Want to stay up-to-date with the latest in social media? Well, we’ve got the latest social scoop for you and let’s just say, we’re psyched about Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and some (Pop)sugar news. This week on the social front, there are a lot of exciting changes. Social platforms are continuing to surprise users by implementing unforeseen capabilities into the space.

YouTube’s Two Major Announcements

  • Recently, YouTube has made two major announcements. First, CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that it now has 1.5 billion logged in monthly users. In other words, 1 in every 5 people around the world are logging onto YouTube at least once a month. This is a major milestone for the social channel, and this profound number is making marketers’ ears perk up. However, that’s not all. YouTube also announced that it has partnered with another Google company, Daydream, to allow people to produce virtual reality on any type of recording device. This is monumental for the platform, as VR has taken off but proven to be expensive to produce because of the 360-degree lens needed to film.
  • What it means for brands: Now, marketers can feel rest-assured that their YouTube marketing efforts are reaching plenty of people. Specifically, 1 in 5 people globally. The virtual reality announcement gives marketers the chance to produce unique and entertaining content for their target audience, without having to buy the latest VR producing gadgets. YouTube is not only making the platform more user friendly for the producers, but it is also keeping its viewers entertained.

Additional Resources: Adweek

(via Adweek)

Snapchat Adds a New Geo-Targeting Feature

  • Step aside, Facebook and Instagram stories: Snapchat isn’t ready to back down yet. The recent battle between Zuckerberg and Snap App has resulted each platform trying to one up the other with capabilities and user technology. Snapchat has now out-done its competitors since launching the “snap map” feature. Snap map allows you to see your friends’ locations by using their bitmoji as an identifier. Simply open the app, zoom out on the screen, and the map opens. The vision behind snap map is to allow users to see what’s happening and where, as well as locate friends and see what they are up to. There is a “ghost mode” feature that turns off location trackers for those who feel that it is an invasion of privacy. Although Snapchat has not discussed implementing ads into snap map just yet, many are predicting that this will be the next step.
  • What it means for brands: If marketers can advertise on snap map, this allows them to take geotargeting techniques one step further and make ads for specific places, events, or areas through the “Our Story” feature. For example, if someone is near a clothing store, that clothing store could target their ads even more specifically to people at the surrounding stores or restaurants that are viewing the snap map stories.

Additional resources: Social Media Today, Marketing Land

(via Social Media Today)

Why Instagram’s New Feature Will Help Marketers with Targeting

  • Instagram is making sharing capabilities even more user friendly. You can now make a post or a story, and only enable people from a pre-determined “favorites” list to see it. These posts will be saved under your “favorites” tab, but the content is private and can only be seen by you and people that you invite. Basically, users now have a public and private feed. Instagram has picked up on the making of “Finsta” accounts and wants to enable users to post public and private content within one profile. This allows users to engage more with their close friends, and post pictures specific for groups of people rather than sharing them with their public feed.
  • What it means for brands: Now, there will be niche groups of people and friends who share similar interests and content. Although targeted ads through favorites have not been made available yet, it is on the horizon.

Additional resources: Social Media Today, Adweek

(Social Media Today)

Facebook is Immersing Itself in a New Market: Digital TV

  • Facebook is taking its advertising capabilities one step further. The social media platform is now immersing itself into the digital TV streaming market. By the end of this summer, Facebook will be releasing “Facebook original” TV shows that people can view via the original platform. There will be two tiers of shows. The first tier includes unscripted 3-10 minute shows. The second tier is shows that are 30 minutes in length. Facebook is putting forth the money to create quality TV. An estimated $3.5 million has been spent to make each 30-minute episode. The difference between Netflix, Hulu, and Facebook TV is that it will not be subscription based. This means that viewers cannot opt-out of an ad experience, opening opportunities for digital advertising even more. We can expect an official launch by August 2017.
  • What it means for brands: Not only can you make targeted ads through Facebook itself, you can now implement digital video advertising through Facebook.

Additional resources: The Times, Business Insider

(via TechCrunch)


Hard to believe, but it’s already that time of year again. The 2018 SXSW PanelPicker goes live today. You have between now and July 21st to submit ideas for consideration. This year, the SXSW folks expect to receive over 5,000 submissions. That kind of competition means brands and individuals need to stand out from the crowd. But how best to do that?

Hugh Forrest, SXSW’s Chief Programming Officer, provides several clues:

  1. Review the sessions and topics resonated in 2017: Unfortunately, there’s not an easy way to filter videos from the SXSW YouTube channel since so many of the older videos have more views overall, but Hugh posted 10 great SXSW 2017 videos volume 1, volume 2 and volume 3 to help. Same goes for SXSW on SoundCloud. Hugh posted 10 top SXSW 2017 podcasts volume 1 and volume 2 to help there as well.
  2. Go Deep: Hugh makes it clear that topic depth matters more than width or breadth. That’s way the SXSW team prefers solo spots over panel sessions.
  3. Focus on the Future: Throughout its history, SXSW focuses on what’s next. But discussing current trends isn’t enough. Hugh’s timeline? Think 3 – 5 years out.
  4. Hugh’s also been pretty blunt about what not to do part 1 and what not to do part 2.

