It’s all about control. The focus of this scoop is on an advertisers’ ability to create premium content and have more control and creativity on what is on the feeds. Facebook announced a new premium video views ad program for Watch videos and also released a new set of stickers for Women’s History Month for Facebook Stories. Twitter is testing the ability to hide a Tweet reply to allow for moderation of what the feed looks like and Quora launched new parameters for ad targeting. Read on to learn more!

Facebook Introduces “Showcase” for Premium Video Advertisers

  • Facebook recently announced a new premium video ad program: Facebook Showcase. From Facebook, Showcase will give advertisers “new opportunities to reach their target audiences within the highest-quality videos on Facebook.” The program aims to provide larger scale ad opportunities through the most popular Watch programs. Though Facebook has not announced a launch date for Showcase, it will include three different promotion types:
    • In-Stream Reserve: video views ads that reach people watching Watch videos with the placement having been bought in advance at a fixed cost and delivered to in-target audiences verified by Nielsen
    • In-Stream Reserve Categories: video views ads that allows advertisers to reach people within contextually relevant content
    • Sponsorship: the ability to become the exclusive sponsor of a program and an opportunity to place their ads in specific shows
  • What it means for brands: Brand safety is always an important consideration when making an advertising decision and Showcase will provide “In-Stream Reserve Categories”, which allows advertisers to pick the content they want their ads to be shown around. For pharmaceutical companies, this feature would make it possible to choose a specific category that is specific to the target audience and is brand-safe. In regards to the audience itself, TechCrunch found that Watch currently serves over 400MM monthly viewers who are consuming at least one minute of content, with 75 million of those averaging around 20 minutes watch time each day (TechCrunch). Facebook states that 43% of people who watch In-Stream Reserve-eligible content on Facebook were 18-34-year-olds, which is 14% higher than the TV audience of the same age. Another added plus is that the audience on Facebook Watch are becoming harder to find on linear TV so an advertisement on the Showcase program could be beneficial for hitting a target audience.

Additional Resources: Adweek, Social Media Today

(via Social Media Today)

Facebook Announces New Themed Stickers for Women’s History Month

  • With March being Women’s History Month, Facebook has released a set of stickers, enabling users to show their support for the event in a creative, engaging way. There are three new stickers: one specific to International Women’s Day, one specific to Women’s History Month, and one about women in general. This builds upon what Facebook has encouraged in the past, allowing multiple user-created frames for profile photos for an awareness day or month like Rare Disease Day.
  • What this means for brands: Themed tie-ins like these can serve a dual purpose: to enable the platforms to show support for relevant causes and to promote the use of their tools. Brands could be able to take advantage of this and possibly partner with Facebook to create stickers for awareness months, like Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October or Men’s Health Month in June. While frames on profile photos have been used quite often for disease awareness days, creating a specific sticker for Facebook Stories for a medical meeting or an awareness day could bring in a new type of engagement onto the platforms, similar to the Snapchat geo-filter. While these stickers are only on Facebook Stories at the moment, Stories usage is rising and tools like these will no doubt help to boost interest and get more users trying out the option to show their support.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today

(via Facebook)

Twitter is Testing a New Option to Hide Tweet Replies

  • Twitter is testing a new feature that would hide tweet replies on a thread not just from the user’s timeline but from anyone else as well. From Social Media Today, the new ‘Hide Tweet’ option has been added to the reply tweet drop-down, though all users will still be able to choose the ‘View Hidden Tweets’ option on any tweet to see what the poster has chosen to hide, ensuring there’s still a level of transparency and accountability. Twitter has confirmed that this option is development and will be rolled out for broader public testing within the next few months.
  • What it means for brands: While this feature already exists on Facebook Pages with the “Hide comment” option, the ability for brands to hide specific tweet replies could be a big help to healthcare and pharmaceutical companies that previously would not want to post on Twitter due to the fact that they cannot control comments on the organic posts or ads. On Facebook, the ability to hide replies can help weed out spam and junk comments in order to boost genuine engagement on the posts and this feature will allow Twitter to do the same. Having control over the replies visible on an organic or dark Twitter ad will allow the brand to control the conversations around their tweets.

