Reuters & WSJ Snapchat Commentary

Recently I was interviewed by Reuters and discussed a range of Snapchat topics from their ad business to industry perspective on how brand marketers are approaching the platform.

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Some commentary was published and picked up by other publications like the WSJ. Below is my full commentary.

REUTERS: Any idea how Snapchat’s ad business is growing? Going gangbusters? Incremental growth?

TOM: Signs are pointing towards a SnapChat IPO in the near future. In order to do this they need to have a solid monetization strategy in place.

Snapchat has 100 million daily active users, 700 million disappearing snaps being sent and more than 500 million stories viewed on a daily basis and recently claimed over 6 billion video views.

Snapchat is laser focused on engagement. They have shifted from being primarily a creation platform towards consumption driven by opt-in engagement.

The audience is definitely there. When it comes to advertising, there has been a lot of testing to ensure the user experience stays pure as well as aligning alpha programs with brands that are willing to pay a premium.

How this is transitioning from alpha ad types to scaleable offerings that show value beyond an impression is yet to be determined.

REUTERS: How have advertisers/brands who have advertised on Snapchat responded to the platform? Are they excited? Moderately hopeful? Or fleeing because they are unhappy?

By using the 70/20/10 media approach,  most of my clients have classified Snapchat in the 20/10 test & learn experimentation. For brands that are looking to cut through with 13-34 year olds and drive some type of contextual experience on the platform they are excited by the impressions, but beyond that there is not much data as Snapchat is contextual Opt-in without profile information.

Brand marketers are excited about the impact the platform can have on sponsorships, live events and geo-specific targeting… Products like Geofilters and Sponsored Lenses are potentially interesting to further connect on the local level. This applies to events or retail. Shopping malls, movie theaters, etc.

REUTERS: Are there any common concerns out there among brands about the platform that you’ve heard?

Lack of robust analytics and attribution are the most common.  You have insights into views, but the biggest complaint that I hear beyond that is that CTA’s are not really a part of the experience, for example you cannot add a URL or hashtag in a sponsored geofilter. It is simply about brand awareness vs activation.

What is interesting is Snapchat’s recent partnership with Liveramp that will allow data matching to validate ad exposure and eventually offline conversion measurement.

REUTERS: Where has Snapchat excelled at video ads? And where has it fallen short?

Snapchat’s approach to video is through the lens of curated context. They want the video experience to be immersive without pre-roll with a focus on vertical vs. horizontal content.

They want 100% viewable, Full screen. They have research that shows the daily minutes spent on screens and how vertical screens dominate usage behavior.

CORE POINTS OF DIFFERENCE:

1)    Always Full Screen
2)    Always User Choice
3)    Always optimized for Mobile
4)    Always plays with Sound

Snapchat video is ideal for awareness, but do not expect to have CTA’s such as URL’s or hashtags supported. This is strictly an awareness and engagement platform with limited analytics but massive reach with the key 13-24 audience set.

REUTERS: Does it offer good intel on viewers or good targeting?

Not on targeting as it is primarily contextual opt-in, but the one positive is unlike Facebook’s Autoplay approach, Snapchat requires a user action.

Snapchat is focused on providing additional insight into ad exposure through data partnerships.

REUTERS: What are the expectations by advertisers from Snapchat?

For now it is about reach and partnering with an emerging platform that has a large and highly coveted user base.

REUTERS: What expectations have Snapchat set about its ad business growth?

Finding the right ad type and monetization strategy are key for Snapchat as they gear up for an IPO.

REUTERS: And why on earth are brand like Toyota and HP even advertising on Snapchat – a bunch of teens without buying power?

More than 60% of US 13 to 34 year-old smartphone users are snapchatters. That number extends beyond teens into the early life stage millennials. The largest group on the platform is actually 18-24 year olds that do have buying power, especially for entry level products from brands like Toyota & HP.

Brands like Snapchat’s audience, approach to curated context & intimacy vs. broadcast newsfeed, Snapchat is focused on vertical content delivery that coincides with the core experience.

The Reuters commentary was also picked up by the Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today.

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Digital Hollywood 2015

I recently had an opportunity to speak at Digital Hollywood and discussed viral and social media experiences in entertainment, media and advertising creativity.

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It was a great discussion and the panel touched on topics from social media, smart data usage, social creativity and monetization.

Digital Hollywood

Below is a recap of my key discussion points and additional commentary:

1) You’ve been in the industry a while, what excites you most about the opportunities in viral and social now?

Epsilon is a part of Alliance Data so for me as a marketer having proprietary data assets to support our creative process is incredibly valuable.

The amount of behavioral, attitudinal and transactional data that is available is incredibly exciting and having the ability to combine our structured data assets with the unstructured consumer data and signals via social is key to creating highly contextual connections.

2) What concerns you about the state of social marketing?

One of the core elements that sometimes gets lost in today’s social world that is driven by reach and frequency is the role of community.

Some of the most successful brands today not only have great visual storytelling and entertaining content, they are also empowering their community to carry the brand.

under armour

3) How are social experiences different than traditional media/content?