Note in the two what not to do posts, Hugh’s pretty clear that diversity matters. Diversity issues—both in terms of gender and ethnicity—will continue to be an important topic. Furthering that discussion in a meaningful way will be a priority in 2018.

One last thing you can do to improve your chances: attend one of the remaining SXSW Meet Ups. The SXSW team runs  local events in a handful of cities (the Brooklyn Meet Up happens tonight). It’s a place to ask SXSW staffers about the process or other specific questions.

I attended the Austin Meet Up on June 14. That’s where I got to ask for more detail about the selection process overall. Here’s what they told me: they put a lot of stock into original ideas, and reiterated the focus on future-oriented topics that look 3 – 5 years out. They notice if it’s someone (or a brand) that’s spoken before. In those cases, it’s important that the idea explores a new angle or represents a big validation or major progress against earlier ideas. They also look for engagement spikes in the PanelPicker (lots of votes, comments, etc.), so that does influence what they consider as well.

It’s a good reminder that the PanelPicker process is not the only thing that counts. Public votes that come from the PanelPicker count for 30%. Feedback from the SXSW Advisory Board, a group of industry experts from around the world, counts for 40%; lastly, votes from SXSW staff members count for the remaining 30% as they look to strike a balance between new and veteran speakers. See the SXSW PanelPicker About page for more details.

Visit or click on the image below. All the best to those of you who will be working on submissions over the next few weeks!

Want to stay up-to-date with the latest in social media? Well, we’ve got the latest social scoop for you and let’s just say, we’re psyched about Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and some (Pop)sugar news.

What Marketers Should Know About Instagram Story Advertising

  • The evolution of Instagram has been unique and forward-thinking. The app has hopped on many of the latest social media trends, ensuring its continued relevance and user engagement as technology advances. Instagram has adopted the capability of posting a story, replying to another user’s story, going live, and direct messaging. Over 200 million users per day are viewing the Instagram story feed. A new feature that Instagram has added for advertisers are direct-response ads, piggybacking off the story ads feature that launched this past January. This is the ability to place a call-to-action button on a story ad, and redirect users to another page based on the goal of the advertisement.
  • What it means for brands: Brands can now implement measurable campaign objectives into their Instagram story ads. For example, if a brand wants to drive users to their blog, they can simply post a direct-response story ad that has a call-to-action button that users can click and be re-directed to the brand’s blog page. Instagram allows image ads or videos up to 15 seconds in their story feed. So far, brands have seen major success by using these ads. Outdoors magazine, Outside, is seeing a 20-25% swipe through rate on their ads, while app, Whisper, saw 1.25 million views on their story ad, and 15% of those users clicked the link that redirected them to the website.

Additional Resources: AdAge, Marketing Land

(via The Next Web)

Twitter Adds 1:1 Ratio Images

  • Long gone are the awkward, rectangular image specs that Twitter previously encouraged for advertising. A new feature that Twitter has rolled out is allowing square images for website cards, which means the images now have a 1:1 ratio. The 140 characters per tweet rule still applies, and images account for 24/140 characters. Website cards are used to drive traffic to a company’s website via the Twitter platform.
  • What it means for brands: Brands can now claim additional real-estate on Twitter feeds with the bigger image size, which should lead to user engagement with the content because of the larger, more appealing image size. Twitter launched this in hopes of improving ad performance on the platform.

See below:

(via Twitter)

Facebook Adds New Live Streaming Features

  • This past month, Facebook has further developed their Facebook Live feature. Not only can users go live, but now they can also have live “guests,” as well as in-stream or private chats about the live-stream. Allowing users to begin a chat with a friend privately about the live-stream will increase the exposure of streaming because those who were not previously watching are now connected. Additionally, allowing people to go live together takes the pressure off being in the spotlight and entertaining viewers on your own. This could improve the quality of the content and the entertainment factor during a live-stream.
  • What this means for brands: Brands can now expect higher exposure when going live, and allowing in-stream conversation could spark the engagement that brands are seeking. Additionally, people may be more likely to interact because they can do this privately with their friends as opposed to the sometimes “spammy” live-stream chat feed.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, TechCrunch



About a year ago, Uber and Lyft abruptly left Austin after disagreements with the city’s requirement for fingerprinting drivers. Things changed when House Bill 100 was signed into law on May 17.

