FB Messenger & Evolving CRM Strategy

I recently attended Facebook’s F8 developer conference. One of the more compelling sessions discussed Facebook Messenger’s role in lead generation, consideration, and re-engagement.

This video is my assessment and analysis of the content presented and additional perspective for marketers looking to capitalize on Facebook Messenger’s shift towards the center of the Facebook product suite. These changes will result in the ability to reach potentially 2 Billion users across platforms and the globe.

Facebook Messenger & Evolving CRM Strategy

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In The News: AdExchanger & F8

I was recently asked by Ad Exchanger to provide my thoughts tied to announcements made at Facebook’s 2019 F8 developer conference. Here is a link to the published Ad Exchanger article.

My full commentary is outlined below:

(Ad Exchanger) Does this “privacy vision” feel sincere or is Facebook cleverly positioning its shift?

(TOM) I feel the shift from Facebook to “the Future is Private” was necessary as the shift reflects how consumers have been interacting since 2016 when social messaging surpassed open social in terms of usage behavior. 

The company went through a similar shift in 2014 with the myopic focus on becoming “Mobile First” with 100% focus and resource allocation supporting the vision. I see the same focus here with privacy. It makes sense that this was the macro theme for F8 and a rallying cry to adjust the product suites. The focus on interoperability and encryption as well as shifting messenger to be the new connection point for friends and families is a smart move. 

Separately, how much of an impact will the privacy vision have on how Facebook will be able to monetize?

How this impacts advertising will be interesting. While the focus on reduced permanence and the statements around privacy and encryption are good tent pole statements, item #6 in the privacy manifesto was Secure Data Storage. There will also be the consolation around Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp to create a new advertising network connected to 2 billion people. How data will be used to support the targeting is TBD but the infrastructure to create new avenues of reach and the new consumer acquisition ad units that drive to Messenger will be a key part of their strategy putting the onus on the consumer to share data, as outlined by the new consumer acquisition ad types for Messenger. 

And lastly, how will marketers need to change their Facebook strategy as engagement moves invariably away from the feed and more into Stories, messaging, etc.

(TOM) As marketers it’s important to understand the shift away from content marketing and focus on enabling creativity, utility and entertainment through Messenger and Instagram. Leaning into the ability to co-view video, utility through integration of various API’s, understanding the new payment and commerce capabilities and supporting the creation of AR experiences. Also understanding how to navigate the shift with FB5 towards groups and the role that marketers can play to create new types of connections. 

There is a lot to unpack and as Facebook continues to shift towards fast, reliable and private experiences, it will be interesting to see how the platforms actually evolve and where new opportunities to drive monetization will come from. 

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Facebook F8 Recap & Reaction

A quick reaction & recap video with highlights from today’s Facebook F8 event. The macro theme was the future is private and it was all about Facebook’s approach to privacy and it’s product suite.

Messenger is going to play a starring role, advances with Instagram and commerce, further maturing of Facebook’s AR toolset, new and exciting VR announcements, a preview of how CRM will evolve via Messenger and what was missing from today’s show. This and more in today’s video.

Full recap & analysis of Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference

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Celebrating 500 BlackFin Posts

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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68 Top Trends So Far in 2017

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.

Download the 2017 Midyear Trend Deck Today!

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Facebook F8 Full Recap & Analysis

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. 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Facebook F8 2016 Trend Recap

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.

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The presentation below covers:

•  The 10 year roadmap analysis

•  The Rise of Chat bots

•  Immersive Experiences & Social VR

The 10 year Roadmap

Facebook 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.

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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.

Social Shift Toward Messaging

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.

Photo Apr 12, 10 31 16 AM

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

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The Social Shift Towards Messaging eBook

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.

Download the eBook today!

Social Shift Toward Messaging

Follow Tom Edwards @Blackfin360

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In The News: Chatbots & E-Commerce

I was recently asked by ClickZ for commentary about what role chatbots can play for e-commerce.

Screenshot 2016-04-11 16.45.32

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.

Screenshot 2016-04-11 16.52.24

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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An Emoji Basketball Could Be The Future of Marketing

On March 17th Facebook rolled out a simple update to Messenger just in time for March Madness.

Photo Mar 22, 5 35 47 PM

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.

Tom Edwards Chat BotPhoto Mar 23, 6 02 08 PM

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.

facebook messenger

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.

Photo Mar 22, 6 39 43 PMPhoto Mar 22, 6 47 58 PM

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.

Photo Mar 22, 6 36 51 PM

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.

Starbucks

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.

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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.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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IBT Q3 Earnings Commentary Facebook, Twitter & Google

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.

earnings numbers Q3

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

facebook 2

Pre-Earnings Facebook Analysis

facebook pre earnings

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

Twitter 2

Pre-Earnings Twitter Article

IBT Twitter

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.

For Q3, By clearly defining the boundaries of Google vs. the other entities housed in Alphabet, Google has aligned the core revenue generating advertising products and simplified the value proposition of what Google is.
Moving forward as advertising dollars continue to shift from search into other advertising product lines, Google can further integrate their offerings into a comprehensive ecosystem that can flex to better meet the needs of advertisers and continue to be a core revenue driver to further compete with Facebook.

International Business Times

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Instagram Strategy and the Path to Purchase

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.

Instagram

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.