For me it’s the flexibility. There is an opportunity to create deeply immersive linear and non-linear experiences or extremely lightweight micro-moments. Social experiences should put the consumer in the center and have an opportunity to be highly contextual.

4) One thing that has been said is that viral and social content can enhance the core creative… what are some examples? Any examples where they missed?

You also look at brands like Dove. They are focused on the overarching theme of real beauty and they are proud to have started the femvertising movement.

Last year for the Oscars the inter agency team created a social campaign around #speakbeautiful with the goal of impacting sentiment about the event, specifically the red carpet from negative to positive and it drove a significant impact on positive conversation.

What about examples where it missed?  

We have all seen examples where a brand over reaches trying to capitalize on a real time moment and the context is lost. It should be less about witty brand personification and more about empowering fans.

5) How do you approach creative different in a viral/social environment?

It all starts with understanding the behaviors and attitudes of the individuals to ensure that what we are creating will resonate.

The goal is to then create thumbstopping creative. This means in a mobile first world we want you to stop scrolling.

Example from Mini Cooper of Thumbstopping Creative

mini-cooper-box-02-480x316

It has to be authentic, entertaining and ultimately meaningful to the consumer. Content needs to be atomized but consistent with the overarching theme and highly consumer centric.

It’s also important to develop a strategy that aligns the essence of the brand with the core behaviors of the consumer and finally understanding the role of content, be it brand created, co-created with 3rd parties, integrated with existing programs or curated from fans.

6) What, if any, concerns does the talent have with this new environment? How do you manage these concerns?

Balancing reputation management and authenticity is key. Understanding the role and goal of each platform is key to maximizing reach while mitigating risk.

7) What concerns do advertisers have with creativity in a viral/social environment?

Form factors are highly dependent by platform. Ability to amplify messaging varies greatly. Targeting capabilities can be a core area of focus such as Facebook and Twitter.

Others such as Buzzfeed, Snapchat and Reddit are fully reliant on contextual opt-in. Ensuring that the right creative is being deployed in a way that will resonate is always a concern via social.

Buzzfeed does not target it’s sponsored content (see Subway below) it is all based on contextual opt-in. 

Buzzfeed contextual opt-in

Another point of consideration is maintaining authenticity is key.

8) How does the platform impact the ability to integrate content or immerse the audience?

The platforms play a major role. Some are optimized for reach others are focusing on sequential storytelling like Twitter Moments, others are embracing visual language tools to further connect with millienials.

The key is to understand the form factor and approach that is right for the user and the brand.

9) What are the different considerations between direct and indirect monetization?

It is highly dependent on the goals of the organization. Certain categories such as retail and CPG are highly focused on the Impact of social on trip missions, the role of location and direct conversion.

You see platforms like Facebook renewing their focus on commerce, adding shopping into the native mobile user experience and the focus on messenger as a commerce vehicle.

Screenshot 2015-10-23 16.23.44

The key is to map the goals to a strategic framework that define the role monetization will play in the campaign.

10) Are the “traditional” ad impressions dying? Pre-roll, interstitial, etc.

From an industry perspective they are not dying because too many organizations have measurement models built around impressions.

I do see shifts in what is creating connections. We focus a lot on dynamically optimized creative that is built with different behavioral models to ensure the timing and context of the message across devices creates impact.

11) What are the key metrics that your clients care about?

Impressions, incremental reach to television, engagement, share of voice, sentiment, conversions are just a few.  Also, brands are focused on efficiency of media, viewability of video advertising and for some the impact of location on in-store messaging.

There is always the balance to consider between attribution and causality.

12) What will it take to be successful in the next 18 months? (experimentation, risk, etc.)

1) SMART DATA  – Enhanced focus on smart data and having the ability to create predictive models that can pick up on key signals via social.

2) BRAND ECOSYSTEMS – Moving beyond brand partnerships to create brand ecosystems as co-creation and integration are incredibly important.

3) SOCIAL MESSAGING – It will also be important to focus on strategies for social messaging platforms. Face books messenger already supports 3rd party apps, integrating payment and will become their primary commerce enabler.

Monitoring the Asian paradigm around the role of messaging is a key predictor of the potential here in the U.S.

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Project Lightning Has Launched as Twitter Moments

Over the past few weeks I have heard rumblings about Twitter’s Project Lightning launch. As the announcement drew closer I connected with many members of the Twitter team and you could tell they were excited about the pending announcement but still remained very tight lipped about all of the details of the launch.

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Today is the official launch day in the US and as the news was breaking I received messages from the Twitter team with links to the official blog post.

Screenshot 2015-10-06 14.34.13

I then saw the update available on my iOS device and then caught the Periscope reveal of Moments by the product team. Now it’s time to jump into what Moments is and how is it applicable to brand marketers?

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ABOUT TWITTER MOMENTS

When you update the Twitter app you now see a Lightning bolt in the middle of the main navigation. Tapping it opens a list of Moments from the day or various topics that include news, sports, entertainment and fun.

