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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:

https://www.ada.gov/ada_title_III.htm

https://www.w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-intro/

https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/


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Rather than thinking about a traditional B2B marketing funnel and the message brands want to push to customers at different levels, what if we aligned where customers are in educating themselves about issues and the problems they face in learning about the market or their challenge? We at W2O have evaluated thousands of B2B audience interactions to develop a behavior-based model of the customer journey. We know audiences don’t follow a neat, linear path, so by examining actual behavior they demonstrate in social and digital, we learn more about how audiences interact with each other and with brands, what factors influence their decisions, and how to measure and talk to them in precise and accurate ways. It’s so much more accurate and predictive than demographics or titles could ever be.

For example, if a customer is very early in identifying a problem, they tend to exhibit behavior that shows they are struggling to understand what information is helpful and what isn’t. They might not even know any brand names yet, let alone which brands are the best or relevant for their needs. According to Google Research, 71% of all business decision makers start their research with a general category search that contains no brand names at all. Chances are, they aren’t even sure what to call their problem in formal parlance, so they are looking for help getting specific on terms and language.

As they learn more about their own situation, audiences behave in a more comfortable manner, parroting messages from brands and products, using the same language that brands push. Audience member’s searches, posts and questions in forums start to demonstrate that they see conflicting opinions about getting to the ‘right’ answer, and they start asking more questions. At this point, audiences start looking for other people with similar issues who have solved their problems. Rather than a category-level search on the web, they turn to forums with more specific questions, look to the media for reviews, and find peers they can trust for deeper opinions and examples. Brands can create advantage with easy-to-find cases and examples and through strategic influencer engagement at this solutions level.

And support after the sale is critical – implementation challenges and service teams are vitally important to developing a positive, long-lasting relationship with your audiences. The very same teams that are responsible for making the solution work within an organization are the same teams most likely to be the ones sought out for case studies and proof by the audiences in the earlier research phases. You need them to talk about the great experience they had with your team, and to help answer the questions for your next customers looking for solutions.


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

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

The key to effective engagement in a social/digital reality is relevance. Relevance manifests itself in content, consistency, cadence, channel, and commitment.  It turns brands into publishers, consumers into partners, and employees into advocates.

Relevant content breaks through the clutter and grabs attention.  It provides a pathway to and from the organization allowing for real conversations to take place and a deeper sense of comprehension regarding the brand, the organization, the customer, and the policies inherent in the enterprise.  Relevant content teaches and learns. It’s all about allowing people to discover who you are, what you stand for, how you think, and why you are important to them.

Note the word “discover.” It means content that allows people to find you on their terms vs. shouting at them in yours.

So why do brands find it so difficult to create stories that illuminate meaning?

Below are key areas where brands fall short:

  1. Content Must be Alluring – People must be attracted to the story because it’s attractive.
  2. Content Must be Meaningful – Information needs to be significant in terms of what it means to a customer or employee.  Most brand content lacks a material core to capture interest.   It’s mostly promotional in nature.
  3. Content Must be Engaging – One-way information is a dead end.  In today’s social world, customer and brand must be in continuous harmony exchanging perspectives and sharing information related to understanding each other better.  Content that provides immersive and experiential experiences.
  4. Content Must be Accessible – If you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.  Content needs to be on all platforms at all times and frequently updated and addressed.
  5. Content Must be Connected – One-off content is quickly dismissed, and forgotten.  Brands that link content to convey a fuller story – broadening the narrative – create and sustain interest while.
  6. Content Must be Channel Specific – One size fits all doesn’t work.   Content needs to be directed to each specific platform based on audience preferences.
  7. Content Must be Diverse – Visual, Video, Static, Audio, Blog Posts and Case Studies, News, Interviews, White Papers, Webinars, etc.  Each of these methods and types of content reflect a specific need and purpose in engaging stakeholders and learning more about them.
  8. Content must be Personal – When brands grasp their customer’s lives, they speak with them in a conversational manner, sensing wants and needs and addressing issues in a respectful, timely way.

Insight Breeds Precision

Given the above, the overarching reason brands struggle with relevant content is that relevance can’t be defined inside the organization.  Relevance is defined by the market – customers, consumers, prospects, influencers, media – based on behaviors and actions.   Brands utilize analytics to uncover insights that inform and influence programming and messaging in addition to product development, policy formation, and operational excellence.