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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.GameStop, Inc. Instagram photos
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.

instagram-photo-harrington-news-feed

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.

sephora beauty board

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.

att_bethefan_header

Or it can come in the form of leveraging influencers to drive the call to action to create content on behalf of the brand.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 18.23.31

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-True-Love-in-Pictures

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.

2.3Choose the Right MomentsIt 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.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 19.23.40

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.

WestElm

This is an example from WestElm that highlights professional and user created Instagram content into their product pages.

Think Geek

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.

UCG7

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.

Instagram Targeting

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.

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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.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFIn360

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.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

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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Mobile Marketer: Facebook TV Spots

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.

Facebook TV ads.jpg

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Aligning Social & Mobile Strategy

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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Evolution of Social Media Marketing

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.

Evolution of Social Marketing Timelines - Tom Edwards

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.

Evolution of Social Media Trends - Tom Edwards

Then focus shifts to the evolution of social marketing globally and the role that content plays in today’s social marketing programs.

Evolution of Social Marketing Content - Tom Edwards

The journey wraps with a look at the future state of social marketing.

Evolution of Social Marketing Future - Tom Edwards

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New Instagram Business Tools

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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 4.35.56 PM

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

Instagram Business Tools

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.

Q3 brand campaign

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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From Virality to Engagement to Reach & Frequency. Facebook’s Latest Strategy Shift Explained.

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
  • Personalization
  • Optimization

5) Defining the “Way Forward”

  • Reach and Frequency Focus
  • Engagement Focus
  • Community Focus

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5 Ways The Facebook Paper App Could Change the Future

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

Paper Categories

Here is a brand example of a Flipboard Custom Curated Magazine

Callaway Apex Irons MagazinePhoto Oct 08, 2 01 25 PM

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

interesting-on-google-plus-box

Example of OutBrain’s Content recommendation engine

Screenshot 2014-02-05 10.09.38

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

Buzzfeed

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.

webofgraphs_320x245

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

att-fanzone2

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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Visual Storytelling & Thumbstopping Design

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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Facebook To Launch Video Ads In News Feed

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.

Photo Dec 17, 10 49 51 AM

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.

video-screen-shot

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…

  1. The view is defined by 3 carousels, similar to how multiple images show in a post
  2. The first video is a 15 second brand reveal spot that is also subtitled and initiates upon visibility in your stream
  3. 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
  4. The user is then prompted to share & comment directly within the video post view
  5. The video will pause and start back up again when the user scrolls back up
  6. Each video has to be a minimum of 15 seconds (no vines here)
  7. There will only be 1 video campaign per day. You read that correctly. 1 video per day. Your brand owns that day
  8. Pure impression based pricing at the moment, no CTR or True View type option yet.
  9. 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
  10. 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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Custom Audiences for Facebook and Twitter

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.

Screenshot 2013-12-05 12.42.33

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.

Screenshot 2013-12-05 12.44.19

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.

Screenshot 2013-12-05 13.15.11

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.

Screenshot 2013-12-05 12.50.49

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.

Screenshot 2013-12-05 12.51.08

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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Social Search And Circle Impact Theory

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.

google ecosystem

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

Screenshot 2013-11-04 11.11.00

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.

Contextual

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.

Circle Impact TheoryGoogle+ Post Tom

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

Google

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

Google+ Post Tom

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.

Callaway Brand
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 Ads are Here

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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 4.35.56 PM

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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Hero 4 Final

Facebook Updates Promotional Guidelines

Big news on the promotional front from Facebook today. According to the Fb team & latest blog post it’s now easier to administer promotions on Facebook.

Per the Facebook blog postWe’ve updated our Pages Terms in order to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to create and administer promotions on Facebook. Here’s what Page administrators need to know:
We’ve removed the requirement that promotions on Facebook only be administered through apps

Now, promotions may be administered on Page Timelines and in apps on Facebook. For example, businesses can now:

  • Collect entries by having users post on the Page or comment/like a Page post
  • Collect entries by having users message the Page
  • Utilize likes as a voting mechanism

As before, however, businesses cannot administer promotions on personal Timelines.”

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 3.43.36 PM

Accurate tagging is required in promotions

In order to maintain the accuracy of Page content, our Pages Terms now prohibit Pages from tagging or encouraging people to tag themselves in content that they are not actually depicted in. So, for instance:

  • It’s OK to ask people to submit names of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize
  • It’s not OK to ask people tag themselves in pictures of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize

We hope these updates will enable more businesses to use Facebook to launch their promotions. For more information regarding the changes to our promotions policies, check out our downloadable Promotion Guidelines, which include FAQs and best practices for running promotions through Facebook.

Here are Best practices & a quick FAQ tied to the announcement.

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This is a significant shift and the first movement of change prior to incorporating hashtag based submissions. The recent shift to support photos in comments and the recent focus on page level engagement and minimizing the importance of apps as well as adding the ability to highlight contests via mobile all contributed to the changes that were announced today and preview of the changes that are definitely coming.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Facebook Announces Major News Feed Algorithm Update

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Today, Facebook held a press conference to announce more changes to the News Feed as well as a significant update to what was formerly named the EdgeRank algorithm. EdgeRank had been the formula that determines what content is to be seen in a users feed.

edgerank

In March of this year Facebook announced the first major change to the Facebook News Feed in six years. The theme at the time was reduction of clutter by providing more choice and control over the content and stories users will see in their feeds.