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What you see are curated “moments” that users can engage and subscribe to. The user experience consists of full-bleed images + swipe to engage the next piece of content in the “moment”. Content types can including images, videos, Vines & GIFs.

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By tapping on a moment, users have the option to retweet or favorite content and there is a progress bar that shows how much content remains in a particular moment.

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Users can also follow moments to stay up to date as new content is added. Updated tweets to the moment then become a part of the users timeline without the need to navigate back and forth.

NEW INNOVATION???

From a marketing perspective this is a very similar approach to what Snapchat rolled out recently with their Live Story platform.

snapchat-twitter

This is from last nights MNF game and this moment was curated by both Snapchat & Twitter.

Snapchat leverages event geo-fencing so individuals that are participating at an event or moment can submit Snaps that are curated into 3 to 5 minute live stories.

warriors-live-story

Snapchat has also rolled out a comprehensive mobile ad experience that integrates user-submitted Snaps with Snapchat’s full screen ad units, which normally included four units plus an event geo-filter for content.

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Example of a Snapchat Live Story Ad Type

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Example of a Snapchat Geo-Filter

The similarities are that both Twitter and Snapchat are curating content from specific events and making it discoverable. Twitter does not currently leverage geo-location as a filter to curate content, but Twitter’s goal is soon expand beyond their team curating moments and enabling individual users to create moments.

WHAT DO MOMENTS MEAN FOR BRAND MARKETERS?

Twitter’s goal with the Moments launch is to slow the flow of information down and extend the shelf-life of content while also providing new avenues of discovery to conversations and content across the Twitter ecosystem.

Moments also brings sequential storytelling capabilities to Twitter. By enabling the ability to craft brand narratives that seamlessly integrates with created, co-created, integrated and curated content opens up possibilities to create immersive experiences that can sustain themes for longer periods of time leading to more opportunities for organic discovery.

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Moments allows Twitter users to have a more focused approach to consuming event content beyond individuals they follow. A use case would be an NFL game, a user following an NFL Moment would receive content from teams, broadcasters, players, the league, etc…

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For brand marketers, once Twitter provides the tools for individuals and brands to create moments,  it opens up the possibility of curating conversations and potentially packaging and promoting content beyond a single tweet to provide more contextual relevance.

Photo Oct 06, 2 44 04 PMPhoto Oct 06, 2 44 22 PMtwitter momentsPhoto Oct 06, 2 44 09 PM

Taking the same NFL example above, here is what I think the user experience could look like for a brand with an NFL sponsorship when this ad type is rolled out. You have NFL content, User Generated Content and the potential for relevant brand content.

It will also be very interesting to see how Twitter wraps it’s advertising products around moments. (UPDATED) The Twitter team just told me that brand testing will begin by the end of this month. At first, they will be 100% owned and curated by a brand with no immediate opportunity to sponsor an Entertainment Weekly “Moment” or an NFL “Moment” yet.

Based on past ad types, I assume there will be an option to promote a specific moment to bundle event content and focus the conversation, I also assume that brands will have an opportunity to place contextually relevant ad types into key curated moments.

The benefits for marketers is having the opportunity to reach new audience segments in a highly contextual way beyond simply promoted tweets and this may create more value for brands looking to build a connection with users in the moment.

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Location As A Context Filter

I recently participated in a panel for Mobile Media Summit in NYC as a part of advertising week. The discussion was primarily focused on all facets of geo-location as well as a deep dive into the role beacons can play to connect with consumers in real-time.

Tom Edwards Mobile Media Summit

Below are a few territories that I touched on during the session as well as a few additional thoughts. 

ROLE OF LOCATION:  Location is a great filter to align consumer behavior against. My goal is to seamlessly connect physical to digital while maintaining a highly consistent message architecture that is highly relevant to the consumer.

BEACONS: One of the issues with beacon programs to date is how to achieve scale. Media organizations are looking for opportunities to drive scale while marketing agencies are focused on the ideal message structure.

There are many use cases to consider depending on the behavior you are looking to impact. If the goal is to drive pre-shop behaviors, it may be beneficial to leverage a 3rd party solution like shop kick to motivate a pre-shop mission that can lead to a retail visit.

Shopkick Macys

If a retailer has a robust CRM and loyalty program and wants to connect online behaviors with in-store visits it may be advisable to install a comprehensive beacon network.

I recently worked with a major consumer electronics retailer to test proprietary beacons that were fully integrated across multiple touchpoints. The program aligned with the existing CRM platform, leveraged it’s loyalty program to modify in-store behavior and the test led to full integration into the the retailers app.

gamestop-beacon-zones

This approach provided more flexibility to leverage loyalty points as a currency as well as reduce latency of the passive beacons as app activation is set upon entry. 

This program has allowed for mapping of data and interactions and has also lead to the ability to further refine the approach to regionally specific personalized content based on store visit, online behaviors and loyalty interactions.

FACEBOOK PLACE TIPS: Another interesting development is Facebook’s official roll out of place tips for small to mid size businesses. This program has definitely peaked my interest as Facebook is providing the beacon hardware. It’s a very low barrier of entry for the business owner and they have the ability to append location specific details to the Place Tip.

