Category Archives: Google+

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

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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

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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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International Business Times, Alphabet & Google

I was recently asked by the International Business Times for my thoughts about Alphabet and Google’s Q3 Earnings and it’s potential impact on future advertising revenue.

(IBT) Has Google finally made mobile work?

Google is benefiting from consumer behavior shifts and accessibility to mobile and capitalizing by constantly refining their offerings tied to mobile search, programmatic and YouTube.

(IBT) What spurred this change?

Behavioral shifts highlighting mobile search now surpassing desktop is now a key driver for capitalizing on Google’s micro-moment strategy to align contextual relevance across devices.

(IBT) Can Google keep this up even as Facebook continues to keep getting better at killing the mobile display ad business? 

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

Also, Here is my original commentary outlining thoughts on the potential for Google’s advertising products based on the formation of Alphabet.

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. 

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. 

By elevating the former SVP of Products Sundar Pichai as CEO of the newly restructured Google, they show a strong emphasis on pushing the boundaries of enhancing advertising product lines. 

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Hunting Monsters with Google Maps API

I was recently a guest blogger on the Google Geo Developers blog, outlining GameStop’s use of Google Maps APIs in building an immersive experience to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Google Geo Developers Blog- copy

Here is a repost of the content:

If you’re going on a monster hunt, it’s a good idea to bring a map. And if you want to build buzz around the release of a new game, you should have the right tool as well—in our case it was Google Maps APIs. We built a website for GameStop to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an action role-playing game from Warner Brothers and CD Projekt RED. After a visitor logs in to the promotional website, she is dropped into a map of the world and collects clues about where to find monsters. The goal is to be the first person to find each monster and win a prize.

Witcher3-5.20.15-A

The game’s launch deadline required us to build the site within a tight timeframe. We chose Google Maps APIs because they provided the tools we needed to build our maps quickly and easily. They also let us focus on the site creative rather than get bogged down with technical issues. We use the Google Maps JavaScript API for the front end, to start the experience and immerse visitors into the virtual world. Then, with the Google Maps Street View Service, we allow users to search for monsters. We took images of the monsters and used overlays to drop them into familiar surroundings.

We use the Street View API to plant the user in a random location somewhere in the world, then visualize their surroundings, including monsters and trails of blood. We set a randomly generated starting point to the map based on five predefined locations. From there we have event listeners in place for ‘mapView: bounds_changed, streetView: visible_changed, streetView: position_changed, streetView: pov_changed, searchBox: places_changed’.

When the user has initialized Street View, we make a call to our API to see if any monsters are within a defined distance from the LatLng of our monster data set. We continue this test any time the position_changed event is fired until a monster is within range. At that point, we update the class of a div that sits above the map view. Each monster is assigned a specific CSS class, which allows us to easily make tweaks.

Witcher3-5.20.15-B
Google Maps made it easy to combine the real world of Street View with imaginary creatures from the game. Our goal went beyond just our users having fun — we wanted to build a site that would create genuine excitement around the game and give people a taste of monster hunting in the real world.

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Google Search Just Became More Social

Google just rolled out an update to search engine result pages by incorporating brand social profiles. Previously, social channels were organized as separate results. By streamlining the profiles under the master brand result makes connecting with consumers even easier.

GameStop Social Search

Most notably, the update also provides the most recent Google+ post tied to the brand. This is a key differentiator that validates Google+ posting from an organic discovery perspective.

One additional point to consider in this new update is that direct competitors may be associated with the brand. In the example above you see Wal-Mart as one of the main related searches.

Screenshot 2015-01-15 14.55.24

When clicked, the related searches become the header of the experience.

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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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Google Blurring the Line of Native, Traditional & Social

There is a reason Google is trading over $1,000 a share and closed platforms such as Facebook & Twitter are at $55. Google owns 66% of search marketshare in the US, the #1 online video site with YouTube and Google claims 540 million monthly active Google+ users and 300 million monthly active “in-stream” users. Now Google is looking to change the game when it comes to paid amplification and content discovery by extending social content through their entire network with +Posts.

Here is a graph outlining Google Plus user growth

google-plus-usage

Content discovery, distribution and streamlining the user experience across the the Google ecosystem appear to be the future and the future is now. Recently Google deployed single sign on across the ecosytem, rolled out new content discovery options within Google+, refined the TruView suite of paid tools via YouTube and further integrated main properties such as Google+ comments embedded within Youtube.

Here is an example of the latest SSO option for Google properties

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Here is an example of Google+ comments embedded within YouTube

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I recently published what I call Google+ Circle Impact Theory outlining the intersection of social & search. Google+ represents the intersection of search & social via contextual search driven by engagement. The launch of +posts is a significant addition that truly leverages the breadth of the Google ecosystem vs. simply driving discovery of content within Google+.

The +Post is built to support content discovery. Taking organic content from a brands Google+ page and allowing distribution through Google’s Display network. The key difference is the “open” approach to boosting the content through Google’s Display network and replacing a traditional banner with a piece of relevant social content that can create conversation within the unit itself.