Any time there is an update to the algorithm it is big news as Facebook has stated that 88% of engagement happens via the News Feed. The last major update to the algorithm was September of 2012. A month later there was concern over the changes impacting organic brand reach. Since that time organic post visibility has been stable at ~16% visibility.

This has led to the need to either amplify relevant owned content via paid (Paid + Owned = PWNED) or partner with Facebook & pay for reach generation to “guarantee” reach. With today’s announcement it initially appears that these changes will positively enhance a brands ability to impact organic reach.

To date, most brands focus on creating a compelling content strategy that creates relevant connections with their fans. But even with increased engagement & organic post visibility it is becoming increasingly difficult to cut through without some form of paid amplification to boost reach. Today’s update will hopefully allow relevant & engaging content to once again impact organic visibility.

Snickers Snowman

Today’s announcement

Today’s announcement started with a stat outlining that the average person has about 1500 stories they could see in the newsfeed – some have tens of thousands..

Every eligible item to show in news feed gets a score when the news feed is loaded. Each story in feed gets a score based on how relevant we think it is to the user. with the goal of putting the most relevant items at the top. The algorithm was called EdgeRank but as of today has been retired.

Moving forward the News Feed algorithm will continue to focus on your relationship to the person/source and how  you have interacted with them before. Facebook is promising more transparency going forward about news feed & ranking/scoring.

newsfeed

As the changes come into play there are three primary areas of focus for updates to the algorithm. Two of which will be incorporated, one will not.

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1) Story Bumping – Story bumping considers showing not only all new stories, but considers all stories that are new to the user that may have driven engagement since the last time you visited. If you miss stories on one visit, they may be eligible to show on the next visit. This was tested with 80% of employees, older stories were at the top of the feed and interaction went up on organic content during internal testing. Stories read went from 57% to 70%.

Story Bumping

Story bumping is separate from the ad system and applies to organic content only. Story bump is live now on web & coming soon to mobile.

fb story bumping

2) Last Actor – This is another new feature to the news feed algorithm and “captures your current state of mind”. This new element takes into consideration the most recent factors from your Facebook activity. This ties to your last 50 interactions with content and gives those users a slight bump in news feed ranking. An example is if you interact with an individual in the morning that same person’s content may be weighted slightly higher later in the day.

This has led to 1 to 2% bump in the number of interactions with posts. This feature is now live on mobile & web.

3) Chronological by Actor – One additional item that was tested and not launched was chronological by actor. This feature gives a higher score to most recent stories from your friends. This element caused issues with mapping unrelated stories and will not be launched at this time.

What does this mean?

Now the News Feed algorithm responds to the following signals

  • How often you interact with the friend, page who posted (Last actor)
  • The number of likes, shares & comments a post receives
  • How much interaction with this type of post in the past (Story bumping)
  • Reporting associated with a post

For brands both story bumping and last actor represent new opportunities to increase organic reach. By allowing more relevance with older stories that drive engagement as well as Last Actor’s “current state of mind” this allows brands to impact organic reach via engagement which is definitely good for brands with a solid focus on a relevant content strategy that begets engagement.

One additional note, Facebook’s VP Chris Cox did state that they are still working on balancing how many posts users will see from publishers.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Instagram Video Best Practices

On June 20th Instagram announced the addition of videos to its popular photo-sharing app.  Besides being an obvious response to the growing popularity of Twitter’s Vine app, this is another confirmation that short form content creation is on the rise.

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I was recently asked by DM Confidential to share some tips for marketers to create visually compelling content and test another content distribution channel. Article highlights are at the bottom of this post.

What are some best practices or tips for how marketers and brands should use videos on Instagram?

A couple come to mind right away: Brands can share unique branded experiences, highlight brand advocates, co-create content with audiences, preview products, highlight a specific cause, extend the brands persona via video, preview upcoming events by adding visual context, share important news, drive promotional awareness, leverage Instagram video for promotion, and create videos that show fan appreciation.  The key is to create content that is a natural extension of the brand.

How is it different from Vine, from a marketing perspective?

The first key difference is simply tied to reach potential. By embedding Instagram video within the existing application for both iOS and Android simultaneously, Facebook is providing access to a large and very active user base.

From a marketing perspective, the greater length of the video — 15 seconds vs. 6 — the ability to stabilize the shot, 13 filters and the ability to tap to focus allows for greater flexibility and complexity of a shot. This can provide greater depth in terms of the type of content that can be created and better represent the brand.

Examples of Instagram Video Filters

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My assumption is also that at some point Instagram Video will support the ability to create custom filters, similar to how brand applications can incorporate custom Instagram filters to further create associations with the brand.

Do you like this addition to Instagram?

I do like the addition of video to Instagram. Facebook is still the ideal storytelling and amplification platform. With so much attention given to Vine, this was the natural next step for Instagram. This combined with Facebook’s ability to support hashtags as well as photos in comments are all signs that the platform’s future is tied to visual content both static and active.

Example of Facebook Hashtag Support

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What does it say about the importance of visual content, and short-form videos specifically?

Compelling and relevant visual content has been a key element of driving engagement. An overwhelming majority of content shared is still tied to images. With that said, Vine and Instagram Video now offer quick and easy solutions for consumers to create short-form content. As brands become even more comfortable with their guidelines tied to user generated content, short-form videos will be another viable alternative to support their existing content strategies.