In turn, insights translate into action based on more precise data and knowledge resulting in an optimal spend and use of resources from a marketing and communications standpoint.

Rethinking content in a time of short attention spans, information overload, skepticism, and choice can be a daunting task.  Brands, though, have an incredible opportunity to completely upend decades of one-way communications and see their products and services through a new lens.  One that reflects a digital world and a customer base with a variety of touch points to the brand and an expectation for a more personalized relationship on-demand.

Content then must serve a greater role in the entire marketing and communications mix defining the customer experience in new and different ways.

It begins with first letting go and accepting customers (and employees) own your brand.  It then moves to employing analytics to identify behaviors and actions providing insights that mirror lifestyles for use in content and programming.

So, how is your content working for your stakeholders?

Gary

Video continues to be a social media staple that brands need to keep up with! With updates from Facebook and Instagram all about video capabilities, it’s clear that the social landscape isn’t moving away from video any time soon. Facebook expands on their video capabilities by offering a new way to watch pre-recorded content and by implementing new AR video experiences for consumers on Facebook Messenger. Instagram has created a new way to group call in direct message streams, further encouraging users to want immediate video interaction. Instagram also quietly expanded their in-app purchase feature to more users late last week. Learn more below about these video and payment updates in the social sphere!

Facebook Adds New AR Business Tools to Messenger

  • Mid-last week, Facebook announced that they are expanding their AR capabilities to allow brands to build their own digital AR experiences in the Facebook messenger application. This new tool allows businesses to fully immerse their consumers in their brand and available products, while utilizing interactive AR capabilities. Though Messenger may not seem like the ideal place to host this feature, research shows that interest is growing on Messenger for brands to expand their product promotions on. With messaging apps seeing more users than other social media platforms, brands need to consider all available platforms and apps to promote their products.
  • What it means for brands: With the introduction of yet another way to promote brand identity, businesses need to consider if this will be a viable option for them. Determining if your audience is on Facebook messenger, as well as what the potential ROI could be, are both questions brands will need to consider before investing in this AR experience. With the future of social media platforms moving towards AR, this could be an interesting way for brands to update their marketing strategies and encourage engagement.

Additional Resources: Variety, The Verge

(via Social Media Today)

Facebook Tests Out New Video Format for Communal Viewing

  • Facebook has been testing out a new video feature to increase engagement and video views by allowing creators to publish pre-recorded videos within the Facebook Live environment. This new capability called ‘Premieres’ gives brands the opportunity to upload pre-recorded content through Facebook Live. The videos would be seen as ‘Premiere’ as they played, as opposed to ‘Live.’ Facebooks VP of Product describes this new feature as a way for users to “experience Premieres of videos like movie trailers, new episodes of Facebook Watch shows, or new content from their favorite creators, alongside other fans together in real time – just like watching a Facebook Live video.” These videos will look similar to Facebook Live, offering the same formatting for engagement and views, the addition of the ‘Premiere’ stamp will conveys to users that the video is not live.
  • What it means for brands: As users shift their viewing mentality to wanting more live content, healthcare brands can offer its audiences that authentic look and feel, without having the worry of an actual live video. Though this new feature may seem a little deceptive due to how similar its appearance is to the Facebook Live video feature, it allows brands to provide pre-recorded videos with increased engagements.

Additional Resources: MarketingLand

(Social Media Today)

Instagram Adds Group Video Calling Within Direct Messages

  • At Facebook’s annual conference, the company announced that they will be expanding Instagram’s capabilities by offering a group calling feature within messaging streams. Currently, Instagram has the “live video” capability where a user can live broadcast what they are doing, which is available for their followers to watch. Now, users can utilize direct message streams with multiple people and group call within the direct message. To start a video call, users will tap the camera icon in the top right corner of any direct message to chat with someone one-on-one or with a small group, with no limit to how long the call can go for.
  • What this means for brands: With video capabilities continuing to dominate social media networks, brands will need to continue to find relevant ways to keep up with the trends. Healthcare brands can consider tapping into this feature through the implementation of real-time video customer service support. As customer service evolves from call centers and emails, to chatbots and Messenger support, brands now have the opportunity to provide personal support exchange through one-on-one direct video calls.