Fast forward to May 29, when both Uber and Lyft returned their services to Austin. Their respective marketing machines are making it clear they’re back. I’ve seen signs around the city, received emails like this one below from Lyft offering credits to use the service over the next few days. And I’ve seen lots of Uber ads in Facebook throughout this time as well.

Lyft returning to Austin offer

So, what effect has their return had on local ride-sharing companies that have been filling the void for the last year? They’ve all taken big hits. Fare has already made it official announcing they are leaving Austin earlier this week.

Fasten CEO Kiril Evdakov is still bullish on his company’s prospects: “We’re thinking about growth thresholds, not about decline thresholds.”

What got me thinking about all this was the Here and Now interview of RideAustin COO Marisa Goldenberg. the non-profit company grew from about 300 rides a day to over 20,000 during the SXSW peak. According to Marisa, RideAustin saw a 55% drop in business in the first full week of Uber and Lyft’s  return. She also blamed seasonality—the first few weeks of June tend to be lower ride volumes overall. RideAustin hopes to make it through the summer months to get back to a threshold of 20,000 rides per week. That’s the target the company needs to hit to sustain their nonprofit business.

Click on the image below to get to the story where you can hear the interview with Marisa.

Here and Now - RideAustin interview with Marisa Goldenberg

Personally, I’m pulling for RideAustin. What are your thoughts? Have you returned to using or driving for Uber and Lyft now that they’re back, or will you rely on other options?

Gay Pride is quickly approaching which means clients should start thinking about how they can get involved to show their customers, their employees and their shareholders that they support the community.

As a leader in audience architecture, W2O Group has developed a cost-effective approach that will allow brands and companies to more effectively engage with the LGBT community.

To highlight our approach in how we are helping companies unlock the value of the LGBT community, I sat down with Allan Dib, our Managing Director of Strategy and Insights, to discuss W2O Group’s offering and approach:

Aaron: Allan, this is a little bit of a rhetorical question, but tell us how 2017 Gay Pride is going to be different than it was in previous years?

Allan: This year, Gay Pride celebrations around the country, from LA to NYC and all in between, are shifting focus to resistance – moving from parades to marches.  Borrowing from the Women’s March early in the year, the community has organized a national march, The Equality March for Unity and Pride, in DC on June 11th.  We expect to see thousands of people attending from all over the country.  Brands and companies are going to need to balance their celebratory messaging with support.

Aaron: You and I have discussed that some companies fall into the trap of treating the LGBT community as a homogenous segment. Why is this a bad idea?

Allan: The biggest criticism of brands targeting the LGBT community is that their approach is not authentic and genuine.  Brands and companies tend to target the entire community as one segment.  The LGBT community is certainly not homogenous and activating to create receptivity within certain audience segments requires nuanced insights.  Not only do you need to know which segment of the community is going to be right for you but you need to know as much about them as possible to engage in authentic and compelling way.  It is critical to build out your marketing strategy based on the segment most receptive to your message.

Aaron: What are some of the most effective ways to reach the LGBT Community?

Allan: While using LGBT media is definitely an effective way of reaching the LGBT community, it is not the only way.  Actually, if you focus only on LGBT media you are missing a large portion of the community that does not consume LGBT media and another important segment – allies.   LGBT allies should be part of your strategy; they have proven to be very vocal for the community and very receptive towards brands that are engaging with the LGBT community.  Allied influencers amplify your message.  An effective way to do this is to work with those who already influence (whomever they may be) your target to tell your story.

Aaron: Talk about how a company’s position on LGBT issues can impact how its employees (both current and prospective) view it.

Allan: Employees, especially millennials, are increasingly taking into consideration a company’s position on social issues.  They turn to the media, influencers and third-party associations to learn about a company’s position on key issues.  Many feel that LGBT rights are being attacked and rolled back by lawmakers across the country, making it even more important for companies to be vocal in supporting their employees.  We have seen many companies rise to this challenge and publicly support campaigns to fight for these rights. For these reasons, it’s important to let the LGBT community and their allies know your corporate story.

Aaron: A little bit of a sales pitch here but tell us how W2O Group’s LGBT Audience and Influencer Architecture can help brands effectively connect.

Allan: As part of our ongoing efforts to stay one-step ahead of the rapidly shifting consumer landscape, W2O Group is pleased to announce its new LGBT Audience & Influencer Architecture offering. We recognize that companies need the right perspective to pivot in today’s landscape and anticipate tomorrow’s environment. And as customer demands and the competitive landscape are changing constantly, we hope to provide insights grounded in real-time analytics to help navigate future opportunities.

Aaron: For those interested in this offering, can you let the them know what they receive?

Allan: Certainly. The current package includes:

  • Segmentation of more than 50,000 LGBTs and allies
  • Deep understanding of audience interests
  • Segmentation of the key influencers talking about LGBT issues
  • A workshop at your office

Aaron: Thank you Allan. What is the best way for clients and prospective clients to learn more about the offering?