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A consumer would see a notification in their newsfeed if they are near a Place Tip enabled spot similar to what I received recently at the DFW Airport.

Tom Edwards Place Tips

After a user clicks on the notification they are delivered into a location specific experience that allows them to engage with the location, message the business through Facebook Messenger, rate the business and interact with contextually relevant content.

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The business owner has the ability to modify content such as menu’s and I see this as Facebook’s play at ultimately delivering location specific messaging outside of the traditional geo-targeted ad units.

Facebook Place Tips

Location is a key point to consider when aligning a contextually relevant message. The key is to remember there needs to be a value exchange for location access.

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Mashable Apple News App Commentary

I was recently asked by Mashable to provide commentary about the pros and cons of Apple News and the rest of the publisher news ecosystem such as Facebook’s Instant Articles, Snapchat’s Discover, etc…

Mashable: How do you see Apple News (and by extension iAds) competing with Facebook Instant Articles or Snapchat Discover? What does it offer that they don’t? What are its shortcomings as far as what marketers are looking for?

Tom Edwards: The cache of Apple and the relevance of the content will create momentum upon launch. Publishers interested in reaching the iOS user, especially with the pending iOS9 ad blocking, will be open to testing on Apple News and looking to maximize the 3 iAD ad types to their fullest. Depending on the audience, brands do like the flexibility of the larger iAD format, which is essentially a blank canvas and Apple is continuing to evolve their targeting/retargeting capabilities.

One of the key adoption challenges for Apple News is that it is a stand alone application vs. integrated into the existing platforms such as Facebook’s Instant Articles and Snapchat’s Discover. It will require additional shifts in behavior to move eyes from the applications they are already engaged within.

What I like about Facebook instant articles is the ability to create interactive experiences that are contextual for users and provide publishers with a custom experience backed by Facebook’s ad targeting capabilities. Facebook is now extending the best practices of instant articles to their advertising product by testing mobile ad units to compete with iAds blank canvas.  

 

mashable - Tom

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Digiday Video Platform Commentary

I recently provided commentary to Digiday outlining which video platform is ideal for brands.

Digiday - Tom Edwards - 2

From my perspective it really comes down to the individual use case. Instead of saying one platform is the best overall, marketers should identify their specific audiences, how they’re looking to deliver the message and then determine the video platform that best meets their needs.  For example, Snapchat is a great platform to connect with millennial audiences tied to events while Instagram offers marketers a way to extend visual storytelling.  Meanwhile, Vine can be used for very specific uses cases like a do-it-yourself video in six seconds or less.  
 
The more traditional platforms like YouTube have their positives as well.  For YouTube, it’s all about organic discovery as it’s the second largest search engine.  The recent addition of Cards is a key addition to the platform.  These Cards provide marketers with the ability to deliver sequential storytelling through interactivity – which makes videos more dynamic. 
 
Tom Edwards, Chief Digital Officer, Agency, Epsilon

 

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UTA Guest Lecture and Career Advice

Academia has played an important role for me over the past 13 years. During that time I have been an adjunct faculty member and had the pleasure to instruct thousands of students across many disciplines of marketing.

This week I had an opportunity to guest lecture at the University of Texas at Arlington. The course was focused on social media/digital strategy and the students were attentive and sharp.

Tom Edwards Guest Lecture

I enjoy courses that focus on current best practices and push students to develop skills that can assist them immediately upon graduation.

Some of the key areas of focus and advice were:

  1. Focus on developing your network through Linkedin – It really is about who you know. I have seen this come to fruition throughout my career. It is important for new grads to start growing their network early in order to fully leverage it in the future.
  2. Have a point of view and develop original content – In order to stand out it is important to have a definitive point of view that is expressed through original content. This can be perspective on a given topic or simply industry commentary. The point is to showcase how you think to prospective employers. I strongly consider this when hiring against various strategy positions.
  3. It is important to find a mentor and a sponsor – In order to fully maximize your potential, it is important to have both a mentor who will invest in your personal and professional growth, as well as an internal sponsor, someone who will champion your progression within an organization.

It is always a pleasure speaking to individuals about to embark on their careers. 

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SXSW 2016 Voting Has Begun!

Now through September 4th, 2015 is the time to vote on panels & presentations for SXSW Interactive 2016. This time around I have submitted two presentations.

Vote-PanelPicker-Idea-2016-FB

The first panel is Unleashing Innovation. This will be a fire side chat format with Jeff Donaldson of the GameStop Technology Institute as we discuss how to integrate innovation into an existing organization.

SXSW 2016 - Innovation

The second is a solo topic discussing the Uselessness of Data which dives into how data without the right context is essentially useless. By itself data doesn’t move the customer engagement needle. People search out and connect with compelling stories, solutions or insights – that create friction along the path-to-purchase – not raw data or numbers.

data

 

I would greatly appreciate your support with a vote.  The first step to vote is to create an account at http://panelpicker.sxsw.com

Then you can simply search for Tom Edwards or Epsilon and give thumbs up to submit your vote.