Additional Resources: The Verge, The Next Web

(via Social Media Today)

Instagram Slyly Introduced In-App Payment Capabilities

  • Instagram introduced in-app payments in a quiet fashion. This new feature lets users add their credit/debit card to their Instagram account, allowing for direct purchases within the app. Some users were already able to use the app Resy to directly book appointments within Instagram, but now the feature seems to be spreading to more and more users. Given the number of influencers and brands on Instagram looking to share and promote their products, this feature could completely change how Instagram is used as a platform.
  • What this means for brands: Instead of brands or influencers posting photos of their advertised products and saying “swipe-up to buy,” users could simply swipe up to purchase within the app. Though healthcare brands will not be able to use this feature for prescription treatments, beauty and health brands with over-the-counter products will be able to promote a seamless user experience from advertisement to purchase. With this additional feature, brands will need to update their marketing strategy to include in-app purchases as a relevant KPI.

Additional Resources: TechCrunch

(via The Verge)

This, and other takeaways and tips from the PR News Measurement Conference

The W2O Group and I were grateful to have been asked to speak at  The PR News Measurement Conference recently. PR News brought together speakers, sponsors, and attendees representing a cross section of private and public-sector communicators, agency, academia, and research foundations for two full days of programming.  I spoke about the importance of influencers (identifying, understanding, engaging, tracking).  I also had the honor of helping to close the conference with a Baker’s Half Dozen observations, key moments, notable quotes and emerging themes.   I’ve adapted those here and added four more to round out a list of top ten takeaways and tips.