Additional Resources: CNBC, Wired

(via Social Media Today)

Quora adds Keyword Targeting and New Ads Metrics

  • Quora has recently announced new keyword targeting that allows advertisers to bid on keywords they may already be leveraging in search campaigns. This enhanced targeting will be used to show the ad against relevant questions on the platform and will be visible on the ad group or ad set level. Additionally, Quora offers six primary types of ad targeting – topic, question, audience, interest, broad and keyword targeting. There will be two match types – broad match and phrase match – and the ability to add negative keywords. Advertisers will also have access to three new metrics in the ads manager:
    • Auctions Lost to Competition: the percent of auctions which the ad set entered and was the best ad set in the advertiser’s account for the auction but did not win the available slot
    • Impression Share: the percent of auctions which the ad set entered and was one of the winners
    • Absolute Impression Share: the percent of auctions which the ad set entered and won the top available slot
  • What this means for brands: For those of you do not know, Quora is a question-and-answer social platform where users ask and answer questions within their community. Quora continues to build out their advertising features and capabilities with new metrics that can give the brand a better sense of the frequency with which competitors might be beating the brand for the top slot. Pharmaceutical and healthcare brands can use Quora as a way to interact with the conversation surrounding their corporate brand on Quora, as some major pharmaceutical companies have almost 30k followers. The new keyword targeting will also assist companies on creating more specific targeting to ensure they are reaching their target audience, with the new metrics showcasing the percentages of auctions they won or lost.

Additional Resources: Marketingland, Search Engine Land

(via Quora)

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Consolidation and integration are common themes we saw across social channels in the past few weeks, as Facebook and Instagram take further steps towards unifying their platforms. Instagram is placing IGTV previews directly into users’ feeds. Facebook is completing the merge with Instagram notifications by adding Instagram direct messages to the unified Facebook and Instagram notification feed. Additionally, Facebook is removing ad set budget control from advertisers’ pages, and reintroducing an ad targeting by income feature.


Facebook Makes Instagram Messages Accessible to Page Admins

  • As part of a growing push to combine its platforms, Facebook announced that admins will soon be able to respond to Instagram messages from their corresponding Facebook page inbox. When Facebook introduced the unified notification stream across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram in 2016, the merge did not include Direct, Instagram’s messaging feature. With this addition, communications between the platforms will now be available in one location. Approximately half of all Instagram users use direct messaging. The merging of Direct into the unified notification stream will allow admins one-stop-shop access to a brand’s notifications across the two platforms.
  • What it means for brands: With the growing popularity of Instagram, and a growing interest from users in interacting directly with brands, anything that makes engagement easier should be seen as progress.This update will enable brands to more easily keep up with comments in real time, and stream line tracking of audience sentiment and conversations. Pharma brands particularly can use this new unified function to respond efficiently and consistently across platforms, keep track of patient, caregiver and HCP comments, and ensure that they respond appropriately and in a timely manner.

Additional Resources: Mashable, Social Media Today

(via Marketing Land)

Facebook Rolls Out Income-Based Targeting by ZIP Code

  • Facebook has introduced a new ad targeting parameter in the form of average household income by ZIP code. In contrast to the previously removed feature that allowed brands to target users based on actual household income, the new feature will allow income level targeting based on the percentage into which a ZIP code falls (i.e.; top 10, 20 or 50 percent of all household incomes).
  • What this means for brands: As with any ad targeting feature, this will allow brands to add another layer of customization to the audience they are targeting. With the reintroduction of a targeting by income feature, brands are once again able to factor income into their paid strategy. While not household specific, the income by ZIP code feature may still help narrow audiences down to the geographic areas most likely to engage. Healthcare or pharma brands that feature cosmetic products/procedures may find greater success with this update, as they now have the option to target audiences who may have a higher disposable income, and therefore are more likely to engage.

Additional Resources: Marketing Land

Facebook to Remove Ad Set Budgets

  • Starting in September, Facebook advertisers will have limited control over ad-set budgets. All new and existing campaigns will be moved to Facebook’s automated campaign budget allocation system, which optimizes campaign budgets across all ad sets within a single campaign. Advertisers will only have the ability to set minimum and maximum spend limits, as all other parameters of budget allocation will be controlled by Facebook’s automated system without the possibility for advertiser intervention.
  • What this means for brands: Facebook’s optimization system will allocate budget based on performance, meaning top-performing ads will continually receive a greater percentage of the campaign budget. The system of allocation may present a challenge when there is a large disparity in audience sizes. For pharma and healthcare brands, particularly those in the rare disease space attempting to reach small, harder to target groups, larger audiences will likely dominate the budget allocation if left in the same campaign. A lookalike audience, for example, which is typically considerably larger than the targeted group it is mimicking, would perform better by virtue of its size, and therefore command a much larger portion of the budget. As a result, it may become necessary for brands to run ad sets in separate campaigns when first building out a page’s audience.