Here is the full DM Confidential Article

DM Confidential - Tom Edwards-Final

Follow Tom Edwards @blackfin360

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Sports Social TV Summit

I had a great time speaking on a panel this morning at the Sports Social TV Summit. I was a part of a panel discussion with members from the NFL, Turner Sports, Time Warner Cable, the Pac 12 and the Los Angeles Dodgers discussing various topics associated with Social TV.

Tom Speaking 1

Below are three clips tied to various questions that I was asked as well as an overview of our recently executed Way2Saturday program.

Way2Saturday & Social TV

Brand Question… Are brands asking for Social TV & second screen solutions?

The final response was from the Q&A session tied to Facebook Targeting

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Facebook News Feed Announcement

Today Facebook held an event to announce the first major change to the Facebook News Feed in six years. The theme reinforced by the Facebook team was reduction of clutter by providing more choice and control over the content and stories users will see in their feeds.

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From the beginning, our goal with News Feed was different from any other social service was trying to provide… You should be able to share any content that you want. Status updates, links, photos, etc… You should be able to share with any audience that you want, publicly, with the world, with just friends, or privately” – Mark Zuckerberg

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Here are feature highlights from today’s announcement:

The newly designed newsfeed will start rolling out in limited rollouts today with a focus on a “mobile first” design.

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The new design is heavily reliant on the ability to segment content by feed type allowing for more control:

  • All Friends will showcase everything your friends are sharing. This feed will highlight friend content and add a “facepile” type of overlay to the side of the story to show who has shared the content. Social connectivity is highlighted as the intersection of timeline & the newsfeed becomes more pervasive with the inclusion of friends “add a friend” which allows you to see more about that person directly in the news feed.

All Friends

  • Photos will provide a feed with nothing but photos from your friends and Brand Pages you like.

Photos

  • Music a feed with posts about the music users listen to.

Music

  • Following, a feed with the latest news from the Pages you like and the people you follow, think of this as a Facebook “newspaper” feature.

Following

Within the News Feed design, photos are getting larger in the new design and attachments from links will also get more space. This will include a much larger image, a more prominent title, and a longer summary to accompany a linked story.

newsfeed

This is great, but what does this mean as a brand? 

Visual Enablement: Further enabling visual storytelling and cross platform consistency are at the heart of the change. One of the forgotten elements previously is the brands cover photo. Yes, it will pop in the newsfeed when the image changes, but with the refresh the cover photo will be pulled into page “Like” stories in the news feed for both organic & paid. This will provide more context about the page, but also provides another opportunity for the brand to be relevant and engaging with their cover photo & profile photo combination. More frequent updates may be required to ensure that brands are maximizing their opportunities.

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Also note that when people and pages post photos, Facebook will try to display the caption on top of the image if the caption is legible and the image does not contain text and when the image is of sufficient size (at least 425x157px). This puts additional emphasis on either minimal or extremely engaging copy.

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Engagement: The core motivation of this revamp is focused solely on keeping users engaged by allowing more freedom and control over the platform and the information that is relevant for them. Facebook is positioning this change as a more engaging place for brand messages. The goal is to get more people spending time reading and interacting with the news feeds and this should beget more opportunities for us a marketers to reach & engage with our audience.

In my opinion it is too early to tell whether this is good or bad news for brands. The fear from a brand perspective is to lose engagement opportunities by being relegated to a lower visibility feed such as the “following” feed, which currently will not support paid at the initial rollout, but Facebook left it open for opportunities later this year.

Also, one key point to consider, the affinity & engagement of content is key in this new structure, as the more individuals engage with content, the higher the position within the feeds. Obviously this is a key attribute of EdgeRank, but engagement on a post level is still as important as ever. Facebook did confirm that as of now the change is mainly aesthetic for desktop and there will not be a change to Edgerank as it stands today, however this is something that continues to evolve and I would not be surprised if there are changes when the change is fully rolled out to the public.

Paid: The initial rollout will focus on better utilizing paid assets via incremental value adds vs. new streams tied to feeds . but Facebook did leave the door open for injected paid units into subsequent feeds such as “following”. Let’s fast forward for a moment, the new feeds will offer more opportunities to append paid for both small & large advertisers as a whole. The new model also reinforces spend on the post level to further drive visibility of content across feeds. It will be interesting to test media against feed types as units become available as the new design looks to further enhance existing units and offer more opportunities for engagement.

Example of new Page Post Ads

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Example of new Sponsored Ads
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Brand Reach & Visibility:  More real-estate should theoretically increase the throughput of branded content if it is optimized for EdgeRank. This also reinforces the importance of having a relevant content strategy that can maximize content distribution across the various feeds. The thought is that this change will net more visibility for brands moving forward. The key to increasing reach and visibility is to combine organic engagement and then amplify the content via paid that is driving engagement naturally. This Pwned Media approach will optimize paid while leveraging the best of organic engagement to propel content and further drive impactful brand reach & visibility.

The assumption on increased engagement through segmentation/multiple feeds may have an initial lag. The native user behavior of the primary newsfeed as the consumer catch-all and primary point of engagement will remain for awhile until users are reconditioned to filter feeds. One of the inherent benefits of the news feed over the last six years has been tied to the simplicity and minimal effort on behalf of the user to engage with content. It remains to be seen how much usage the secondary feed options will see in terms of interaction type.