Epsilon

Thank you in advance for your support! It is much appreciated.

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Hero 6 Final

PepsiCo’s 50th Anniversary Milestone Strategy

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about PepsiCo’s 50th anniversary milestone strategy as well as discuss best practices for celebrating milestones both from a corporate and brand perspective.

PepsiCo50

(Mobile Marketer) Is PepsiCo’s approach to celebrating their 50th anniversary a good way to mark a milestone like this given the potential mobile audience?

Pepsico is using it’s 50th anniversary as a content thematic to further tell the brand story and engage with partners (Omnicom, Oracle, Bristol Motor Speedway, etc…) to create relevant content and conversation (#Pepsico50) around the milestone event.

The key point to consider is since this is a PepsiCo corporate vs. Pepsi brand initiative, the conversation is more closely aligned between partners and employees vs. celebrating directly with consumers and rewarding them. With product milestones, you see a number of brands leveraging the milestone to activate their consumer base.   

(Mobile Marketer) What is the right mobile marketing strategy when you commemorate a milestone like this?

Depending if the milestone is tied to the company vs. a product will impact what the end objective may be. Pepsico’s approach is ideal for a corporately led celebration of a milestone.

They were able to create short form content that spoke to different audiences and gained additional earned media equity through partner created content and conversation.

For products celebrating milestones it is an opportunity to activate a consumer base to share in and be a part of a celebration. This can come in many forms, but the ideal is when a brand consumer can convey what the product means to them through user created content that is curated and celebrated by the brand.

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PRWeek Twitter Commentary

I was recently asked by PRWeek to provide commentary about the current state of Twitter.

PRWeek3

PRWeek: What if Twitter didn’t exist?
Tom Edwards: If Twitter did not exist, other platforms would fill the void. Mobile devices created accessibility and creators and those that consume their content would still find a way to connect. What would not be as apparent is the impact to real time earned media as there are limitations, based on privacy settings and limited organic reach on other platforms
PRWeek: What would PR pros use instead?
Tom Edwards: PR pros and marketers would turn to other platforms and influencers that can facilitate earned reach. You look at platforms such as Tumblr, instagram and YouTube as well as socially charged ephemeral communication platforms such as SnapChat, WeChat and Cyberdust. Essentially any platform that supports user created content and garners engagement can be leveraged to meet various communication objectives.
PRWeek: How has Twitter’s role changed over the years?
Tom Edwards: Twitter has been a mobile first platform since it’s inception. It has evolved from a simple SMS-based offering to a discovery platform centered on topics and trends to one that supports multiple media types as well as an incremental driver of tune-in. Currently it is the ideal real-time marketing and reputation management platform. From a marketing and PR perspective, the versatility of the platform combined with a family of apps strategy (Vine & Periscope) provides additional opportunities to create influence and foster advocacy.
PRWeek: How different would social campaigns look?
Tom Edwards: Social campaigns would still focus on various levels of engagement and content creation but hashtag centric campaigns would need to adjust as Twitter’s ability to combine commentary, hashtags and a call to action natively in the tweet that can in turn drive discovery is an ideal experience to facilitate many types of social campaigns.
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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.

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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.

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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.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 19.03.31

3.2 – What does it do for my business? With improved targeting capabilities thanks to Facebook and now an option launching this fall to support direct response call to actions such as shop now, install now, sign up, learn more, we see an increased emphasis on driving a user to action. One element that has been missing from Instagram.

Also, the news that an Instagram ads API will be available this fall to support both small and large organizations is important news for those marketers that are not spending millions of dollars on the Facebook ad platform.

3.3 – Conclusion – Instagram’s ad products are continuing to evolve and the addition of direct response units is a very welcome addition. Initial signals are positive, but it will be important to see what changes a more comprehensive ad product suite will have on a platform that has prided itself on simplicity and community.

As you can see, there are various strategic use cases that can drive different outcomes depending on your objectives. Understanding when to activate one vs. the other, or multiple elements simultaneously is key to fully maximizing the highly creative and engaged Instagram audience.

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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

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TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series

TA Expert Interview Series featuring Tom Edwards of The Marketing Arm

Tom Edwards, the Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation here at The Marketing Arm, was recently invited to be a guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the digital marketing landscape. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology verticals through conversations with industry leaders.

Edwards joined Buckner to discuss modern day digital, social, and mobile innovations, the importance of bridging technology and marketing, and the four core elements that bring a campaign to life.

Below are a few of the highlights from our conversation:

TA: Tell us about what life is like at TMA and some of the projects you work on everyday.

Tom: At The Marketing Arm, we’re really a consumer engagement agency, so that touches a wide range of project types. Everything from digital, to promotional, to talent, to production, to just a number of different types of projects that come across my desk on any given day.

I’m a part of the digital engagement division and we service about 16 core clients, everything from Exxonmobil, to GameStop, to name just a few organizations. So over the last 15 years, my role within the industry has really shifted from starting more on the technology side, and really kind of incorporated being that bridge between technology and marketing.