Additional Resources: Marketing Land

Instagram Adds IGTV Previews to Feed

  • In a post on their own platform, Instagram has announced that previews for the platform’s longform video service, IGTV will now appear directly in the newsfeed. IGTV, which was introduced in mid-2018, exists as both a separate app, and a function of the Instagram app itself. IGTV allows content creators to upload videos up to an hour in length, in contrast to the 60 second cap imposed on videos posted directly to the feed. Since November of last year, previews of the broadcasts can also be added to a user’s Instagram stories. With this latest update, IGTV broadcasters will now be given the opportunity to select a clip from their latest broadcast to be added to their followers’ main feed, with the option for users to tap the post to view the full broadcast. While IGTV has not gained as much initial popularity as Instagram had hoped, due in large part to the requirement that videos be vertically formatted, the added convenience of this recent update looks to bring Instagram closer to competing with platforms like YouTube for longform video streaming.
  • What this means for brands: The addition of IGTV previews represents an incentive for brands to move away from outside platforms in favor of placement in the feed. Rather than attempting to build a follower base on an outside platform, brands can now leverage their existing Instagram followers by ensuring that a clip of their content appears directly in their followers’ feed. For pharma brands, legal and regulatory processes can make participating in live video functions difficult, and mandate that short-form videos are devoted in large part to highlighting important safety and prescribing information. IGTV would allow these brands to post longer videos with more in-depth content, so that a smaller percentage of time is devoted to regulatory requirements. The ability to utilize segments of pre-recorded videos in both stories and the feed provides the opportunity for pharma brands to participate in the growing video trend without the legal risks associated with Instagram Live.

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A Quick Take on Unlocking the Power of Digital

It seems to go without saying that in 2019 organizations are fully digitized. The truth though is far from the perception.

That’s why, as I look at the year ahead on this Chinese New Year of the Pig, instead of sharing a slew of predictions I want to focus on the one strategic imperative for leaders in the new year.

Becoming a digital organization is no longer a competitive advantage it’s a competitive must.

Yet, for many companies and leaders, being digital is still elusive. What gets in the way of adopting a digital model and mindset? What specifically needs to change in the business?

In a word, everything. From the overall business model to the entire employee and customer experience. Product development, innovation, HR, supply chain, manufacturing, services, culture, communications, and marketing or the ethos surrounding the enterprise.

So, delving into the layers necessary to achieve a true digital transformation, organizations and brands can cross the divide separating their current state with the future potential.

First and foremost, a digital mindset starts in the head and with the leadership team. It’s about improving current business practices and approaches, optimizing processes, and identifying new streams of revenue and value.

Second, it must be viewed not as a disruption but a renaissance throughout the enterprise. A pathway to see things through new eyes and apply behaviors and expectations to situations that demand new thinking. 

Third, a new set of measures to organize decisions and knowledge creation. Companies often implement digital initiatives but do not comprehend a macro digital strategy. Digitization is based on how the entire business better serves employees and customers throughout the new journey including myriad touch points, channels, platforms, and feedback. It means allowing key audiences to “choose their own adventure.” 

Fourth, digital is about expressing yourself as a corporate brand in a manner every audience can identify with vs. the analog model which is based on a one size fits all concept.

Fifth, it involves melding technology, consumer behavior, and employee competencies to generate a better customer experience.

Organizations in a range of sectors and industries have made the transition to digital. They have done so to avoid extinction and evolve their business models to reflect a world of seamless connectivity and communication. But there are many other organizations trapped by their own thinking and inertia that creates the digital divide we now see. Breaking through requires tenacity, nurturing, focus, and design to create engagement and agility.

In my opinion, there is no more important priority for businesses and brands in 2019.

Here’s to a Healthy, Happy and Digitally Prosperous New Year!