Here is a video overview of +Posts

Here is an example from Toyota USA’s Google+ brand post. The brand post is published via Google+ and aligned contextually with individuals through Google’s display network.

+Post Toyota

The +Post is extensible through Google’s display network combining Native & Traditional elements. The boosted posts can create more points of engagement and expand the reach to look-a-like individuals further boosting post level engagement.

+Post Native

Once expanded the +Post opens via a lightbox and allows the user to +1, share and comment to that single piece of content directly from the unit.

Screenshot 2013-12-18 12.50.12

Then the CTA will direct the user to whatever the specific action is to engage with the content.

Screenshot 2013-12-18 12.50.44

From a Circle Impact Perspective, the higher the post level engagement, the higher the probability that content will rank in SERP even for those not following the brand via Google+.

Screenshot 2013-12-18 14.04.20

From a pricing perspective, charges for brands boosting +posts is only incurred when a user hovers over the ad for two seconds.

This approach is a major shift from Facebook & Twitter’s closed native platform approach of boosting posts within the confines of their networks. Google’s approach increases the likelihood of content discovery and potentially extends the shelf life of content. Further driving value as the organic reach of some of the closed platforms continues to decrease for brands.

This is an important launch for brands and marketers focused on shopper marketing as delivering the right message at the right time is key to driving a shopper to action. The ability to create a content centric shopper strategy that can be targeted and deployed next to key publishing properties where users can create conversations directly is very appealing.

A final thought is that Google’s display network offers multiple tools for contextual & affinity segmentation across multiple screens. This means that not only are they enabling the syndication of social content but also offering the robust targeting capabilities of Google’s ad tools. +Post ads are currently in beta but you can sign up here.

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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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Google Glass The Future Is Now

Wearable technology, specifically head mounted displays have been a part of science fiction canon for a very long time. Fans of the 80’s anime series Dragon Ball were accustomed to seeing characters with their own version of “Google Glass” interfaces. This preexisting association can be both a positive and a negative when it comes to the potential mass adoption of Google Glass.

DragonballZ-Episode001ws_89-640x360

The explosion of fitness related wearable technology with the Fit Bit, Nike Fuel Band & the recently launched Jawbone fitness band have led to a rise in mass appeal for wearable technology. The trend has been if the wearable technology provides relevance & utility as a natural extension of our daily lives we are willing to put our time & dollars towards supporting this type of product. For Google Glass, the goal is to further integrate the real world into the Google ecosystem thus creating a natural extension into your daily life, even if you look a bit like Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

GeordiLaForge

Google Glass has been the subject of a lot of hype over the past few months. From influencers wearing them at SXSW to recent sightings throughout NYC. What started as a project from Google X Labs is now on the verge of becoming a mainstream device. Whether this will go from Uber nerd category to mainstream essential is yet to be seen, but this will fundamentally impact the intersection of physical & digital moving forward.

Here I am testing Google Glass

Tom Edwards Google Glass

Google Glass, What are the specs and what should I expect from the UX?

The recent release of the Google Glass tech specs outline Google’s commitment to bring the product to market and attempt to redefine how we interact with the physical world. The specs include:

  • a high resolution display which is equivalent to a 25 inch HD TV from 8 feet away
  • 5 MP camera and 720P video
  • Bone condution audio transducer
  • Wi-fi & Bluetooth enabled
  • 12 GB of useable memory synced with Google cloud storage (16 GB total)
  • 1 full day of typical use

original

Outside of the tech specs, I was really interested in diving into the Google Mirror developer API’s. This is where you can really begin to see how Google plans on allowing the developer ecosystem to support the product & experiences moving forward.

One of the core elements of the user experience is tied to the concept of Timeline Cards.  These cards display the top level content that users will see. There are essentially two levels of navigation, with a top level primary and a sub-timeline for easy organization. Timeline cards support text, rich HTML, images or video content. From a brand perspective, understanding the relationship between relevant content & how information is presented & consumed via Timeline cards will be a key area to focus on as launch approaches.

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Similar to how Facebook allows the usage of “action objects” to further drive content acceleration and discoverability through the social graph, the Google Mirror API allows the addition of action based interactivity into the app experience. For now commands such as “read aloud”, “reply by voice” and “navigate to” are inherent to the navigation, but this can extend “discover” or other action verbs. More importantly, it will be interesting to track how user actions are then reported back, or ultimately mapped to contextual or location based search. It is easy to see how actions could then be turned into opportunities to share both within the construct of Google & possibly overlays to the physical world via augmented reality tagging or proximity based recommendations.

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Subscriptions seem to be a key element to the Google Glass experience. Both from an engagement & tracking standpoint. Subscriptions tell you when users choose specific menu items or when they share to a contact. Once an action is taken, it will be possible to take a specific action, such as share a photo. This will allow branded experiences to see what is truly engaging to the end user.

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Location is going to be a key element of Google Glass. If the user opt’s-in and grants access it is possible to use the Google Mirror API to observe the user’s location in timeline items, request their last known location directly, and subscribe to periodic location updates. You can also deliver pre-rendered map images in timeline cards by giving the Mirror API the coordinates to draw. Basically, location is the key attribute to connect the user to their environment that can then be overlaid map data or even with augmented reality interfaces.