Analytics:  From an analytics perspective, my hope is to also append feed distribution as an option to track content performance. This would then inform content decisions in addition to social interactions to further optimize content for optimal impact. As it stands today, Facebook has stated there will be no immediate impact on performance, and they will continue to monitor various performance metrics, including performance of Page posts and paid media.

Here is a link to Join the waiting list for the new News Feed.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Evolution of the Newsfeed

Today I met with one of my local Facebook team members as we were partnering on a client initiative and our conversation sparked an interesting thought about the future of newsfeed publishing and how brands should be thinking about maximizing their publishing strategies as Facebook’s platform continues to evolve.

I have recently written a number of posts on the subject of Facebook publishing from the intersection of Paid & Owned, the importance of visual storytelling and best practices for optimizing content. All of these topics are relevant to this conversation and further frame the importance of the following statement:

Everything happens in the newsfeed vs brand pages

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This was an incredibly simple statement that all of us who publish on behalf of brands sometimes take for granted. The numbers definitely back up the statement with 115 billion impressions served daily via desktop and 65 billion newsfeed impressions served daily via mobile.

Think about your own behavior when it comes to interacting with brand related content on Facebook. How often are you clicking through to a brands page to consume their content? This divide is even better visualized when it comes to users mobile interactions?

Where do you consume brand messages on the desktop?

Snickers Newsfeed

This becomes even more apparent via mobile!

Snickers mobile Newsfeed

The reality is most social interaction happens via the newsfeed. Interactions being likes, comments and shares. Most brands approach content publishing from the perspective that users come to the brands page and consume their content in a linear manner. The reality is brands need to create a publishing strategy that is optimized for Edgerank and based on deliberate content buckets that are relevant & engaging for the brands audience that can be consumed in a non-linear manner but still represent the core social persona of the brand. This requires a detailed strategy that is grounded in the core attributes of the brand that then leads to content pillars that are designed to maximize engagement.

The following graphic represents the % breakdown across interaction types.

Interactions

With so much consumption happening via the newsfeed, shouldn’t the in-stream experience/opportunities be as relevant and compelling as possible? This leads me to what I see as the next step in the evolution of brand publishing and that is going a step beyond visual storytelling and incorporating compelling interactive experiences to enhance the publishing strategy.

The recent announcement and coverage of Stipple’s Facebook support and subsequent usage by Justin Timberlake to provide interactive cover art is a glimpse into the future of newsfeed publishing.

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Interactive posting is not a new concept. I remember first seeing this executed by Vitrue’s platform back in 2011 via the Buffalo Wild Wings example below. Leveraging this type of interactive content publishing was one of the enabling factors that has driven Buffalo Wild Wings to acquire over 9 million fans. Their content strategy has led to an engagement rate of 4.8% over the last 30 days with over 477,000 interactions. Having a point of differentiation in-stream has led to positive results for the brand.

Buffalo Wild Wings

The number of vendors supporting interactive posting in-stream has grown since 2011 with shops such as Shop Igniter providing solutions that are optimized to support rich interactive in-stream campaigns to drive lead generation, giveaways, promotions, etc…

Fiat In-Stream

The real key point of differentiation now vs. then is the ability to create immersive newsfeed experiences for both desktop & mobile by leveraging responsive design. Now it becomes easier to publish across both desktop & mobile to drive in-stream & even in-app (Facebook’s app) interaction.

The example below shows an example from Shop Igniter’s platform that enables in-stream video that then drives to a mobile optimized experience based on responsive design that allows the flexibility of staying within the application, but also allows the addition of an action object in the experience that extends the reach of a users action beyond the newsfeed into the activity ticker. This is a key element to further drive distribution and discoverability of content as well as the fact that the newsfeed does not support action objects directly.

GoPro

The GoPro example is a great example of a light weight execution that does not rely on driving to an end destination to generate engagement & story creation. This in my mind is the next evolution of content publishing in-stream.

Similar to the evolution of static banners to rich media, creating compelling content that is optimized for EdgeRank, light weight in design and contains the experience within the existing stream and Facebook application across both desktop and mobile that also taps into the social graph to append actions is an ideal addition to an owned content strategy.

This also maximizes the principles of real-time paid amplification that I have discussed in the past because these are actual posts being created on Facebook’s platform that can fit seamlessly into a paid media strategy.

The other benefit to this type of publishing is the engagement data on the content level that can drive further optimization of content moving forward. By tracking impressions, engagement rate and social actions, we can directly map to our core KPI’s.

When it comes to Facebook, it is not enough to just have a content calendar. It is incredibly important to have a true strategic framework that outlines the brands publishing strategy and how the content will be optimized to drive targeted reach, but it is also important to leverage interactive assets to drive tangible results and activation where appropriate.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Stipple and Facebook Publishing

I have been following Stipple for a while now and with today’s big announcement tied to Facebook support launched the platform to the forefront of my mind to support social content & publishing strategies. What is Stipple? If you have not heard about the service, Stipple allows you to embed interactive hotspots into an image to create additional connections directly within the image. Today’s announcement is key for those who manage owned properties as now Stipple supports direct publishing support via Facebook a feature that has been missing to date.

