Viva Fresh Expo Tom Edwards Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to deliver a version of the Evolution of Experience talk as a keynote during the Viva Fresh Expo in San Antonio, Texas.

The first half of the talk explored the rise of Amazon and it impacts on consumer behavior and retail experiences. Then the presentation shifted into the full Evolution of Experience through the E^3 Framework of  Empower, Exponential and Enhance and discussed how we will evolve from us inputting into technology, to our environment adapting to us.

VivaFresh Expo

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy of the individual that will forever alter the path to purchase.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever changing the retail experience.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a great crowd and I really enjoyed the hour with such a highly engaged and interactive group.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

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Celebrating 500 BlackFin Posts

This post is number 500 for the BlackFin360.com/blog. Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have made professionally. It provided me with a platform to share original thoughts, cover industry trends and serve as a repository for speaking and media coverage.

It has evolved significantly from the early beginnings in 2007. The blog was originally under the domain TheBlackFin.com. Now that domain is simply a redirect to BlackFin360.com. “BlackFin” was a nickname given to me by a co-worker at the time and the blog name came directly from my Xbox Gamertag “TheBlackFin“.

Here is a screenshot of the original look for the blog from 2007-2009. Why green for a blog named the “black” fin is something I still wonder about to this day.

Over the years the look and feel of the blog has changed but the core content focus on marketing, emerging technology, and gaming has remained to this day.

I officially moved the blog from theblackfin.com to blackfin360.com in 2009. By 2011 at least there were black/techie elements in the look and feel.

Now in 2018, the blog continues to serve as the primary entry point for speaking engagements, advisor opportunities, university lecturing, media coverage and over the past year it has shifted to more of a Vlog.

The look of the site will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond.

Whether this is your first time here or you have been a subscriber since the beginning, I sincerely want to thank anyone who has stopped by and spent time with my content. I am incredibly grateful for this platform and I would highly recommend to anyone to find their industry voice and build their personal brand in addition to their professional.

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68 Top Trends So Far in 2017

Over the past six months, my team and I have evaluated the top emerging technology trends that will fundamentally reshape how marketers will connect with consumers.

Here is a brief preview:

The full analysis includes 68 trends categorized by our trend framework of Empower, Enhance, Feel & Ambient Computing. This will replace our original framework of Connection, Cognition & Immersion.

Empower to create content, engage and connect through new interfaces and touchpoints.

Enhance your daily life activities and responsibilities through intelligent systems and proxy’s.

Feel emotional experiences like pleasure and excitement delivered through immersive computing.

Ambient computing is the alignment of all three behavioral drivers.

Download the 2017 Midyear Trend Deck Today!

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Symposium 2017

I had the privilege to speak and host Epsilon Symposium 2017. With hundreds of clients in attendance, I was tasked with discussing the role of artificial intelligence across Epsilon and Conversant as well as tease examples of emerging technology that my team and I are working on.

Here are the key highlights I discussed during Symposium 2017. Part of my role is evaluating and embracing the latest innovations and determining how they connect to our Epsilon and Conversant solutions.

Whether that’s through conversational and voice based experiences such as Alexa Voice Services, Google Assistant & Siri, or the amazing artificial intelligence work happening here at Epsilon and Conversant or immersive computing such as augmented & virtual reality, that’s bolstered by our data, insights and creative execution.

So the last ten years I have talked about how disruption is the new normal. How emerging technology can impact consumer behavior and what it means for marketers.

Today we are at an inflection point. Where we are seeing the shift from mobile first to AI first. It’s less about disruption and more about acceleration through intelligent systems.

That’s where Epsilon and Conversant’s heritage of aligning data and technology and driving innovation is the key to leveraging whatever the future may bring and where consumers will be.

Within the agency business, we are using Machine Learning to categorize the data of culture along with our data of identity to fuel our creative approach.

From a product perspective, We are also achieving harmony (Pun intended ;) through machine learning and AI through a centralized intelligence hub for decisioning across channels.

Finally, Conversant is at the forefront of integrating AI through machine learning and image recognition to create world-class speed and scale where every 5 minutes, consumer actions across 160M individual profiles lead to over a billion model updates.

The key moving forward is empowering consumers, enhancing solutions through artificial intelligence and creating immersive experiences

Regardless of how the future state shifts and evolves… be it through bots becoming agents on our behalf, the evolution of consumer based journey’s expanding to include system based journey’s or a hyper connected augmented reality future. All of those elements will be highly dependent on Data and decisioning as the foundational element.

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Adweek Commentary Twitter 10,000 Characters

I was recently asked by Adweek to provide commentary about how Twitter’s increase to 10,000 characters can add value for brand marketers.

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The biggest reason they are making the shift is not just for user behavior—to me, it is to increase the platform’s capabilities in search,” said Tom Edwards, chief digital officer of agency business at Epsilon. “With more content, it will be about getting more insights on individual behavior and other ad opportunities. This change allows to search more content, signal of users and increase the platform’s targeting ability.”