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New year, new feeds! Through the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, social platforms have been testing and rolling out new updates to their feeds and dashboards. Instagram tested a horizontal tap-to-advance feed along with a new feature to post the same photo and caption to multiple accounts. Twitter announced at CES that they are planning on releasing new analytics and events dashboards on the backend. And to round out the pack, Facebook released a new set of Call-to-Action stickers for Facebook Page stories to help increase visibility. Read on below to find out more about these new and upcoming changes!

Instagram Tests Tap-To-Advance Feed View

  • Since October 2018, Instagram has been testing a new, horizontal “Tap-To-Advance” feed in place of the normal vertical scroll method. The test was meant to encourage more engagement, similar to the design we’re used to Instagram Stories. Unfortunately, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, confirmed in a tweet that a bug mistakenly rolled out the massive change to the feed for a broad set of users versus a small percentage of users they were expecting. Public response to the new feed was not positive, and Instagram will have to continue tinkering to experiment with how people want to spend time in the app.
  • What it means for brands: The tap-to-advance feed makes it easier to move between posts while keeping the entire post in view and without having to scroll up or down to see the original poster and caption. This would have allowed businesses to focus on a singular post as more than just a photo. With the account, photo, and caption seen all together at once, companies could include the booth number of an upcoming medical meeting in their account name as it will always be with the context of the photo and caption. Additionaly, with a large change to the Instagram feed probably coming this year, new advertisement placements will probably follow. While change is inevitable, companies and businesses should be prepared to be agile and change strategy along with the updates to these social channels.

Additional Resources: Inc, Recode

(via TechCrunch)

Instagram Allows Photos to be Posted to Multiple Accounts

  • Instagram has rolled out the ability for users to publish a post across multiple accounts that a user controls at the same time. While it started testing back in December, the company has pushed out the update to most iOS users. As of now, there is no clear timeline for when it will be available to all users worldwide. The ability to cross-post across your accounts appears on the share a new post page. Underneath the options to tag people and mark your locations, there is a new section labeled “Post to Other Accounts”, which lets users toggle which accounts content should be posted to.
  • What this means for brands: From a high level – the most beneficial part of this new feature is the cut down time spent posting. The feature will be extremely helpful for businesses with multiple Instagram accounts for different offices or practices. Publishing press releases, industry news or cause awareness posts across multiple accounts will be much easier with a smaller margin of error. The caveat here will be to stay cognizant of user experience: audiences may not want to see repeated, duplicated content across multiple accounts. The crossover potential of your audience on each account should dictate if, and how often, this new feature should be used.

Additional Resources: TechCrunch, The Verge, Forbes

(via TechCrunch)

Twitter is Building a New Analytics Dashboard

  • At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Twitter announced a new analytics tool in an effort to become more essential to an organization’s overall business activities. The new tool helps publishers better understand what kind of content is resonating with readers with two new dashboards: one to better track real-time information around events and another focusing on analytics and results. The concept for this new Twitter publisher dashboard is to “offer insights and analytics that can better inform organizations’ content strategies” (TechCrunch). The rollout for these dashboards are in the early concepting phase but the overall goal is to allow organizations to create and publish the most effective and engaging content; and most importantly, understand why they’re successful.
  • Additionally, Twitter announced that Events will be getting a revamp with a new dashboard. Events like CES,  a major medical meeting, and breaking news will appear in the dashboard with context of the tweets surrounding that event. As the self-proclaimed “World’s Town Hall”, this Events dashboard is another way for Twitter to harness conversations in a more actionable way. The idea behind this new dashboard is to allow publishers to figure out in advance “how they want to participate in that conversation on Twitter – either in terms of the content they publish or (more hopefully, perhaps) through advertising and promoting content” (TechCrunch). An added plus to the Events dashboard is organization: users can “tune in” to live events without following the users creating the conversation (publications, journalists, attendees). The Event dashboard will be pinned to the top of the timeline, in Explore, and accessible through Seach.
  • What it means for brands: Understanding and gaining more insight into the audience reading and engaging with your content is exciting. Analytics should always be ingrained in the foundation of social media strategy, and with Twitter’s new tools, brands can be even smarter about their content strategy. A deeper understanding of what works will help brands better optimize effective content production. While brands should already be calculating this data to inform content and strategy decisions, the new dashboards on Twitter will help visualize the data without having the leave the platform itself.