As digital continues to progress, we’ve seen it all: the end of the dotcom boom, massive portals, the rise of consumer social. All of these different types of trends we’ve seen definitely had a hand in touching and guiding different project types across multiple platforms and different routes of sale. It’s been a fun, interesting ride and it continues to get better.

TA:  What suggestions do you have for a team trying to compare and find the right marketing automation vendors? What should they be looking for?

Tom: Portability. So if I’m able to either leverage a tool that can aggregate content, redistribute, visualize things that can basically whether it’s a seamless flow, whether that’s your API through an SDK or whatever it may be, like that’s what I’m ultimately looking for now.

I’m looking for how can this one piece fit into the larger strategy that I’m trying to deploy and continue to add value without adding additional barriers or additional layers, that’s really the key piece. Because we’re touching so many different channels, everything from top line awareness via digital all the way down to shopper and point of sale.

So making sure that we can have programs that can work in scale. Scale is another key piece for us too and the data considerations depending upon local versus global so there are a lot of different pieces that we look at when we’re evaluating but for me, it’s how can whatever tool that you’re leveraging best provide value for everything as a whole versus just one specific piece or one specific function.

To learn more about The Marketing Arm, visit www.themarketingarm.com. Connect with Tom on Twitter @BlackFin360 and follow his blog at BlackFin360.com/blog. Be sure also follow @TheMarketingArm.

BlackFin360

Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes.

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This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner.

Aligning Employee Passions to Relevant Programs

This is the third and final post taken from my recent interviews with iMedia. This post & video discuss aligning employee passions to relevant programs.

Agencies know that turnover is high industry wide. They are learning that one way to keep good employees, accomplish creative marketing, and boost morale is to learn the passion points of each of their people and put them on projects that best align with them. Employees who are passionate about their campaigns and clients do better work, and are more positive in the workplace. These small shifts and adjustments sometimes make all the difference.

Tom Edwards is the Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy & Innovation

Follow Tom @Blackfin360

Integrating Celebrities and Online Influencers

This is the second of three posts taken from my recent interviews with iMedia. This post & video discuss integrating celebrity talent and online influencers.

Millennials love online celebrities, and with the ascendance of the Pluralist generation the importance of integrating influencers will only continue. Both of these groups live and breathe online, and agencies have a huge opportunity to work with social media stars, Vine talent, and popular bloggers to accomplish viral marketing. Brands and publishers don’t have these connections. Agencies are the creative places where online influencers will thrive. The dialogue is more open and the people are more willing to take risks. Smart agencies are remaining relevant by turning into mini-production houses

Tom Edwards is the Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy & Innovation

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Mobile Marketer: Are Selfies Still Relevant???

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary tied to if selfies are still relevant for brands.

Mobile Marketer Are results for selfie campaigns being negatively impacted by the lack of innovation and the over-use of this strategy?

Tom Edwards – User generated content is still a viable mechanism if the campaign is relevant and creates an authentic connection with an existing behavior. Where “selfie” campaigns can go astray is when brands ask consumers to create content that are not natural extensions of their existing behavior. 

Mobile Marketer Is brand interest in selfie campaigns still high?

Tom Edwards – We are still seeing creative briefs that are focused on creating authentic connections with consumers, fostering advocacy as well as connecting physical to digital. All of which are potentially ideal for leveraging user generated content.

Mobile Marketer- What is the most creative selfie campaign you’ve seen?

Tom Edwards – The recently launched Who are you when you’re hungry? Campaign by Snickers is an interesting take where the brand shifts directions from consumption to creation by turning over the You’re not you when you’re hungry campaign to consumers to tell their story with the winning content taking over Snickers YouTube channel for a day.

Snickers satisfies need for authenticity with new selfie-driven effort - Mobile Marketer - Content 2015-02-26 15-04-11

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Snapchat is NOT a Social Network

Snapchat is deliberately distancing itself from the social platforms that have come before it. With a shift from a creation to consumption model, the roadmap on how best to leverage Snapchat is clear.

Snapchat-logo

Here are eight truths that marketers need to understand about how Snapchat views itself — and the ideal approach to maximizing the value of the platform.

1 – Snapchat is Not a Social Network. The Snapchat team has made it clear that it does not consider itself a social network. Instead, Snapchat is positioning itself as an ephemeral communication and consumption platform. This is a key point to consider when defining an approach to maximizing the platform.

2 – Attentive Audience. Snapchat boasts 50 million users in the US with a primary demographic of 14-28 years old. The average user frequents the app 14-22 times per day. It’s clear that Snapchat considers its platform as the “new TV” for this demo. From an attention and eyeballs perspective, driving views with this demographic is a key benefit of the platform.

3 – Consumption vs. Creation. Initially, Snapchat was a 1:1 content creation platform. Snapchat viewed the native phone camera as a competitor. With the recent shift with the Our Story offering and the new editorially-led Discover Channels, consumption will be the dominant behavior on the platform. The focus on more forms of original content will further support the position of driving views at scale.