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IBT Q3 Earnings Commentary Facebook, Twitter & Google

Recently the International Business Times asked me to provide commentary and analysis of Q3 2015 earnings reports for multiple digital and technology organizations. I find quarterly earnings calls to be incredibly insightful, especially towards the end of the calendar year as new product investment announcements are made.

Below is my multi-article commentary about the future offerings that may impact new products and digital marketing experiences for Google, Twitter & Facebook.

FACEBOOK: Facebook had an impressive 3rd quarter as they continue to invest in core products and services. What was most impressive were the latest numbers being touted, specifically for private groups, messenger and WhatsApp.

earnings numbers Q3

Facebook’s approach to aligning products with varying levels of consumer intimacy while also keeping an eye towards the future of computing was impressive all while turning in impressive quarter over quarter earnings.

Post Earnings Facebook Commentary

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Pre-Earnings Facebook Analysis

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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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Twitter Moments Analysis

Recently, I published a post outlining the launch of Project Lightning which became Twitter Moments. This was a major launch for social/digital marketers as it extends the ability to create contextually relevant content series on Twitter.

Below is my initial analysis that explores the user experience, competitive analysis and comparison to SnapChat’s Live Stories as well as explores the potential of sequential storytelling for brand marketers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Twitter’s New Visual Tools Debuted at the VMA’s

I was recently asked by ClickZ about the recent debut of Twitter’s Visual Editing Tool the debuted during MTV’s Video Music Awards.

Clickz: Twitter is testing new editing tools to give its users a lot more creativity in the photo and video department soon. According to numerous images posted by Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams and other popstars at MTV’s VMA awards show this weekend, it looks like users might soon be able to add stickers, doodles, text and more to photos and short video clips. What does this mean for Twitter?

Tom Edwards: This move by Twitter makes a lot of sense, especially for millennial users who have grown accustomed to customizing their messages with ephemeral social platforms like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The evolution from text speak to visual language is key for Twitter to capitalize upon to remain relevant especially considering that globally, messaging applications are the primary engagement drivers. 

Twitter has taken steps to amp up their approach to visually contextual content with custom emoji and hashflags. By incorporating more options for it’s users to extend their personalities through stickers and doodles they are providing additional options for users to expand their ability to tell a visual story and continue to expand context beyond 140 characters. 

 

ClickZ - Tom Edwards

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Twitter Card 101 & Beyond

Twitter initially rolled out Twitter cards during the summer of 2012 and this feature has continued to expand. Twitter recently rolled out their new Twitter Cards analytics package. This roll-out reflects the growing focus towards not only creating a richer experience in-feed, but also validating the results and mapping influence.

Twitter cards allow content creators to attach rich photos, videos and media experiences to tweets. The cards are actually more dependent on the web destination than anything within the Twitter experience. Twitter cards require a few lines of HTML to allow Twitter to quickly organize the card information to create a differentiated experience in-feed.

Below is a consolidated view of the latest Twitter Card offerings covering: Summary, Photo, Gallery, App, Player and Product Card types.

Here is a great video from the Twitter team outlining the new Card Analytics offering.

Twitter cards can serve as a key point of differentiation, especially upon a share from the referring destination, to create a more complete experience within the feed and across device types.

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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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Custom Audiences for Facebook and Twitter

I was recently briefed by the Twitter team about today’s formally announced tailored audience product release. The need to create custom audience segments based off of existing datasets is becoming increasingly important for organizations to further differentiate and target relevant messaging.

Twitters offering on the surface is very similar to how Facebook approaches custom audience targeting but with a few subtle nuances. Facebook’s approach allows organizations to use existing e-mail addresses, phone numbers or Facebook User IDs to create a match with users on Facebook to create custom segments.

This is represented simply by the Identify, Find & Reach visual below.

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The way that Facebook’s matching works is your organization would map the selected customer base into groups of people you want to target with specific messages and then upload the list via the Facebook power editor. That data is then hashed via a one way hash. This information is not “kept” by Facebook and a rep recently stated an example… “You cannot run sausage back through a grinder to make a pig“. This hashed data is then mapped against existing Facebook UID’s and a custom list is created with a match rate of over 80%.

Here is an example of how it works.

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One of the questions I receive a lot on this topic is if the brand has to do this or can it be administered by a third party? The answer is both. Those comfortable with the process can create custom audiences or pass to a 3rd party to facilitate the mapping.

This type of targeting is ideal to pair with paid to deliver a highly impactful message. An example would be taking an offline loyalty database, taking the top 5% of purchasers and create a custom mapped list based on past purchases to deliver a high impact message.

Twitters announcement today regarding what they call tailored audiences is a similar concept. Twitter already has a number of ways to target individuals on their platform.

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What is interesting about their approach to targeting is that they can target off of both CRM and Web. From a CRM standpoint the process is similar to Facebooks where offline data such as e-mail is matched against Twitter users to reach them with Twitter Promoted Products.

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Where it gets very interesting is Twitter’s ability to tailor web audiences as well. This is done by a data partner sending anonymized cookie ID lists composed of chosen audiences that is then mapped against Twitter lists.