Allan: For anyone who is interested in learning more about our LGBT Audience & Influencer Architecture, please let me know, Allan Dib, Managing Director Insights and Strategy.

Snapchat and Facebook continue to one-up each other. From search tools to sponsored ads, there’s not too find of a line between Facebook/Instagram and Snapchat these days. Twitter also announced an update that’s going to allow brands to better manage location based customer service questions via DM…hmm, will this eventually turn into a bot friendly tool? And in other news, LinkedIn is now MVP since you don’t have to fill in those pesty ad-generated forms… they’ll just do it for you! Read ahead to learn more about what’s new & trending in social media.

Snapchats New Search System Sifts Through 1 Million Stories

  • If you want to get a glimpse of Miami before your trip, or if you have major FOMO for missing your “this is our year” baseball team play, don’t fret. Snapchat just launched search within Stories, so you can be there without, actually being there. While you won’t be able to pull search results from private messages or Stories, the new tool includes public videos within the Our Stories section, which looks through and provides results from caption text, time and visual elements.
  • What it means for brands: Brands need to think of how to optimize their Snapchat content for Stories search. Adding keywords into captions, voiceovers and showing the highlights and focal points of events and locations within videos and images can become beneficial. Don’t try and add “Coachella 2017” to something about a tech conference, though. Snapchat’s too smart and will filter that out quicker than you click through your ex’s My Story. Too soon?

Additional resources: Marketing Land

(via Ad Age)

Snapchat Just Announced Two New Ad Offerings

  • Snapchat announced two new ad offerings to the platform. The first offering allows access to bidding for app install ads. What does this mean? Brands can target Snappers who are likely to install their app. Why is this a big deal? Well, because Facebook makes a lot of spare change (more than 17% of its revenue) from app install ads and Snapchat knows that to keep up, they need to do what works in the space. The second offering allows brands to target users who engaged with their Snapchat ads previously. For example, Taco Bell can now target users who used its taco face Snapchat Lens last Cinco de Mayo. You thought you were just innocently turning your face into a Doritos Locos Taco, but now, you are bound to see Taco Bell’s next full-screen video ad. Consider yourself warned.
  • What it means for brands: Because Snapchat works with 15 outside partners to sell ads and, most recently in January, Oracle Data Cloud, to deliver ads to users based on their real-life purchases, brands have everything to gain on Snap. Take that budget, create content that engages users to install your app or watch your video ad, then use that data to expand your audience (which is the goal of both offerings, by the way).

Additional resources: Marketing Land, Circorp

(via Adweek)

Instagram Just Revamped Instagram Direct, Which Now Has 375 Million Monthly Users

  • As Instagram Direct users steadily grow, so do the features they can use. The ‘gram gave its DM’s an upgrade by adding disappearing photos and videos to the same stream as texts and re-shares. Sounds a lot like another platform … (hint: ghost icon). Users can replay these videos and photos once, and now, everything is all in one place.
  • What it means for brands: This compilation of everything Instagram Direct means that the platform is even easier to use, which means grammers will be double tapping more often. Consider divvying up your social budget with a little extra love for Instagram and see how it goes – depending on your audience, you’ll learn if Snapchat or Instagram is the better platform for your brand’s presence.

Additional resources: Social Media Today, The Verge

(via Social Media Today)

Businesses Can Now DM Twitter Users and Ask for Their Locations

  • Twitter is helping brands everywhere (who are part of the private Beta test) reach more consumers by sliding into their DM’s. Via Direct Message, brands can ask users to share their location and if a user chooses to accept this location request, brands can provide more detailed customer service support and suggestions. Users can ignore the request if they choose, or share their actual location or rather choose from a provided list of locations if they don’t want to be specific. Among those brick-and-mortars that are part of the Beta, both TGI Fridays and Wingstop are using this location request and share feature to help users find the closest locations and make reservations and food orders.
  • What it means for brands: Before this feature is more widely available, it’s important brands determine what data they want to gather so that they can most strategically use this tool. Is your objective brand awareness, store visits, or both? This will help drive your messaging and help you meet your brand objectives. Twitter Group Product Manager, Eric Cairns, says, “Now that businesses can easily incorporate location sharing into their customer experiences, expect to see other innovative location-aware use cases in Direct Messages.” This is a great gift from the Twitter gods. Be on the lookout.

Additional resources: GeoMarketing, Media Post

(via Adweek)

LinkedIn Launches Lead Generation Forms

  • First world problem LinkedIn is fixing: “It’s so hard filling in an ad-generated form on the newest version of my smartphone.” However, users failing to fill in forms does indeed affect paid content performance, so I’ll stop being so sassy. The new lead generation form feature replaces the hardship of filling out forms by auto-filling with users’ LinkedIn profile information. While it may not seem like that big of a deal, consider two things: 80% of users who engage with Sponsored Content do so at their fingertips and this new feature eliminates users from inputting false information, ultimately leading to higher quality leads.
  • What it means for brands: Higher quality leads equals a better understanding of your audience. A better understanding of your audience equals an opportunity to tailor your content towards those who are interest and interacting with your brand.