Now it is possible to add a data driven overlay to an image that can create connections directly from the newsfeed that allow users to take action. Whether it is to drive to a branded destination such as the brands Facebook brand page or .com, create a quick path to purchase opportunity by linking the image to an e-commerce based product, embed a link to videos that relate to the image, or create additional connections as outlined below.

Tag Types

Today’s announcement is a huge addition for those of us who manage Facebook brand properties. Combine this with my recent discussions associated with visual storytelling to drive engagement and you can create a rich experience that can immediately extend the reach of a static image.

With a majority of engagement happening directly from the newsfeed, adding a rich content overlay to images can optimize associations related to the content. The combinations and support possibilities are endless. Whether it’s supporting branded content, promotion, acquisition, etc… the flexibility to tag and append content to an image is a great way to maximize story creation and connection throughout an integrated approach across channels.

Stipple Facebook Overview

In November of 2012, Stipple rolled out the ability to support Twitter publishing. From a single Tweet you can surface videos, photos, etc.. in-stream vs pushing to another destination. Adding a rich content overlay through this media is a great way to extend static images, or link to terms & conditions for a Twitter driven promotion, etc…

Stipple Twitter

I first noticed a Stipple execution by IKEA and I immediately saw the potential. The ability to claim attribution, but also create a centralized experience with various access points is something that create additional value for online retailers. I immediately started to tout the benefits to this approach, but there were limitations to social sharing until today. Now with the additional support for Facebook & Twitter, the value of this platform increases exponentially for those who drive owned asset creation & publication.

Stipple Web

It’s one thing to publish and push content out, but having the ability to measure the engagement and reach of each individual image and the interactions that Stipple creates is another advantage to leveraging this platform. As you can see below, Stipple allows the tracking of engagement and reach so image interactions can be applied into the current KPI’s associated with your publishing strategy.

Measurement

I would definitely recommend evaluating Stipple and the potential impact to your publishing strategy.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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The rise of PWNED Media

Recently, I had the privilege to speak at the Dallas Digital Summit discussing the convergence of owned & paid media. The talk covered the importance of visual storytelling and the intersection of real-time paid amplification.

Tom Edwards DDS speak

One of the outputs of the presentation is a new phrase that better defines the intersection of paid & owned media. Being a gamer of course I gravitated towards “PWNED media” as the new descriptor for this emerging trend.
TheBlackin PWNED MEDIA Final

There is a consistent theme coming from Facebook regarding owned content strategies. Whether it’s a Facebook conference, on-site at Menlo Park or other interactions with Facebook team members you will consistently hear the phrase “Storytelling”.

Facebook DDS

This definitely makes sense as Facebook’s platform is organized around the generation and amplification of stories.

Storybook DDS

With this in mind, one of the more powerful elements to incorporate into an owned content strategy is visual storytelling.

Snickers Snowman

Think about this for a moment… when we were first learning to read, our parents most likely used picture books to begin to create associations between visual images and the context of the story.

Curious George DDS

The same thing still happens now as adults.

Felix DDS

A picture paints a 1000 words, images are more powerful storytellers than words. Within Facebook, timeline now showcases and rewards brands that use visual imagery to help tell the brands story.

Oreo DDS

In the past I have written about the importance of Edgerank as well as recent changes to the algorithm. In order to optimize owned content, it is important to drive engagement around that content.

edgerank

Creating engaging visual content is definitely the first step to maximize the platform, but there is another step to further drive the reach and impact of visual content.

This is where the paid portion of “PWNED Media” comes into play. Instead of having a separation between owned content & paid campaigns, there should be an intersection to drive a more efficient media spend.

Green DDS

One of the ideal methods to drive engagement both within an existing fan base and beyond is to execute real-time amplification of engaged content.

Converged Media

In layman’s terms take owned content that people are already engaging with and add it to the targeted paid inventory to further maximize the reach of content that people already find interesting.

This is done by setting a pre-determined virality rate based on the size of the fan base and a carefully calculated threshold based on engagement.

This ensures that content that users find compelling can be maximized on behalf of the brand and also serve as an acquisition driver for like-minded fans that align with the persona of the brand.

To my knowledge only 2 brands are actively executing a “PWNED Media” strategy and I lead the social strategy for one of them. If you are interested in hearing more about real-time amplification in action please reach out to me.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Facebook Graph Search

Recently Facebook announced one of the biggest changes to their search feature to date with the limited beta release of Graph Search. Mark Zuckerberg stated Graph Search would become the third pillar of the Facebook experience in addition to the News Feed and Timeline. This post will review the features of Graph Search while also outlining what it all means.

Here is the official announcement from Facebook

Graph Search

The creation of Graph Search is reflective of the current direction of social which is the inevitable convergence of social and search. With so much information being created and limited alignment between traditional search and the social graph, Graph Search could be a key bridge to a new type of search behavior based on relevant and timely socially curated content.

Example of Bing Facebook integration which applied social as an additive to traditional search. Graph Search takes the inverse approach of searching inside of Facebook.

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When you begin to dig into the initial information about Graph Search, it is not intended to be a true web search engine like Google or Bing, but an engine that will search out information across all of Facebook and provide personalized answers to queries about people, photos, places & interests.

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Here are various examples of the types of searches that can be conducted.

Here is an example of my friends in San Francisco, as well as recommendations of individuals with similar interests in the area.