4 – Organic Reach. The decline in organic reach on social networks such as Facebook has been a big topic over the past year and half. Snapchat has been direct that the platform is not optimized to support brands organically. Instead, they recommend that brands align their advertising around contextual topics and events vs. personification of the brand narrative with the hope of organic reach.

5 – Targeted Advertising. Snapchat’s advertising model is an opt-in model that is contextual and relevant vs. highly targeted. This is a similar approach to Buzzfeed and is the antithesis to Facebook’s highly targeted approach. This also means that alcohol brands are limited on the platform as targeting and age-gating are not currently an option.

6 – Physical to Digital. One of the other benefits and opportunities for brands on the platform is to connect physical events to an expanded digital audience is through Snapchat’s Our Story offering. With the ability to geo-fence and filter content, and align contextual brand advertising, Snapchat is creating more content for consumption that’s built on peer-to-peer audience sharing.

7 – Direct Response vs. Views. Snapchat’s value to brands is as an awareness driver vs. direct response platform. Snapchat views its platform as THE engagement platform of the 14-28-year-old demographic and it’s comparing its ad pricing to traditional GRP’s.

8 – Editorial Integrity. With the launch of Discover, Snapchat now provides daily editorial content to expand the scale of content on the platform. Each publishing partner is committed to a daily edition of content. This edition is also aligned with contextual advertising. The ad pricing is set by Snapchat and the publisher partner.

Snapchat is currently in the spotlight and there’s significant interest in leveraging the platform. Snapchat should be viewed as a contextual media platform vs. a social network that creates organic equity. The size of the audience and frequency of engagement cannot be ignored. If a program’s objective is to drive reach and create awareness, then Snapchat can play a key role.

Tom Edwards is EVP for Strategy & Innovation/Digital at The Marketing Arm.

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

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Super Bowl XLIX Advertising Missed Opportunities

With the price of the average Super Bowl ad hovering around $4.5 million for a 30 second spot, you would assume that advertisers would extend the reach of the on-air spot and create comprehensive social and mobile experiences to capitalize on the spend.

For this years game that simply did not happen. SalesForce published a great ad analysis diagram outlining some of the hits and misses.

salesforce superbowl data

The big surprise was the amount of spots that simply did not have a single call to action. Awareness is one thing, but leading up to the big game it is incredibly important to maximize the reach and frequency of the spot and kick it over into an earned media strategy that extends the conversation and builds towards greater engagement with the brand.

Even the usage of hashtags was primarily relegated to end cards vs. being present throughout the spots. Having a hashtag is a good start, but it is also important to ensure that the experience both from a keyword and promoted tweet perspective further aligns the call to action with an opportunity to drive deeper engagement or action to a final destination.

The other surprising take away was the non-use of SMS during the course of the spots as well as the limited numbers of drive to native applications. Mobile marketing was almost non-existent and a huge missed opportunity to further drive customer acquisition of a highly engaged audience.

Heading into next years game brand advertisers need to focus on creating a cohesive experience that maximizes their investment to not only create awareness but diving deeper into creating experiences that extend beyond the spot that further fuels the social conversation.

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5 Reasons for Brands to Try Snapchat in 2015

This is a full repost of my recent iMedia Connection Cover Story.

Each year I like to dive into a specific platform that will make an impact for brands in the coming year. 2014 was the year of Tumblr. This prediction came true as TechCrunch recently released data that shows that Tumblr just overtook Instagram as the fastest-growing social platform.

Tumblr growth

Heading into 2015, Snapchat is the fastest growing social app. I have received numerous client requests for POV’s on the platform and I was recently briefed by the Snapchat team. What they unveiled takes the platform to the next level for brands interested in reaching the 14-28 year old demo in 2015.

Snapchat is already the fastest growing social app heading into 2015

snapchat growth

According to Business Insider, Nearly Half of Americans aged 12 to 24 have used Snapchat

biisnapchatedisonresearch

OVERVIEW & STATS

Snapchat launched in 2011 with a heavy emphasis on teen and 20-something users and has quickly gained traction over the past few years. Snapchat’s sweet spot is between 14-28 with a slight female lean. The numbers are impressive, including the fact that almost 50% of US users aged 12-24 have tried Snapchat. They now sit at 100 million active users with 50 million in the US.

Snapchat-logo

When it comes to frequency of use, the platform is even more impressive as 60% of the active users are on the app daily with frequency numbers as high as 22x per day.

For those not familiar with Snapchat, one of the unique elements of the platform is that content “disappears” after a short period of time that is set by the content creator. Users also have the ability to “doodle” directly on the content to quickly personalize the content.

Users can set a timer for when their content will vanish

snapchat timer

Users can doodle, add filters and comment on top of content

dogsnapchat

Here is a Snapchat infographic that our team developed in 2013. You can see the explosive growth since then.

final_infographici

If that was not enough, there are over 700 million snaps sent everyday. One of the key behavioral factors is tied to the fact that there is a sense of urgency with the content as it will eventually disappear.

HOW CAN BRANDS USE SNAPCHAT?