Additional resources: AdExchanger, LinkedIn

(via Search Engine Journal)


Facebook’s kicking it up a notch this month with some consumer-based ad capabilities. Not only will it be easier to shop, but users will (hopefully) only receive the best-performing ads and their products. If you’re back-and-forth between a ‘Like’ or a hysterically laughing emoji Reaction, choose wisely. Reactions are soon to be valued more than ‘Likes’ within Facebook reporting. That ab sculpting live video you watched from your favorite fitness guru can now be saved and (maybe) used at the gym later with Instagram’s live video saving feature – don’t sweat (the small stuff)! Check out the full stories below.

Facebook’s New Collection Ads Help Brands Tell a More Visual Product Story

  • Facebook launched their new Collection Ads, which are named so for a reason. They are a compilation of a video or image followed by easy-to-click images of the products relevant to the ad. For example: watch a video of someone making a quick recipe and the below products could be the knives, bowls and fancy cheese graters used in that video. You already see image ads of products you can buy from retailers, and now brands can further entice you by smacking you in the face with the link. Give in or keep scrolling. Your choice.
  • What it means for brands: If created and delivered correctly, Collection Ads could mean decreases in cost-per-conversion and an increase in sales for brands. So, what do brands have to lose besides their inventory? Brands should ensure their videos/images and the linked products do indeed correlate with eachother. Otherwise, your video could say, “use this cheese grater for a superb cooking experience,” while your linked product images could say, “great fun to be had with children’s train sets”. Use complementary products, be strategic.

Additional resources: Adweek

(via Venture Beat)

Facebook Just Changed the Mobile Web Landscape With Header Bidding

  • Facebook is now rolling out header bidding to AppNexus, Amazon Publisher Services, Index Exchange, net, Sonobi and Sortable. What do all of these ad-tech companies have in common? They’re all now able to utilize Facebook’s Audience Network (FAN) within their header bidding technology. This type of bidding lets publishers auction inventory to a ton of potential buyers at once before taking the highest bid and delivering that ad instead.
  • What it means for brands: Publishers who are using FAN within header bidding saw revenue sale increases of 10% to 30%. According to AdvertisingAge, publishers like the Washington Post, Daily Mail and Forbes were working with Facebook to introduce the offering, which gives them the ability to plug into FAN and receive ads bought through Facebook’s sophisticated data and targeting technology. Brands and other publishers need to keep an eye on the header bidding trend, especially now that FAN is involved.

Additional resources: Adweek, San Francisco Chronicle

(via Adweek)

Want More Facebook Reach? Motivate Fans to React

  • While Facebook Reactions were introduced in 2016, they’re now stronger than ever. When first debuted, a reaction held the same weight as a ‘Like’. Now, they’re getting a promotion and will be valued more than a ‘Like.’ Sammi Krug, Facebook Product Manager says, “…if people leave a Reaction on a post, it is an even stronger signal that they’d want to see that type of post than if they left a ‘Like’… So we are updating News Feed to weigh reactions a little more than ‘Likes’…”
  • What it means for brands: Because consumer engagement associated with a post is of the utmost importance, there is no surprise Reactions will now be held to a higher standard. Long story, short: brands need to invite consumers to engage and ensure they do so. Want to really raise the roof? Add video!

Additional resources: Digital Trends

(via Social Media Today)

Instagram Is Now Allowing Users to Save Their Live Videos

  • Don’t have your iOS or Android updated to the latest version? Well, if you want to save any live Instagram videos, get to updating! While comments, likes, number of viewers and Reactions will not be saved, you can still struggle to copy that makeup tutorial via your camera roll, later.
  • What it means for brands: Brands should broadcast content that’s save-worthy. Additionally, invite your audience to save your content afterward. You can quite literally say, “Welcome to our live video! Make sure you save our broadcast for a rainy day.” In return, watch what you say…because viewers will save you in their camera roll…dun dun dun.

Additional resources: Engadget, Digital Trends

(via Engadget)

Brands Are Digging Into GIF Data to Understand Consumer Behavior

  • GIFs are breaking into the world wide web (and every single group message in the world) with full force. These viral little videos are turning into a form of communication and advertisement. What’s even better is they’re part of both Facebook and Twitter ads, and are highly favored by both platforms. GIFs are short, eye-catching and require less consumer effort than other ad capabilities. Both platforms autoplay and optimize for video (especially short ones). Whether it’s The Office’s Michael Scott screaming, “No, God please no!” or Napolean Dynamite’s infamous talent show dance, there’s always a message behind the GIF. Marketers are trying to decipher that message to create and deliver engagement driving content.
  • What it means for brands: Create short, looping videos that are GIF-like for both your ads and organic content. While they can be funny and “go viral,” brands should create relevant GIFs that can still become popular thanks to creativity and messaging. Really think outside of the box because these quick, little videos need to deliver a message, well, quickly.