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The biggest brand opportunities will be tied to mapping users locations with digital overlays to take real-world actions. This is already coming to life through Google’s augmented reality massively multiplayer online game for Android Ingress. Ingress seems to be designed with Google Glass in mind. I will be going into deeper detail around the impact of Ingress and the potential for brands in a future post but brands such as Zipcar & Jamba Juice are already testing the impact that this type of engagement can provide.

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What is the potential for Google Glass over the next 3-5 years?

Interconnectivity – The intersection of technology and utility is going to be a key area of focus over the next 5 years. Interconnection between smart grid technology in our homes that intersect with mobile devices such as Google Glass will continue to gain traction. When it comes to wearable technology, the overlay of digital into our everyday lives via products such as Google Glass are just the tip of the iceberg on a new landscape of interaction both physically and socially. Changing the view of real world with digital overlays will continue to develop into a new form of communication and interaction.

Contextual Data – The trend digitally is a movement from mass social interaction towards contextual networks. This same concept will push through wearable technology. You look at the rise of the Nike Fuel band and the gamification and sharability of personal information. This trend will continue to expand beyond fitness into other facets of our lives. Data tied to fitness, work habits, leisure etc… will all begin to create different sets of data that can then be visualized, gamified and used to help us lead more efficient, effective lives.

This also maps to Google’s larger strategy tied to contextual & personalized search. If you watch what is happening from a search standpoint, one of the bigger trends is the move towards personalized & socially enabled search where results will differ by individual, and social weighting of content will be a key driver to determine what search results you see. This coincides with Google Glass, as the intersection of location, search & social are evident based on how the UX is being defined.

Google Search Plus Your World

Content anywhere – How we consume content has changed significantly over the last decade. Content ubiquity will become accelerated with Google Glass and similar products that provide HD display’s and voice activated controls allowing for access to streaming content on demand. This is just the beginning as paper thin displays and wearable technology continues to evolve. What was once thought to be science fiction is quickly becoming reality.

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PRWeek Feature

This afternoon my commentary was featured in a PRWeek article discussing the social platform provider ThisMoment and their DEC publishing platform.


The interview covers many topics associated with my usage of their platform over the past few years on behalf of brands such as AT&T.

Here is a link to the full article.

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Microsoft Launches So.cl

Microsoft quietly launched so.cl (Pronounced “Social”) yesterday. Developed by Microsoft’s FUSE labs, it is focused on exploring the possibilities of social search.

So.cl is a combination of social networking & search. At it’s heart is social connectivity with like minded people that is topically driven. It combines elements of Google+, Facebook & Pinterest with the underlying goal to further integrate social with search.

With So.cl you can share your searches & help others discover what they might be looking for by aggregating content into topical categories. Many social elements are taken from existing networks. Video Parties are similar to Google+ hangouts. The all too familiar activity stream drives relevant content directly to the user. So.cl also features visually driven topics similar to Pinterest, but the core differentiator is that the content is primarily driven off of a users search results.

So.cl claims that it is an experiment in open search, meaning your searches on So.cl are viewable by other So.cl users and also available to third parties, assuming for relevance & targeted topical advertising. There is the possibility though that this experiment becomes the basis of Microsoft & Facebook’s social search strategy.

Google+ took the first major step in driving connectivity via social search, with the search giant owning 83% of organic search traffic, launching a socially enabled network that also extends via search via the “+1” as well as Google+ direct connect shows how the future of social will become synonymous with search.

You cannot talk about social without referencing Facebook. Facebook’s platform is like a walled garden when it comes to relevant/topical searching outside of Facebook. The “Like” button has become ubiquitous throughout the web, but when it comes to amplifying and connecting via traditional search Facebook is lagging behind Google.

With their recent partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and so.cl built on Bing API’s, so.cl focuses heavily on discoverability associated with “open search”, this may be the next step in amplifying Facebook topical activity.

So.cl features social sign on with both Facebook & Windows Live ID, which sets the stage for deeper integration into the social graph. One interesting observation when you authenticate via Facebook is that of the 180 data points that can be mined, so.cl only wants your basic info, e-mail & group data. The groups option really peaked my interest as to how they are going to use this data.

One of the interesting options buried in the settings is the ability to set your primary search provider to So.cl to publicly share your posts. So.cl is powered by Bing’s API’s but is branded So.cl.

Similar to Pinterest’s Pin it option, So.cl also deploys a bookmarklet option, essentially providing a quick and easy option to share any web item directly into your so.cl stream.

One key difference from Pinterest is that So.cl allows users to create “Rich Posts” where users can combine interesting images and links on the web and assemble them automatically into a compelling visual montage.

What does So.cl mean for brands? At this point So.cl is still a “research project” and is not designed to take the place of full-featured search & social networking tools, but this project could lead to the future of social + search integration as it pertains to Bing & Facebook. This also provides insight into the coming convergence of search + social.

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