San Francisco - personal

Here is an example that leverages Friends Check-In’s via social graph data to uncover Restaurants that may be of interest when in London

Restaurants in London

Here is an an example of the capability to search for specific types of photos either that you as a user have liked, or topical such as the recent Red Bull Stratos jump.

Photos

The Search Graph is a natural extension of the curation of social graph data. By creating deeper connections across interests and access to crowdsourced information, Facebook will now be enabling a cleaner connection to relevant content beyond simply searching for users, brands and apps.

This immediately jumps to questions of privacy from a users perspective. The current explanation is that the Graph Search will honor your privacy settings and only show information to your friends if your privacy is not set to public.

Graph Search & Privacy

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

For starters this will eventually play into the Facebook revenue model. Initially this will be an ad free feature, but make no mistake, by further aligning interests with broader behaviors beyond a profile, it will help to further enable personalization as a search and interest overlay and will become an even more accurate tool to re-target relevant ads.

Also, by adding this as a third pillar, Facebook will eventually be able to monetize against Facebook centric search in a similar manner to how Twitter can place ads via search results with their various promoted products.

Here is an example of a Disney Twitter query that immediately ties into the upcoming Hansel & Gretel movie as a paid unit.

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From a brand perspective, this will mean more avenues to differentiate via search results. If the users behaviorally adopt the new way to engage with the rich and relevant content within the social graph, then placement upon search category & interest relevance will be at a premium.

Similar to Google Adwords & promotion of Google+ accounts, brand positioning associated with search may become the new premium Facebook units if users adopt the platform.

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It will be interesting to see if the existing Facebook recommendation engine will be put into service as the vehicle that enables placement associated with the results of the search. I did recently speak directly with Facebook and confirmed that the current recommendation engine is not a brand controlable asset, meaning it is not currently part of the paid options to insert a brand, it is strictly algorithm based. But with this new development, the recommendation engine may be a critical component to differentiate from the rest and that will most likely come with a cost.

Example of the Facebook Recommendation Engine for Apps

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I am certain that this will have a significant impact on Facebook as a platform moving forward. The amount of objects being added to the social graph will continue to scale at an exponential rate as the introduction of action objects (verbs) into the social graph in addition to all of the various pieces of content that create via interactions with Facebook will now be applied to a system that will make connections beyond the individual more feasible and better align individuals and brands.

GraphActionObject

Building a system that can now quickly mine relevant information that is based on interests and likes vs. traffic is an interesting proposition, especially when applying the overlay of your social graph with real world use cases such as finding a restaurant recommendation in a new city through the platform you already check 20 times a day.

facebook

While there was no immediate mobile support announced, previous behavior suggests that this will also further drive the move towards mobile enablement. If you are able to extend your social graph beyond 1:1 interactions to actually leveraging the data while you are on the go, this is an incredibly important addition and one that will have a significant impact on the future of Facebook’s mobile ad platform.

an_argument_for_caution_facebook_readies_mobile_ads

It will also be interesting to see if a new algorithm, such as edgerank for the newsfeed, can be organically impacted by the amount of followers to a brand (similar to Google+ recommendations via search) or if other factors such as engagement or virality rates will impact which content types (brand content) will be served.

Example of the EdgeRank Algorithm

edgerank

Facebook initially has recommended the following:

1) The name, category, vanity URL, and information you share in the “About” section should be up to date.
2) If you have a location or a local place Page, update your address to make sure you can appear as a result when someone is searching for a specific location.

There was also an ominous tease towards other factors defining search results. Some early thoughts are possibly tied to engagement & virality rates. It will be interesting to monitor the progression of Graph Search with no immediate mobile version, no Instagram integration, API’s and English only at this stage of the beta, we will monitor the evolution of Graph Search and Facebook SEO.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Twitter Interest Graph

Today featured a rather large announcement from Twitter regarding the future of their advertising product. According to multiple sources the announcements hit the wire today. I was at Twitter HQ in San Francisco just a few days ago and the Twitter Interest Graph was a featured topic of discussion. I just received the green light to discuss publicly from Twitter today, so here we go.

Now that the news has been unveiled, let’s take a deeper look at the Twitter Interest Graph and it’s potential impact for our clients. With 140 million users and strong international growth, further developing their ad platform was an obvious next step to drive increased value and offer additional opportunities to monetize their brand relationships.

Currently, the promoted tweets product was focused primarily on amplifying messages to users who were either already following a particular brand or a similar association as deemed by Twitter. Now by introducing the ability to target promoted tweets via other factors such as location and now interests, this opens up the landscape for brands to capitalize on growth and awareness goals that were simply not feasible until now.

An example of this would be American Airlines. Currently, AA could use a promoted tweet to target it’s 415,000 followers or people deemed similar by Twitter. Now, AA could essentially target new users based on interests tied to travel or destinations.

Google has it’s Google Knowledge Graph, Facebook it’s Social Graph and now Twitter has it’s Twitter Interest Graph. This graph, based on 25 top level and 300+ second level “interest categories” in addition to custom interest segments, uses asymmetrical real-time signals by users to drive the correlation with a users interests. In layman’s terms, Facebook shows a direct relationship between an interest and a user via a Like. Twitter takes other signals such as who an individual follows as well as your retweets to make associations of interest. This is also an extension of the logic used by the “who to follow” suggestions on your Twitter homepage.