Top Ten Takeaways & Tips

  1.  Make management a part of your measurement journey.  If there was a single most frequently recurring theme at the conference it was to do with senior leadership into whom communicators report.  Concern over what senior management expects, understands, aligns with and supports.  Panelists who raised this (and attendees that asked about it) all described themselves as being on varying stages of a journey.   Panelists and attendees both described a need to evolve their measurement to position communications less as a cost center and more as generating value for their organizations.  Communications is under increasing pressure to use data (the lingua franca of senior leadership) and scorecards (the visual vernacular of senior leadership) to help tell a c-suite, boardroom-ready story of progress.  In this context, measurement is best seen–speakers suggested–as improvement not justification.  And to improve, what we as communicators put in front of leadership has got to surface insights that lead to conversations about strategic and tactical adjustments.  Key to this, however, is support from management on and alignment with a rigorous approach to measurement that is mindful of objectives, regards a framework, includes multiple meaningful metrics and leads to a culture that is open to acting on the results.  It’s a journey W2O is helping clients with.
  2.   Start somewhere. What’s that saying about a thousand-mile journey beginning with a single step?  One delegate noted that the conference was like a giant support group with those further along on their journey comforting those not quite so advanced.  The tip here is to start somewhere, start small and evolve over time.  Test and fail.  Fail fast.  One panelist encouraged delegates to “pilot the seemingly outlandish and impossible.”  W2O client Aetna has been on a journey to get to an ever-more data-driven communications operation.  Kieran Fagan, VP of Communications at Aetna presented a case study ( How Aetna is Transforming its Communications with Consistent Metrics  ) that outlined a six-step plan.   1)  State your intent about shifting toward being data-driven.  2)  Answer the big question:  so what?  3)  Count what you can but don’t overdo it.  4)  Tie it to your story; your narrative themes.  5) Bring it to the business.  Socialize it.  Solicit feedback.  Acclimate to it.  6) Don’t run a victory lap as measurement is an ever-evolving journey.
  3. Start with the start in mind. It’s corny, but I like to say that KPIs are easy as pie if we’ve done the harder upfront work of clearly identifying objectives.  I was once a PRSA awards judge and noticed so many plans confused goals, objectives, strategies and tactics into one big aspirational slide.  That confuses measurement.  Clarity helps us measure by objective not tactic, nor channel.  It helps us put the audience at the center.  KPIs, scorecards, dashboards, and reports are far easier to design with that clarity.  A former colleague coined a hashtag that’s fitting here:  #YOMO:  year of the measurable objective.
  4. Embrace a framework. An audience, funnel, journey, path to (purchase or some other appropriate action and advocacy) can be enormously helpful in organizing objectives, KPIs, methods and data sources as part of a measurement framework.  And it helps PR align with colleagues in marketing.  There are many such funnels out there.  Some from the measurement-centric industry associations.  Many variations of which, conference speakers presented.  I was encouraged so many presented at this conference; many more that I’ve seen in similar conferences past.  At W2O we use a funnel (Awareness > inter-Action > Attitude > Action > Advocacy) to help challenge ourselves and clients to think about outcomes as much as output.  A framework encourages us to think more broadly and avoid thinking about a specific touchpoint or the effect of a single post.  Despite Kylie Jenner’s ability to drive down Snap’s stock value by $1.3 billion in a single day with a single Tweet, we’ve got to be thinking bigger.  The long-standing preference for measuring every individual touchpoint at a user-level misses the forest for the trees.
  5. Stop looking for a single, killer, ROI metric.  Nope, no thanks. Don’t do it.  It’s a race to the bottom.  It limits our thinking before we’ve even started.  Rather, let’s think about multiple metrics in each tier of the funnel, journey, path.  Let’s think about demonstrating multiple tiers of shift, progress, and value using multiple, increasingly sophisticated methods to do so.  Impressions were frequently cited at the conference as the most commonly used but most problematic and least popular metric.  One metric on a slide at the conference caused a bit of a stir and spurred a tweet from Katie Paine that sums up the challenge nicely: “for the record, re: impressions, there are 7.4 billion people on Earth. Less than half have computers, access to the internet or electricity. Even fewer care about your brand/message/product. So when you say you’ve reached 10 billion people, you have lost all credibility.”  No question the metric has a credibility problem.  I think impressions do have a place in measurement with two very important caveats:  1) that we look it as one among multiple metrics, not THE metric, and 2) that we look at impressions among very specific target audiences we want to reach (via audience/stakeholder/influencer-specific listening panels) and that we look at impressions for only those media outlets (and influencers) that matter to those audiences and that generating sharing.
  6. Embrace ever-more audience specificity. While there were occasional hints of this at the conference, I expected to hear and see more focus on audiences.  Delegates seemed, in principle, to recognize that the days of “spray and pray” are over and that we’re in a new era of focusing on who matters, who matters to them, what matters, how and where it will matter.  We’re seeing an acute shift from a coverage model to a community and conversation model.  But there seems to be a gap between acknowledging the challenge and addressing it.
  7. It’s time to face the fear. There were several moments and remarks at the conference that surfaced challenges with peers in marketing.  I think a certain amount of tension between the two can be healthy and productive.  I was a touch surprised not to hear more calls from either panelist or delegates to face the fear of marketing, fix the friction, embrace integrated marketing communications (as graduate degree programs did 20 years ago) and be comfortable in their new cross-PESO (paid, earned, shared, owned) context.  There was a surprising sense of us vs. them or otherness in the room.  It’s time to break through that.  It’s where the industry has been headed and where W2O has been headed for some time.
  8. Skill sets for the next generation communicator are shifting:  It comes up at every measurement conference typically as someone is asking one of the first questions of the day.  “I went into PR because I hate math.”  Those days are gone, in my view.  I’m not about to tell my six-year-old daughter that it’s OK for her not to worry about math if she wants a career in PR.  Major organizations are hiring staff into corporate communications departments at the director (or higher) level with a mandate of driving more data-driven communications.  They are auditing then augmenting headcount, staff skills, tools, methods, output and processes.  This theme came up several times throughout the conference with a call for hiring more resources with blended backgrounds, curiosity, critical thinking, a willingness to test hypotheses, a basic grounding in research methods, some knowledge of business intelligence tools.  We’re practicing that preach here @ W2O.  Out of our 600 agency staff, more than 100 are analysts, some of whom are account – analytics hybrids.
  9. Get to know your in-house market research folks. Some PR practitioners in large organizations haven’t met their own internal market research groups.  Agencies often play the role of matchmaker in suggesting that connection.  It’s commonly the case when you get these groups together and talk about wants, needs, challenges, and ideas that good things happen.  I didn’t hear as much on this as I’d have hoped at the conference and it is so crucial.  One example:  it’s important to align one’s media content analysis with the brand and reputation tracking studies that most organizations have running.
  10. Measurement isn’t a cost.  It’s cost-saver.  This, too, comes up at every conference.  The idea that a client can’t afford measurement.  And that if they did some measurement, it would mean less tactical programming.  Fewer releases, events, pitches, opeds, whitepapers, influencers engaged and so on.  That’s a justification not an optimization argument.  Most who do measurement for a living have evidence that suggests that measurement helps fine tune execution and that there’s ample room for both measurement and smarter, data-driven execution.  I always counter the “I can’t afford this” with “can you afford not to?”  Measurement helps keep and grow headcount, it grows budget and it helps communicators so no to tactical ideas that data shows isn’t optimal.