Additional resources: ClickZ, SocialMediaToday

(via Google Images)


Game-like reinforcement mechanisms garner very loyal and active customers. “Gamification”, unsurprisingly, is a thriving model for marketers to penetrate the minds and wallets of the market.

“Gamification” may seem like a fleeting buzzword these days, but it was once a concept that drew a lot of attention from marketing folks. This was for good reason: games are unique marketing apparatus because they have very loyal and active customers, in some cases willing to pay not just for the game itself, but for transactions that occur within it.

A few Decembers ago I was in Newark Airport, waiting in security checkpoint in one of those pre-holiday lines that snake around the terminal. I needed to kill time so I downloaded the popular mobile game Clash of Clans. If you haven’t played it before, it’s not too difficult—you build an army of wizards and barbarians and send them off into battle with a flick of your index finger. It was fun, easy to learn, and the speed of progression felt just challenging enough to keep me striving, but without ever becoming a time-burden. Fast forward a year later and you could say I formed a bit of an unhealthy habit, having accrued a few too many $1-$5 in-game purchases, investing well over $50 all said and done. I’d become a case study of how to boil a frog—rope me into an engaging experience with little to no investment, and slowly and incrementally give me the opportunity to invest over time, rewarding me for doing so along the way.

This kind of psychological phenomenon is no coincidence. It is an intentional and scientifically validated method to lure us (otherwise innocent users) into investing increasing amounts of time and money into objects of pure fantasy (see George Yao). Some of the biggest (AAA) game studios pay top dollar to employ psychology PhDs to conduct the research and experimentation to find out what exactly makes players tick. The following is an amateur assessment of what makes games truly habit-forming and pay worthy—features that may have been largely overlooked by marketers years back in the rush to throw badges and points on everything.

In other words, how does gamification work and why?

1. Unlockables, Achievements, and Expansions
You’ll know you’re talking to someone who hasn’t played a console or mobile game in the past 10 years if they ask you, “Did you beat it yet?” Finishing has become an antiquated concept in modern games; you’re never “done,” and games don’t get “beaten.” You may complete a campaign or a main storyline, but they aren’t over in the classical sense. These days, players are on an endless quest to explore an expanding landscape; unlock the untapped potential of skills, abilities, and items; experience new challenges across a growing game environment; and get more/better rewards. Games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are great examples of how feature expansions and downloadable content (DLCs) can effectively introduce new maps and levels, a greater variety of characters and items, and higher level stuff and bad guys, ad infinitum. The ever-expanding framework of modern games encourages players to invest in a character and inventory that persist throughout versions, sequels, and time. The sense of fulfillment that comes from small arcs and accomplishments creates an ever-deepening investment can be leveraged to generate incremental revenue opportunities.

2. Collection-ism
In many games, the purpose of your progress and achievements is to get some kind of treasure or “loot”. In fact, there’s an entire subgenre of games that is designated as looter-games, or Looters, that appeals to the kind of players who find fulfillment in gathering a great breadth of important, useful, or unique objects. Loot-centric games emphasize obtaining, organizing, customizing, and optimizing a vast inventory of desirable stuff, your progress is defined by the amount and rarity of the stuff you’ve amassed, and your achievement and status is defined by those very possessions. Sometimes this means finding and procuring individual items (e.g., shirts, pants, shoes), and sometimes it means collecting a full or matching set of items (e.g., an outfit). Loot creates an insatiable need to get stuff, and a reason to keep coming back to play.

3. RNG
Some of that loot mentioned above is not guaranteed when you complete a mission, open a treasure chest, or otherwise. In some cases, games use a version of a random number generator (RNG) to determine a percent chance at a specific item or reward. RNG creates an intentional level of uncertainty for players, which in turn either A) pays off in an exciting moment of attainment (which can lead to a small dopamine release), or B) does not pay off, many times increasing both the desire and the will to get the object, the amount of time invested to get it, and the motivation to replay a level, a stage, a checkpoint, or an activity for another chance at it. Back in the days of table-top gaming, RNG was often handled with a simple roll of the dice. In fact, in playing games like Craps, it is the thrill of uncertainty itself that encourages the player, not the end-goal of “winning”.