The Events dashboard will be an incredibly helpful real-time tracking tool during medical meetings or major conferences. The new ability to organize and follow a conversation without having to follow multiple parties will help give a bird’s eye view into larger events. In turn,  companies can decide if and when they want to participate in conversations as they are unfolding in the real world.

Additional Resources: Adweek, Social Media Today

(via TechCrunch)

Facebook Ads CTA button on Page Stories

  • On business pages, Facebook has released a new set of Call-to-Action (CTA) stickers for Pages to use on Facebook Stories. A CTA button was added to the top of Facebook Pages back in 2014 to help drive business objectives effectively (like allowing users the opportunity to learn more information or complete an conversion on or off Facebook). The stickers are similar to the existing CTA button options available on a Facebook Page like “Shop Now”, “Call Now”, or “Get Directions” which can link to any destination that aligns with business goals from the Story. This is part of a continuing effort from Facebook to encourage advertiser use of their Stories.
  • What this means for brands: With Facebook Stories slowly growing in daily users, business should continue to consider utilizing the format as a extension of their larger digital advertising ecosystem. These new stickers allow businesses to create more effective stories via direct response tools, instead of using Stories on Facebook simply for awareness. Having these stickers gives businesses a new way to drive conversions back to a landing page, press release, or other important content.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today

(via Social Media Today)

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Happy Holidays! We’re reporting on the latest social media news on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Facebook is testing out a new search placement for advertisers to show up in searches on Facebook. YouTube has enabled autoplay videos on the homepage that will most likely see an increase in views overall. Lastly, Instagram has created a “close friends list” so users can share Instagram stories with specific people rather than their whole follower list. Learn more below about these updates!

Facebook Adding Search as an Ad Placement Option

  • Facebook is running a small test of ads in search results that will be a new placement in Ads manager. The new search ads will provide another way for brands to reach interested Facebook users based on their platform activity. In this stage of testing, advertisers won’t be able to select specific keywords to advertise against, but they’ll be allowed to appear in search results for queries such as auto or retail topics. Search ads will have a “Sponsored” tag denoting them as ads within the search results.
  • What this means for brands: With the new search ad placement, brands will have another opportunity to promote their page or products to relevant audiences on Facebook, further optimizing their results for success. This placement can be especially important when brands are looking to stand out in a broad search on Facebook, as they’ll be able to be at the top of a broader search with their company’s page. For healthcare brands, this placement will be helpful when working with a rare disease that has less keyword options, as it will offer another opportunity for their pages to be found as users search for them.

Additional resources: TechCrunch

(via Social Media Today) 

YouTube Adds Autoplay Videos to the Home Page

  • YouTube has announced that videos the home tab of its mobile device app will now autoplay, muted, with captions. Users will be able to control how the autoplay functionality works, including having the option to disable it completely, or to keep it on only when connected to Wi-Fi. YouTube will delay the videos autoplay feature momentarily to allow viewers to clearly see the thumbnail of the video because beginning to play. YouTube also released a video explaining the logic behind the change, including the benefits of activating videos as users scroll.
  • What this means for brands: Having videos on autoplay will likely increase video view metrics for brands, similarly to the increase in videos views that brands saw following Facebook’s update to autoplay. As healthcare brands make a shift in content away from still images to more informational video content, it continues to be of importance to make sure that video content is engaging within the first 3-seconds to prevent audiences from swiping to the next autoplay video.

Additional resources: Social Media Today, Tech Radar

(via YouTube)

Instagram’s New Option to Share Stories with Chosen Friends

  • Instagram has created a new option that allows users to share their Instagram stories with a “close friends list.” This means, that users will be able to choose followers to see specific stories, encouraging users to post more frequently. This update means you don’t have to show your stories to all of your followers, just a select few. On Instagram, there has been an uptick in private messaging on the app, with reports showing that 85% of messages shared on the platform are distributed to the same 3 friends, showing the desire for more private and intimate sharing.
  • What this means for brands: This update could provide value to brands by giving them a way to share their posts with more targeted audiences based on their activity with the brand’s content. Once this tool is rolled out to business profiles, corporate healthcare brand pages can share Instagram stories specific to disease areas to a more targeted audience.