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With further dependency on paid due to lower organic reach, the ability to target and activate existing assets socially is going to be of paramount importance to the success of going beyond engagement to create intent with targeted consumers. The ability to further align offline & online behavior to those who have shown interest through purchase or other means is a key point of consideration moving forward.

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Visual Storytelling Twitter Style

In celebration of Twitter’s IPO, I recently put together the following POV on the new visual Twitter experience outlining what changed, potential impact for programs as well as best practices directly from the Twitter team.

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When: This update was rolled out to the public on October 29th, 2013

What: Images, Videos & Vines in users Twitter feed for both web client & mobile apps are now auto expanded (contingent on users updating their iOS & Android apps to the latest update version of the Twitter app).

New Look

Why: Twitter wants to make the service a more visual experience heading into their IPO. One of the core goals of Twitter is mainstream adoption and user growth. In Q3 their user growth rate declined slightly so the goal is to make the product more approachable by incorporating a more visual feel to the timeline similar to Facebook & Tumblr.

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Impact: Previously, a user would need to click on a link to see the preview of the image or video. Now, the user will see a preview of the image and have the ability to zoom in or watch the clip in stream. The visual redesign has also streamlined the ability to replay, retweet or favorite a tweet without leaving the timeline as before.

Xbox

Currently there is no way for a user to turn off the visual previews via the web. However, users can opt to turn off the visual option in the mobile application via settings. Based on past behavior though, this extra step may not be taken by a majority of users.

From a metric standpoint, this change may have an impact on the total interactions per tweet as prior to the update users would need to click on the link to preview an image and that would count as an interaction.

Thus interactions via the tweet may go down, but providing more visual content directly in the stream may impact overall engagement in a more positive way as the visual content will stand out from the traditional text based tweets.

Vine

Final notes: The new visual Twitter update still does not support animated GIF’s and there is currently no filter or blocking functionality for the individual user. Also, Instagram and other services are currently still represented as links vs. auto expanded.

Note this example highlighting Instagram as a link & images uploaded to Twitter as expanded

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Recommendation: The new best practice associated with image posting per Twitter renders at 440 x 220 and uploaded via pic.twitter.com in order to be auto-expanded.

Twitter Visual Dimensions

Here is additional info that I just received from Twitter RE: Image pixel size and file size:

The longer side of your photo should be 1024 pixels and the shorter side should be proportionately fewer pixels. This applies to horizontal, square, and vertical photos with any aspect ratio. For example, a horizontal photo with a 4×3 aspect ratio should be sized 1024 x 768 pixels. A square photo should be 1024 x 1024 pixels
Photo file size limit is 3MB

To show your entire image in the Tweet preview:

Use an image in horizontal/landscape orientation with a 2:1 aspect ratio (e.g. 1024 x 512 pixels)
If you do this, the preview image will be the same as the image shown when the Tweet is expanded and/or when the photo is fully revealed.

Currently, there are no text restrictions on the images, so there is an opportunity to maximize the real-estate of images. One key point of consideration is that mobile users still need to update their Twitter app to get this feature so that is still a barrier to removing legal copy from photos as only 6% of Twitter users use the web client. Also note that Twitter has been very strict with 3rd parties who use their API, so at some point this update will push through that ecosystem as well.

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Vine Strikes Back

With the recent launch of Instagram Video the natural inclination was what would the response be from Twitter’s Vine service. What features would be added to further compel brands & users to leverage their platform?  On July 5th we received our answer as Vine announced the following on their blog:

New Camera Tools: We’ve redesigned the camera and included new grid, focus, and ghost tools to make shooting great videos even easier.

Channels: We’re introducing 15 channels for you to submit posts to or browse from the Explore screen, including comedy, music and nature — each with their own theme and Popular feed. They’re a great way to highlight the awesome posts that are shared every day.

On The Rise: Discover new people who are starting to capture the attention and interest of the Vine community.

Revining: Share other people’s posts with your all of your followers in one tap.

Protected Posts: Most Vine posts are public, which means they can be viewed, discovered and shared by anyone on Vine. If you want more control over who can see your posts, you can now protect your posts, which means only the people you approve to follow you can see them. And of course, if you choose to share one of your protected posts to Twitter or Facebook, then it will also be viewable on the web.

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All features are available on iOS and all features will be added to Android in the next week.

FEATURE IMPACT DISCUSSION

Each of these features were implemented to continue the direct competition with Instagram & to create points of differentiation between the two platforms. The interesting elements in my mind were the focus on discoverability & sharability.

Channels were a surprise and one of the smarter moves by Vine. By creating top level categories in addition to adding “popular now” and “on the rise” allows for users to quickly filter to content that may be of interest to them, thus potentially increasing connectivity between users & content creators that are of interest. This may be a future areas where branded content can be further amplified as well.

The most important update was tied to the creation of “Revining” by allowing quick sharing within the app to a users followers, it instantly increases the virality potential of Vine related content.

From a brand perspective, Protected Posts was a key addition by allowing more control over content, a brand can more easily experiment with Vine content but note that if you choose to share to Twitter or Facebook that content is also viewable on the web.

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