From an earned media perspective, this definitely changes the game when it comes to driving value from Twitter. I cannot go into the details of the models discussed, but know that based on actual Twitter data the value of a campaign over the course of multiple years is extremely positive.

From a data standpoint, it is still unclear how this data will extend beyond the ad platform. With Facebook’s social graph, we have access to 180 points of data if authorized by the user that includes interest level data. This is incredibly powerful information to create highly relevant experiences and spark action on behalf of a user. As it stands now, and this could change as the graph evolves but today, the data is primarily tied to insights associated with paid campaigns.

Example of Facebook’s Social Graph data points

This is a great next step for Twitter as it continues to evolve it’s platform from simple utility for brands to becoming a major factor in not only impacting real-time and topical events, but harnessing the true power of it’s 140 million users and more closely associate brand goals with better targeting options to truly maximize opportunities.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Groups for Facebook Brand Pages in Beta

Groups on Facebook are nothing new. But if you represent a brand on Facebook, groups for the most part have not been an integral part of your engagement strategy. All of that may be changing as Facebook has begun beta testing groups functionality embedded within brand pages.

To date, groups have been reserved for individuals to create either open or private spaces to collaborate and share information. However, there has not been an option to apply this functionality for brand pages. This can be a significant enhancement if leveraged correctly and in conjunction with other elements of your integrated strategy.

To this point, brands have relied primarily on their timeline to drive a majority of quick hitting conversations that vary based on engagement levels. But deeper discussion and interaction by the brand and consumers has been limited to date to varied apps & tabs that can still lack the level of brand to consumer and peer-to-peer interaction that some brands desire.

If you are a very large brand, having the ability to segment conversations or even isolate campaigns has been difficult to facilitate natively within Facebook. Things are definitely changing with the recent roll out of additional precision targeting to segment content by various attributes beyond location and language, Facebook is making it easier to have multiple conversations with different audience segments.

This may also play a key role in the emergence of the groups for brand pages functionality. By leveraging precision targeting to segment content postings and then push conversations into a central location to further foster the conversation and enable peer-to-peer interaction beyond a single post is potentially a key integration point that brands need to consider.

Having the ability to create a specific group around various topics can further drive engagement and extend campaigns to those who are truly interested. This was prevalent from 2005-2008 during the hey-day of branded forums. The value in understanding who of your core fan base is willing to engage in topical conversation can be a very telling insight.

Brands that have capitalized on the concept of user segmentation to drive brand advocacy via task based interactions have been a key driver in building additional affinity and loyalty for brands such as Chili’s & their Chili-head nation via Facebook.

By taking the first step to natively support topical segmentation, beta brands now have the basis for creating both open and potentially private groups.

Here is a shot of the current group setup options

While open conversation is of key interest, one of the other elements of groups, the private, “invite only” option is also potentially appealing if it rolls out to brands as this may provide a deeper level of interaction with those individuals that the brand deems the most topically or socially influential. This could even be a subset of engaged open group users that are then invited into a private group for unique interaction opportunities.

CNN is one of a handful of beta partners experimenting with groups on their brand page. Groups make a lot of sense for brands that either have a high amount of topical content or campaigns that strive to drive deeper user interaction.

Here are the elements of the groups beta as it exists today on CNN.

Groups are consolidated via a visual tile similar to other tabbed elements. Initially the group tile shows fb icons vs. a branded tile. This may be due to the need to show the number of topical conversation groups that are currently active.

Once you click on the tile you are driven to the standard view for tabbed pages with the option to join a topical group. Groups can also support Facebook media campaigns at this level.

As stated below, anyone can see the group and who’s in it if it is an open group.

Below is the view of the default groups landing page. Content flows in a similar manner to newsfeed with a slight difference associated with the “seen by” call out showcasing how many group members have seen the content.

One nice feature is group centric search.

Meaning users can search for specific keywords based on interest within the group.

It is unknown when the full functionality will be rolled out, but it is possible to work with your Facebook representative to potentially secure a spot in the beta program. As a marketer, it is important to identify the potential value associated with this type of functionality and the impact it can have on a branded presence to drive deeper engagement.

Follow Tom Edwards @Blackfin360

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Benefits of Facebook Trending Video

The purpose of this post is to dive into the recently launched Facebook Trending Video option and how it can potentially amplify branded content.

Trending videos appear as a single newsfeed update and are based on video content created by a user or their friends by open graph enabled apps such as Viddy, SocialCam and Chill. The videos that create the most engagement, such as liked by a friend then may appear as a trending video.

For a campaign that calls for the creation of branded content that is more “reality” vs. fully produced, capturing the content via a socially enabled app can be the first step in pushing content beyond your owned/brand social presence within Facebook.

In a recent discussion with Facebook, it was brought to my attention that the Trending Videos are comprised of both user generated content that is based on relevance as discussed above as well as commercially placed content that is published from open graph enabled apps.

So if your campaign has elements of branded content that are captured by open graph enabled apps then this content has passed the first requirement for commercial placement within the trending video stream. The second step is for the agency or brand to have a relationship with a Facebook account rep to help facilitate the placement.

The benefit of this type of placement in conjunction with other awareness drivers can be a key addition to further amplifying the content via Facebook vs. simply having the content reside in the newsfeed or on a tab within Facebook. As we all know, the real advantage of Facebook is the sheer size of the networks users.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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