(via Social Media Today)

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Building your audience on social media is all about listening and executing. It sounds simple, but many brands, organizations, and individuals still struggle to make this happen. This week’s guest, musician Alex Aiono, does not.

Amassing nearly 1 billion views on Youtube, Alex, has become a master of social strategy. He discusses how to build your audience on social media, the importance of individual channel strategy, and being a hopeless romantic. Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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Upgrading and streamlining ad formats has been the focal point for Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram these last few weeks. Facebook is testing a new ad format that displays content from multiple advertisers in a single ad collection and has updated its branded content tag to improve transparency. Pinterest has finally created a carousel ad format and Instagram has released a way to promote Instagram Stories content. Learn more below about these ad format updates!

Facebook Tests New Ad Which Showcases Products from Multiple Brands in One Unit

  • Facebook is testing a new ad unit which displays content from multiple advertisers within a single ad collection. While it’s not clear how this new promotional unit will work in relation to cost, participation, or control, this test combines recommendations from different advertisers into a single experience. A Facebook product marketing manager noted they will “evaluate if it creates value for people and businesses before deciding whether to expand it” and release the offering to the greater public. With discovery on platforms becoming more visible on platforms such as Pinterest or Google Shopping, it is not surprising that Facebook is searching for a way to expose more people to ads on its platform.
  • What it means for brands: While this kind of ad could potentially reduce cost per impression of ads and increase exposure, Facebook hasn’t outlined how opting into the ad format would be set up. As of now, it is still framed as promoted product recommendations, which could be beneficial for additional exposure surrounding similar products or companies. With new ad recommendations sizes for Facebook taking up more real estate on the app as squares instead of rectangles, sharing the screen with another product might be beneficial. While brands are still waiting on more clarification, this type of ad could assist brands in additional awareness and possible conversions.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Digiday

(via Digiday)

Updates to Branded Content Tool on Facebook

  • In an effort to increase transparency in ads, Facebook released three new updates to the branded content tool. The first update is to the tag itself, from “Paid” to “Paid Partnership” and it now allows users to learn more about the two tagged pages and the partnership by clicking on the new “About This Partnership” icon at the top right of the creative asset. Secondly, Facebook is currently testing the ability for Pages to tag one another for collaborations and other “non-financially motivated relationships”. For example, a “musician could tag a collaborator on a song or a team could tag an athlete” within the post. Facebook plans on rolling this out in early 2019. Lastly, Facebook updated the Brand Collabs Manager, a tool to help brands find creators to collaborate with on Facebook, with a new feature to enable brands to post “marketing project briefs” to which interested creators can respond.
  • What it means for brands: As influencer marketing continues to thrive within the pharmaceutical and biotech space, it is becoming increasing clearer and easier for influencers and brands to work together on social media. Influencers can boost brand awareness and drive action in a way that the healthcare brand itself can’t do on its own, so it makes sense that Facebook is working to ensure that the partnership is known the users and what the endorsement actually means. With the Federal Trade Commission reminding social influencers to use “#ad” or another signifiers to denote a sponsorship, the branded tool on Facebook continues to make the notation easier for healthcare companies and influencers alike.

Additional Resources: Adweek, Social Media Today

(via Digiday)

Instagram Releases “Promote for Stories” Feature

  • Instagram has released additional information about a new feature allowing Instagram stories to be promoted. This update allows organic stories that would be posted to the Instagram profile to be promoted to automatic (Instagram automatically targets people similar to your followers), local (the brand can select people in a specific area to target) or manual audiences (the brand can select people, places or interests to target). Brands will have to the option to drive people to their Instagram profile or their website. This new promotion will work similarly to Facebook’s “Boost” option that lets brands pay to instantly show their page posts to more users.
  • What this means for brands: With over 500 million daily active users on Instagram Stories, the ability to promote an organic Instagram Story can lead to more people engaging with content from an account. As video continues to be a vital component to any social strategy, this new feature allows for the thoughtful story content to be promoted off the app in real-time, instead of separately going through ads manager. This format could be helpful at medical meetings, when Instagram Stories content with the meeting hashtag could drive people to a specific brands booth with an engaging story of the booth itself.

