content has a higher probability of the content shifting from contextual to standard, meaning the content is now discoverable outside of those in immediate circles. This is one of the driving factors behind driving circle growth within Google+. It is less about Google+ as a social platform, and more about mapping social content into a more traditional point of consumer discovery.
Google will continue to be a key ecosystem to consider in mapping larger integrated digital campaigns. Especially with the increased focus on content creation, discovery & distribution, understanding how to amplify the content and create contextual associations between socially created content and search will be a key point to consider as contextual search moves to the center of the Google ecosystem.
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Instagram just announced upcoming support for video and image based ad support. This move was inevitable based on Facebook’s ownership of the platform. This announcement is also very timely considering Twitter’s upcoming IPO.
Here are a few of the details from their announcement:
“In the next couple months, you may begin seeing an occasional ad in your Instagram feed if you’re in the United States. Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow. We’ll focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community.
Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands. After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.
We’ll also make sure you have control. If you see an ad you don’t like, you’ll be able to hide it and provide feedback about what didn’t feel right. We’re relying on your input to help us continually improve the Instagram experience. As always, you own your own photos and videos. The introduction of advertising won’t change this.”
With so much of Facebook’s focus on in-stream engagement and discussions tied to interactive units in stream on Facebook, it will be very interesting to see how users will respond to the new ad types. The Instagram experience is primarily delivered via Mobile, with a single image feed. By injecting units in this environment, it increases the disruption to the end user so it will be very important to see how the ads are delivered and what considerations or potential changes to the feed will be made to support the new ad types while maintaining a clean user experience.
From a brand perspective this is a welcome addition as the ability to extend a cross-platform campaign that incorporates Instagram ad support can be a key reach driver for certain types of campaigns. It is also a natural assumption that best practices from Facebook’s advertising platform will make its way into Instagram ad support as the ability to drive relevant targeting will be a key point of consideration for adoption.
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