I’ll leave off where we began and that is to suggest, that, like happiness, measurement is a journey not destination. Are you on a measurement journey?  Where are you on your journey? We’d love to hear from you.

How many times have you heard the phrase “Content is King”?  Too many, I would say.

The more appropriate phrase, Le roi est mort, vive le roi! translates to “the king is dead, long live the king”.  At first it sounds a bit odd to say that, but there is a reason.

The phrase picked up steam in 1422 when Charles VII ascended the French throne after his Dad, Charles VI died. Besides the fact that naming of your children wasn’t very imaginative back then, the purpose was to say goodbye to the old king and welcome the new one.

So, if content is no longer king, what is?  This is why I asked Mike Marinello, SVP, Strategic Communications at Turner, to join me in thinking this through. Here are our Sunday musings.

Bob: Mike, it seems pretty obvious that the content, television, advertising world we grew up in is ready to go through an evolution like never seen before.  Yet we often hold on to our old models like a life raft.  Why?  What’s a good example.

Mike: The Nielsen-only days are over. You can’t tell me that 18-49 year-olds are the only audience that matters when considering who is viewing your content and who is important to your advertisers. We know a lot of people over the age of 49 that are active viewers, active consumers and have a decent amount of disposable income.

Bob: True, I know a few.

Overall, we’re seeing content consumption increase around the world if we factor in TV, social media, search and the many new ways to view content, ranging from Hulu to Netflix to Amazon.com.  In reality, we have a new King and Queen.  The King may be “content” but the queen is “experience” and if you excel at both, you will build your audience.  Accurate?

Mike: Agree, if we understand and know our audiences (not just track them) like the online giants do, the content that reaches our audience is more relevant and connected to their interests and lives.

Bob: The old models had us measuring what we do in our living room and making most of our judgements on spend based on our viewing habits. If we start thinking of “experience habits”, we look at what we view on Facebook (more than 8 billion video views per day), how we interact on Instagram, what we find relevant on twitter, what is trending on YouTube and what we watch when we decide to relax.  But even there, it matters which device we are using, whether we are viewing content with our friends and family or on an airplane or in the back of a taxi. Basically, the experience is completely changing how we define “content”.   We can reach people in more ways on more devices in more places.  So, what is really changing inside of each of us?

Mike: We are no longer in the business of capturing peoples time.  We need to win their hearts and minds as well.  We want to serve them with the content and advertisements that resonate with them creating a deeper connection that allows you to change a consumer, to a customer, to a fan.   Content is no longer king – it is now linked with experience.

Bob: Great points.  Fans are loyal (think of Eagles fans).  Customers change based on price or just because they feel like it.  Mike, is the television industry moving with enough speed in our “TV to social back to TV world” we live in to adapt to all of this change?

Mike: No.  TV advertising is becoming more personalized, but adoption of automated TV marketing has been very slow, with less than 10% of the $70 billion TV advertising market being sold digitally today.

Bob: Not surprised.  What I keep thinking about is how content itself is changing.  As traditional media companies like Viacom, Fox and Turner compete with Amazon.com and maybe Apple soon, it makes one wonder what it takes to succeed.  You are inside a very successful company.  What will it take?

Mike:  When you are competing against new entrants into the market that are spending billions on original content production, it has a way of focusing your efforts..  The future leaders need to stay focused on four key areas:

  1. Improving technology and data capabilities to compete in non-linear environments.
  2. Making strategic investments in people, products and processes to modernize your in-house technical capabilities.
  3. Create premium content AND create experiences for customers that are more relevant across multiple consumption platforms and opportunities, which expands the reach of advertisers.
  4. Work to create a level playing field.  If technology giants are competing against media companies for the same customers (or fans), why not have the same standards for reaching large audiences and making large sums of money.

Bob: Ok, a quick lightning round to end.
Bob: How do you capture the audiences that matter most?

Mike:    Own more – if not all – of the end to end consumer experience.

Bob: How does the advertising industry modernize fast enough to ensure linear TV – which still has a massive audience – remains a vibrant and relevant platform?