Additional Resources: TechCrunch, Social Media Today

(via TechCrunch)

Pinterest Introduces Carousel Ads

  • This month, Pinterest released a new ad format to allow for up to five images within one carousel ad. Currently, the format is available to brands looking to increase brand awareness, traffic or conversions. Similarly to Facebook and LinkedIn, Pinterest is encouraging brands to use carousels to display different features of a product, showcasing multiple items in a singular pin, or creating a brand story. For examples during the launch, Pinterest gave early access to brands like COVERGIRL, DSW, and REI. With carousel imagery becoming popular on other social platforms, Pinterest is the latest to create a seamless way of integrating caorusel images into the main feed, as the ad looks like a normal Pin with grey dots underneath and scrolling in stream or as full images.
  • What this means for brands: With Pinterest focusing on the aesthetic of photos and compiling them into distinctive boards, brands can use this new feature to truly drive home their story with high quality images that really bring together the larger point. Carousel ad formats add interaction with swiping, which engages the users more than an average static ad. Brands who market on Pinterest can use this new feature to showcase a patient story or go through helpful tips and tricks for living with a disease.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Adweek

(via Pinterest)

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According to Wikipedia, accessibility is defined as “the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities.” Perhaps a wheelchair ramp comes to mind, as it is arguably the most recognizable accessibility feature; however, there are myriad others. The internet has opened up a whole new range of issues related to accessibility, in particular to the ability of persons with disabilities to access website content and functionality. This is generally described as web content accessibility, a domain that has evolved significantly over the past decade or so.

Accessibility shouldn’t be considered an add-on or an appendage to building a website, in the same way that people with disabilities, such as sensory impairment, aren’t considered an appendage to society at large. I, for instance, wear contact lenses. I am nearsighted to the point that I cannot read words that are more than about 3 or 4 inches away without a corrective lens. Am I disabled? Am I not? The reality is, it doesn’t matter what we call it. The idea that my abilities satisfy some binary moniker like this is a dangerous oversimplification. What matters is that I expect, I dare say I feel entitled, to be able to consume the same public-facing content those with perfect vision can without any undue burden being placed upon me. I can’t imagine visiting Wikipedia one day and finding out that the only way I can learn about the Large Hadron Collider, rather than reading the page, would be to call a phone number for support. Ludicrous, right? So why shouldn’t the same level of expectation apply to folks with vision worse than mine, or to folks with no sight at all? And let’s not forget disabilities outside of the strictly visual—such as auditory, speech, and other physical or cognitive categories.

The reality is that web content accessibility is not a matter of compliance, it is a matter of mentality. And we have to start viewing accessibility as an essential part of the creative and technical process. Something baked in from the very start. “We” being agencies, boutiques, and web development shops as well as user experience practitioners, designers, writers, editors, developers, testers, and managers. We cannot continue to think of a blind person as a “persona” or part of a user group with a distinct set of characteristics, motivations, attitudes, and expected behaviors. The point here is to recognize the individual on the other side of the screen and not fall into the trap of generalizing the consumers of web content. A blind person is a unique individual who deserves the same access to the wealth of information and resources available on the World Wide Web as anyone else. In this regard, we are all part of the same group, that is, people for whom access to public information is equal and unimpeded. And that means all people and all information. That is the mentality shift required.

Ironically, websites are largely accessible by default. Meaning that simple hypertext markup language doesn’t necessarily put obstacles in the way of users. It’s not until we, the people who make websites, begin infusing those sites with sophisticated visual styling and formatting, rich interactive effects, graphical animations and sound effects, videos, and other bells and whistles that we begin to go astray. That’s not to say that this kind of flourish and embellishment should not exist, it’s just that we must consider how different people will experience each of them differently, in the context of their own abilities—and ensure that for any sense-exclusive element that exists on the site, there is an equivalent alternative accessible by another, different sense. For example, if I can’t see it, I should at least be able to hear it, and if I can’t hear it, I need to be able to see it… and so on. In a way, a website without accessibility is no different than a book that is unavailable in braille, or the entrance of a public building without wheelchair access. This illustrates the necessity of thinking of digital public spaces like websites in the same way we think of physical public spaces like libraries.

