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.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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.

Photo Mar 22, 5 41 09 PM

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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