Mike:  Linear TV still has a massive audience, so there is a  basic need to accelerate the modernization of technology and  data collecting so that advertising can look, feel and act more like online advertising.

Bob: What bothers you that is easy to change?

Mike: We need to get to a world where we are selling audiences not demographics.

Bob:  What is your favorite show on Turner channels?  Mine right now is Rick and Morty.

Mike: Well it’s hard to pick just one. My kids love everything Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. And I am a huge fan of “Good Behavior” because of Michelle Dockery – and “The Alienest” is amazing. But what I’m most excited about right now is our deal with UEFA and the Champions League, because it embodies in so many ways how we are bringing to life John Martin’s (Turner CEO and Chairman) vision of reimagining television and what Turner brings to the table.

Thanks Mike, very insightful.  My key takeaway is simple.  Content is an integral part of the experience.  Experience is the driver of future success.  And the winners will be a combination of content creator and technology expert.  The journey continues….

Best, Bob

Note: Sunday Musings is a new series where I will either riff on a topic of interest or interview someone who is an expert in the area and reflect on what we’re learning together. 

As we wrap up the year, it’s interesting to see what last minute updates the social channels are rolling out to users. For starters, Facebook is changing its pre-roll and mid-roll video ads algorithm to provide a friendlier user experience. Twitter has introduced a new way to expand long form tweet conversations via the “Tweet Thread” feature, and the platform has also made video views public on any video (brand or personal) to all users. Lastly, Instagram has rolled out their highly anticipated “hashtag follow” feature, allowing users to follow specific hashtags that will show up in their newsfeed as posts. Check out more detail on these exciting updates below!

Facebook to Test 6-Second Pre-Roll Ad Test

  • Starting next year, Facebook will begin testing a six-second pre-roll ads hub and adjusting how the algorithm presents videos to users. These pre-roll ads will only run within the Watch video hub, as opposed to in the News Feeds, as Facebook found that pre-roll ads in News Feed videos didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped. Facebook is also changing the requirements for mid-roll ads. Originally, a mid-roll ad could not be placed in a video that was less than 90 seconds. Now, videos must be 3 minutes long and mid-roll ads can only be inserted when the video has played for 60 seconds. Additionally, Facebook announced that there will be an update to the overall algorithm in 2018 to prioritize videos to users based on their interests, sharing the right videos with the right people (who want to see them).
  • What this means for brands: There are now more limitations on where ads can be implemented, making it more difficult for brands to secure ad placements on Facebook. However, with the change to Facebook’s algorithm, videos are now going to be more targeted to users who want to watch them, which will hopefully impact video views in a positive way and net out the users who are not watching videos in full.

Additional Resources: Tech Crunch, Social Media Today

Twitter Introduces “Tweet Threads”

  • Twitter launched a new feature called “Tweet Threads” that allow users to post and participate in tweetstorms, which are also called threads. Tweetstorm has only been used by a handful of users who want to continue a longer thought on Twitter than is allowed via 280 characters. To create Tweet Threads, there is a new “+” symbol in the top right corner of the tweet composer that allows users to write a strand of tweets and post them all at once so that they’re one consecutive thought. Each tweet still has a 280-character limit, but users can implement media such as videos and GIFs along with their longer thoughts. Users can also update a thread later if they have something else they want to add by opening the thread and hitting “add another tweet.” There is one caveat – there is a 25-tweet limit per thread.
  • What it means for brands: With this new functionality, brands are now able to share longer form content on the platform and can ensure that the tweets will show up show up in a consecutive order for the audience to read. With the roll-out of Tweet Threads and the expanded character count, it shows that Twitter is maybe moving away from their shorter messages to longer messages and thoughts.

Additional Resources: Tech Crunch, Social Media Today

(via TechCrunch)

Twitter Includes a Video Views Number for All Videos Posted

  • Twitter will now display video view counts on all videos posted on the platform. Now that video view counts are here to stay, there will be a reassessment as to what counts as an actual video view (the never-ending saga). Currently, a video view on Twitter is based on the video being played for at least 2 seconds, so we’ll see what this update brings.
  • What it means for brands: Now that the video view number is being displayed on videos, users and brands can keep a closer eye on the competition. Brands can see what competitors are doing (and what’s performing well) and use some ideas in their own social strategy. It will be interesting to see if having the video view count number will spark interest for users who are debating on whether to watch a video. If the video view number is high, users may be more enticed to watch the video, rather than if the number is low.