4. Time-Gating
As if RNG weren’t bad enough, not all unlockables and achievements are rewarded instantaneously. Time-gating is the concept of extending an in-game experience by not allowing players to have access to a feature or reward until a certain amount of time has elapsed. For example, you may complete a quest or increase a level, but that elusive loot you were hoping for may require you to check back in a week before you can actually attain it and add it to your inventory. Time-gating is a method to artificially create a sense of anticipation, be it positive (excitement) or negative (anxiety). That anticipation is like negative space: while you are waiting for the necessary time to elapse, your mind fills in the emptiness with fantasies of the accomplishment and fulfillment to come.

5. Reinforcement Schedules
While humans aren’t exactly Skinnerian pigeons, over the course of millennia natural selection has hardwired us to be prone to the same psychological tactic: when we get rewarded for a specific activity or after a period of time, we search for patterns to help us anticipate the next instance in which a reward might come. We might even start changing our behaviors to make that reward more likely.

Building on the prior mechanisms—loot and RNG—intermittent reinforcement schedules refer to the coupling of activities and time vs. rewards, a variation of which you will find in just about any gambling or card game at your nearest casino. Every time players pull the lever on a slot machine, they are participating in a variable-ratio reward mechanism. And every time that slot machine lines up a winning combination, a shot of dopamine is released in the users’ brains, making them more likely to do it again. This is the science of addiction, and it is employed as intentionally by casinos as it is by game producers across the globe. In behavioral psychology, reinforcement is a method of encouraging a desired response to a given stimulus, in order to strengthen behaviors as a habitual reaction to environmental variables.

While I’m not going to get into the depths of this topic from a scientific standpoint, I’ll do my best to distill decades worth of psychological research down to a paltry table…

Types of Intermittent Reinforcement Schedules

6. Multiple Currency Economy
If you’ve ever pounded your head trying to figure out how many dollars your miles are worth on your cash-rewards credit card and found yourself stumped, then you are a victim of familiar with the concept of a multiple currency economy. It’s the idea that, in a given situation, there is more than one way to purchase goods, and each method is earned differently and exchanges at a different rate than the other. This introduces obfuscation–it’s hard to tell exactly what the worth of a given currency is at a glance, and most of us can’t be bothered to whip out a calculator. The purpose of employing multiple, disproportionate currencies in games is two-fold:

  1. To make items seem more easily attainable than they actually are
  2. To make certain currencies obtainable strictly through gaming activities but others only purchasable via real-world dollars

In this sense, players are being “played”, or manipulated, by the blurring of lines between varying types of wealth; both in terms of in-game currency and real money. This draws them deeper into the fantasy and obscures purchase decisions with the complexities of currency exchange. You want to buy the helmet for 50 “gold pieces”? You’ll have to save up for days! Alternatively, you can purchase that same helmet for just 1 “ruby”, but rubies can only be bought through the app store for a measly $0.99. Temptation calls! Which leads us to…

7. Micro-Transactions
Probably the most well-known and often-used tactic in mobile games, micro-transactions involve the ability to purchase in-game items, boosts, cosmetic materials, etc., for relatively small amounts of real-world money. The logic is simple: if you have so much as one dollar’s worth of disposable income, game makers will make a case for spending it. This revenue model is typically employed in free-to-play apps, which allow you to download and invest time into a game before being prompted to purchase virtual goods—a Trojan Horse strategy of sorts. Remember my Clash of Clans anecdote? Voila.

Micro-Transactions Before the Days of Digital Currency

And the list goes on. But the number 1 reason games are so engaging is because they entertain us, interact with us, and make us happy. At the end of the day, the 7 points above are useless if a game isn’t built around solid mechanics and an engaging story and doesn’t feel freakin’ awesome when you first jump into it. These are just a handful of techniques that make great games more of a hobby than a game, which, in part, paves the way for payment. The important question is: what can marketers in other industries learn from this, and how can we apply that knowledge ethically? For that is true gamification.


Calling all watching-random-videos-until- 3 a.m.- social users AND it’s-EOD-on-Friday mental blockers. The Social Scoop is here to present you with unavoidable solutions. Scrubbing through autoplay videos will soon be even more of a guilty pleasure with sound and a brandy new TV app. Finding “that dress” on Pinterest will be a breeze when you have “nothing” to wear. Snapchat users are big fans of brand videos, and a 27-page long report proves it. Check it out!

Facebook Autoplay Videos Will Soon Play With Sound, if That’s What You Want

  • Grab your headphones! Facebook finally announced audio-enabled autoplay videos are going to be a “thing” by the end of 2017. The much-anticipated feature will slowly increase sound as users continue to watch a video, and as users scroll, the sound will then fade and the cycle repeats. Not a huge fan blaring your phone in public? Don’t worry. Users will be able to disable the feature in their settings.
  • What it means for brands: This feature applies to organic, brand and ad Considering the success of Snapchat with sound-enabled video ads, it’s pretty evident that content creators and brand managers will have to switch their thinking. There will no longer be a need to create content that is silent, and sound will be an extra oppporutnity to tell your story. Brands need to expand their thinking to not only factor in, but ultimately, optimize video content for sound.