What has brought so much attention to this topic in the past few years, particularly in the United States, is the change in US law prompted by the Americans with Disabilities Act that went into effect in 2009. In particular, Title III of said act stipulates that a publicly available, consumer-facing website must ensure a sufficient level of content accessibility for persons with disabilities such that they have an equal opportunity to acquire information, engage in interactions, and take advantage of services—with an equivalent ease of use—as a person without a disability. That applies to any publicly available website, not just those whose target audiences are thought to be users with disabilities. The consequences of this law are sweeping, and a number of well-known US companies have paid millions of dollars in liabilities as a result.

That being said, the thrust of this article isn’t concerned with the legal implications of building non-accessible sites. My objective is rather to highlight the ethical issue: it isn’t morally right to develop content that cannot be consumed by the population at large. It’s not only unlawful, it’s downright wrong.

Now there are generally understood best practices for web content accessibility, such as:

  • Providing alternative text for each image that is descriptive
  • Including audio descriptions for video content, as well as captions
  • Ensuring website functionality, headings, navigation, and links are entirely operable through a keyboard interface, without requiring specific keystroke timings
  • Establishing minimum contrast ratios for text and images and providing the ability for users to change background colors, font colors, and font sizes

Those are some of the cut-and-dried pieces that one would typically run into in a cursory examination of access-related issues on the internet. However, there are broader, further-reaching standards that organizations must consider. A modest sampling of wider concerns that must be addressed would include:

  • Designating a website accessibility coordinator and/or committee to be responsible for a continued focus on accessibility issues and compliance with company policies
  • Codifying the organization’s accessibility policy by composing an explicitly stated set of principles to govern organizational activities related to its products and services
  • Clearly articulating objectives and success criteria related to the accessibility policy in a manner that is specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time bound
  • Considering process changes and enhancements to ensure the delivery of accessible content
  • Establishing an evaluation schedule for internal and external teams to assess standards, compliance with standards, and objectives moving forward
  • Designing and implementing a monitoring framework to ensure continuous compliance with the ever-shifting and evolving technology and legal landscapes
  • Ingesting and incorporating ongoing user feedback via usability testing, web analytics, A/B comparisons, and other automated and manual mechanisms
  • Creating an accessibility training curriculum and conducting sessions with the regularity they require and deserve

And that’s just the start. As the industry becomes more aware of web-content-accessibility concerns, it’s important to ask what the root of our motivation is to begin with. A question that is answered quite simply and unequivocally by saying, it’s not only the lawful thing to do—it’s the right thing to do.

For more information and resources related to web content accessibility, check out some of the links below:

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This is almost a ridiculous question given we now live a digital world.  Yet, companies and brands still find it difficult to truly assimilate a digital lifestyle raising questions internally about what to do. Embracing a mode of business that allows customers and employees to dictate and engage the relationship is a philosophy that requires marketers to rethink and redesign their entire model. Unfortunately, marketers and communicators are more apt to adopt few of the elements in a digital framework necessary to gain competitive advantage. In effect, by not implementing the entire ecosystem organizations leave themselves vulnerable.

In our work with brands and organizations, we strive to translate brands into real platforms that envelop the customer experience resulting in an authentic set of interactions benefiting both customer and company.

In developing a digital first approach, it is critical that the following components now comprise the marketing and communications mix:

  1. Data, Analytics Vision – From capturing behaviors, influencer insight, to a social CRM system, the entire customer experience can be mapped and dissected to discover customer decision process
  2. Technology Baseline – Transforming marketing begins with front end development such as usability, interface, and design infusing back end-decision making with data and insight to power
  3. Creative Agility Translating insight and incorporating technology and insight to create precise solutions that shift among stakeholders and segments in clear, engaging ways
  4. Holistic Connectivity – Working the PESO construct (paid, earned, shared, owned) in a manner that leverages each for maximum performance and is fueled by data provides today’s marketer and communicator with a digital design that accelerates their ability to digest multiple information points evaluating impact and performance

To be a digital brand in a digital world requires a design-thinking mentality. The tools, techniques and data are right in front of us. The technology continues to get smarter. The key piece is putting it all together in a system that reflects your business priorities and addresses your customer’s shifting expectations and personal relationship with your brand or organization.

There is no room for a piece-meal solution. In the end, customers are demanding a 360 degree orbit with brands. If your organization is not set up to address or handle such a relationship it will quickly lose relevance.

And once that happens chances of recovery are slim…

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Digital pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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