When it comes to the various use cases of Snapchat, users can chat with one-to-one messaging and live video chat, they can consume a feed of directly sent snaps and messages from friends, capture photo and video (filter, doodle, caption) and they can interact with the story feed.

While some brands go the route of directly sending and feeding snaps and messages, one of the key areas of focus recently has been tied to the “story” feed.

Here is an example from Taco Bell showcasing new products directly to their followers.

image-27

The My Stories feature was introduced in 2013 and has become one of the most popular features within the app.  My Stories allows users to link multiple snaps together over a 24 hour period. This feature alone is driving over 1 billion views a day and has become the go to for brands emphasizing a 1 to many strategy on the platform vs. 1:1 messaging.

Here is an example of McDonald’s using multiple snaps to reveal a new product.

3033793-inline-i-1-snapchat-mcdonalds-lebron

Snapchat and Advertising

When it comes to an approach to advertising, Snapchat is more like buzzfeed than Facebook. They focus on contextual relevance of the content to drive impressions vs. a highly targeted approach. Both have their pros and cons, but Snapchat recommends relevance and authenticity are the keys to success when it comes to advertising within their platform. They have recently introduced the ability to position sponsored content in the friend feed. From a viewability standpoint, they count a view as 2 seconds of consumption.

Here is an example of sponsored content from the recent Ouija movie.

Snapchat_FirstAdLong

WHAT’S NEW HEADING INTO 2015?

Our Story | One of the latest additions and one of the bigger brand opportunities is tied to the new Our Story offering. Our Story is a location based collaborative story that leverages content from the event and allows others not attending to directly experience the event. A user attending the event has ability to upload a photo or video snap and Snapchat drops a wi-fi geofence around the event. Content is then aggregated and The Our Story content prompt is located in the story feed and is next to friend content.

There is also an opportunity for brands to “sponsor” Our Story events. This comes to life in the form of interstitial content that wraps the user generated content and clearly identifies the sponsor. One key point to consider with this type of offering is to leverage authentic event content vs. pre-produced content. This better aligns the message and makes it more contextually relevant.

Here is an example from Samsung tied to the recent American Music Awards Show

ama-our-story

What’s New?

Peer-to-Peer Payments | Recently, Snapchat partnered with Square to release a prototype that allowed users to store their debit card via square and the users could quickly process a payment and send cash to a friend’s bank account simply through the chat feature. Users could type the dollar sign, an amount and hit the green button. It is available in the US to those with a debit care and are 18 or older.

Screenshot 2014-12-02 14.21.01

Snapchat Discover | It was recently reported by multiple media outlets that Snapchat is in negotiations with Comedy Central, Spotify, Vice and other media publishers for the upcoming launch of Discover. Discover will most likely serve users articles, music and videos produced by media companies. This will create an additional avenue to drive contextually relevant native advertising to further monetize the platform.

Snapchat discover

With it’s diversity of use cases, easy of use, sense of urgency and focus on enabling brands and partnerships, Snapchat is primed to have a very big 2015.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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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Do Snack Brands Need Content?

I was recently asked by Mobile Commerce Daily to provide commentary if Snack brands need meaningful content to drive in-store purchases via social. Below are my full responses to the various topics discussed.

(Mobile Commerce Daily) To what extent are food and snacks CPG brands starting to understand and activate social media within the purchase funnel?

Social media has been an integral part of the marketing mix for CPG brands for some time now. CPG social strategy has evolved with the evolution of social platforms and shifting consumer behaviors. Many platforms such as Facebook are shifting away from engagement as a primary metric and focused on reach, resonance and reaction, which aligns social media activation further down the purchase funnel.

(MCD) What are the challenges CPG companies face in leveraging social media to drive purchases?

The snack category is highly dependent on context and timing. With the convergence of social, mobile and digital and the focus shifting to targeted cross screen engagement, there is a renewed interest in aligning digital, physical and data to impact purchase decisions.

(MCD) Besides motivating purchases, what additional benefits/negatives in terms of consumer engagement does a social campaign bring the CPG company?

Social centric campaigns allow brands to deepen their connection with their consumers, empower them to help drive the brand forward (Doritos Legion of the Bold and Do Us A Flavor), impact brand perception and for a number of brands provide impactful reach through social engagement.

(MCD) What are some examples of top food and snacks CPG companies that have effectively leveraged social to drive consumers deeper into the purchase funnel?

Frito-Lay is a company that is continually looking to leverage social as a means to drive consumers further into the purchase funnel. Whether it is a brand campaign that empowers consumers such as Lay’s Do Us a Flavor, or it is creating a community of brand advocates like Doritos Legion of the bold, or connecting in-store elements seamlessly into socially centric campaigns, Frito-Lay is approaching social in a smart and relevant way that connects with consumers and ultimately impacts purchase.

(MCD) What’s your favorite example of a food and snacks CPG social campaign that drove purchases?

My favorite examples are Lay’s Do Us a Flavor and Doritos Crash the Superbowl programs.

Snacks brands need meaningful content to drive in-store purchases via social - Mobile Marketer - Advertising 2014-11-09 21-34-09

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360