Additional resources: Mashable, PC Mag

(via Adweek)

Facebook Launches a Standalone TV App

  • If you’re sick of scrolling through your Facebook feed to get to the next “swarm of Corgis” video, scroll no more. Facebook launched a TV app that allows users to watch videos from friends, “Liked” pages, and current top live videos. Users will also receive recommendations based on what they already viewed. This app is not intended to say “bye Netflix,” but rather to compliment to Facebook’s already booming video initiatives (think: mid-roll video ads, video thumbnails and the previously-mentioned autoplay audio).
  • What it means for brands: Brand video content can now be viewed in more places than desktop and mobile newsfeeds. Take advantage of that! As brands should already know, Facebook is optimizing for video content to compete with both YouTube and Snapchat. As this growth continues, brands must consider the content types they’re delivering and planning and, in the end, bow down to “the king” (talking about you, video). P.S. The app already launched on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung smart TVs, so brands better get down to business.

Additional resources: recode, Venture Beat

(via Recode)

Pinterest’s ‘Lens’ Matches Real-World Objects With Products For Sale

  • Envying the shirt or shoes someone is wearing? Can’t think of a recipe for that impulse buy spaghetti squash? Pinterest’s “Lens” is your go-to feature when you can’t describe what you’re thinking. Combine visual search technology with Pinterest’s wide array of content, and users’ thoughts and ideas are brought straight to the user in the form of related pins.
  • What it means for brands: Users can now experience brand content in another way via visual search. Brands need to ensure their content is optimized for keywords, trends, and topic categories, so it is shown to the right people, at the right time and at an increased rate. It will be beneficial for brands to Identify the trends and staples that are of interest to their audience(s) so delivery and engagement are a direct result of “Lens” capabilities.

Additional resources: The Verge, AdAge

(via The Verge)

Snapchat Users Are Very Likely to Watch a Brand’s Entire Story

  • More than half of Snapchat users open and watch brand content, and this content is consumed in its entirety 88 percent of the time, which is a huge “W” for Snapchat. According to Snaplytics, “8 percent of an account’s followers watch the user’s stories and 87.5 percent watch all of a story, equivalent to a completion rate.” With no foreseen decline in Snapchat’s daily active users (161 million) and the perk of delivering real-time content, brands can only benefit from the perks of Snapchat Story organic and ad content.
  • What it means for brands: Along with the extreme growth Snapchat is experiencing per month, brands must also consider the content that adheres to this growth: video. According to Snaplytics, of the 11 average pieces of content on a brand’s story, 61 percent of brand content is video, while 39 percent is images. Create and execute content that leads users to not only search for your brand on Snapchat, but follow your brand on Snapchat.

Additional resources: Campaign US

(via Marketing Dive)

Google Takes On Cable With ‘YouTube TV’- 40 Channels for $35

  • Been thinking about cutting the (cable) cord? Google’s new YouTube TV could make that, “It’s not me. It’s you,” breakup with cable whole lot easier. The “skinny bundle” streaming service will include the 30-ish channels you want (to name a few: ESPN, MSNBC, E! and National Geographic) for only $35. The price tag also covers five other people. If you don’t have five friends (quality over quantity, right?), you can keep the unlimited cloud DVR to yourself. Maybe your friends will join you for reruns later.
  • What it means for brands: Get a firm grip on (streaming) targeting for your television ad content and get the ball rolling. YouTube plans to establish more credibility with marketers through selling targeted ads on YouTube TV. These ads will be delivered within ad slots that typically go to cable operators. YouTube TV will also introduce on-the-go streaming through a a mobile app. So, commuters and coffee shop connoisseurs, beware.

Additional Resources: The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Tech

(via Yahoo Tech!)

Instagram Stories ads- now available for all businesses globally

  • We interrupt this Story to bring you this ad. The very much expected ad capability is here. Think brand capibilities on Facebook (targeting and reach capabilities) now available on Instagram. Yes, this does mean users will see ads from the same brands both in their feed and Stories. Is Instagram being a little extra? Eric Toda, Airbnb’s Global Head of Social Marketing and Content doesn’t think so, especially after seeing “a double digit point increase in ad recall.” He states, “Our ability to apply existing targeting and measurement in an experience to reach the right audience, in the right mindset, with the right story at scale has allowed us to achieve the results we were hoping for…”
  • What it means for brands: Unlike recent award show mishaps, brands need to read what’s in the cards, a.k.a., start budgeting and creating for Instagram Stories The brand opportunities are too good to save for next quarter: Reach existing audiences more frequently. Reach potential audiences faster. Reach both existing and potential audiences in the right place, at the right time. Will brands spend more cash? Yes. Will the spend be worth it? Well, that’s up to you, brands.

Additional resources: Facebook Business


(via Instagram Business)