Additional Resources: Ad Age, Marketing Land

(via Ad Age)

Instagram Now Allows Users to Follow Specific Hashtags

  • Instagram has finally enabled its hashtag following feature for all users, announced a few weeks back. Any hashtag that users follow will show up as a post directly within each Instagram feed. Having this feature allows Instagram to become more of a search/discovery engine for users. Instagram does have the “Explore” page, but being able to follow hashtags allows for a greater engagement on each post. Users will be able to tailor which posts with the hashtag they like by selecting an “I don’t like this” option from a drop down on each post with the relevant hashtag.
  • What this means for brands: Hashtags are now more necessary than ever on Instagram. Since users can follow specific hashtags, brands should be researching what hashtags their target audience is following and including them in every post (if they’re not already doing so). We’ve typically preached that less is more, but more hashtags may be the way to go these days as Instagram advances with new features. This also allows brands to become more specific with their hashtags to tailor their post to the correct audience who is going to want to see the post and engage with it.

Additional Resources: Business Insider, The Verge

(Social Media Today)

This week saw a lot of relevant updates across the social media space. Facebook published a blog detailing its advertising principles for both users and brands. Additionally, the platform rolled out an in-newsfeed virtual reality feature to further enhance users’ experiences and give brands the ability to take their content to the next level. Snapchat announced a re-vamp of its app structure, separating personal and media content in users’ feeds. Lastly, YouTube put its own spin on in-app stories via YouTube Reels.

Facebook Spells Out Advertising Principles for Users & Brands

  • As a follow-up to recent updates about launching a Transparency Center, Facebook has laid out its advertising principles for users and brands in a blog post. The post details that advertising on Facebook is not meant to be disruptive for users, but, instead, add value to their experiences by placing relevant content in front of them. Facebook expressed that their goal is to improve the advertising experience for users, serving them relevant content, while also helping businesses grow via branded promotions on the platform.
  • What it means for brands: While Facebook’s push – much like from other platforms – to increase transparency around advertising on the channel has largely been centered around individual users’ experiences, this most recent update highlights that Facebook is hearing marketers’ concerns and making sure that subsequent updates improve both user and brand experiences.

Additional Resources: Facebook, Social Media Today

(via Facebook)

Facebook Is Testing In-Feed VR

  • Facebook is testing an in-newsfeed virtual reality feature, named “360 experiences.” This new feature will enable users to get a 360-degree look ‘inside’ posts, by allowing them to interact with different aspects of the content. For example, the National Gallery posted a VR tour of a new wing on its page, allowing users to click on specific pieces of art to learn more about the paintings. Facebook is pushing more and more newsfeed updates to amplify the scrolling experience for users on the platform while giving advertisers additional options for promoted content that keep users on the platform rather than directing them to an external site.
  • What it means for brands: While this feature should be a great addition for any brand and company, it could be especially useful for the event and entertainment industries to give users an inside look into different aspects of events, spaces and stories. For the healthcare industry, this could open new doors for engaging consumers and healthcare professionals by allowing them to explore different scientific principles or mechanisms of action involved in the development and treatment of different diseases.

Additional Resources: Marketing Land, Marketing Land, Business Insider

(via Marketing Land)

Snapchat Re-Designs App Structure

  • Snapchat announced significant changes to its app. The biggest takeaway with the updates is that the app will be re-designed to separate personal content from media and influencer content. The ‘Discover’ tab will now live on its own feed, and a separate ‘Friends’ feed will only include stories and content from people that a Snapchat user is connected with. Once this update goes live – the platform has yet to confirm specific timing – the restructuring will have a significant impact on how users engage with influencer and brand content. If an account is not friends with a user and only followed by them, then their content will automatically be delegated to the ‘Discover’ feed. Additionally, moving forward, users can opt to “see less” of any content that they do not find interesting within the ‘Discover’ feed.
  • What it means for brands: Brands will need to take a step back and rethink their approach to Snapchat stories in light of this update. Their content will now be separated from users’ personal feeds, meaning that without enticing stories – or substantial paid promotions – users may view much less brand content in the future. Additionally, this will impact celebrities and social media influencers. Prior to the update, if a Snapchat user “followed” a celeb or influencer, their content was served to them within the same feed as their friends’ stories. Segmenting influencer content into the ‘Discover’ feed may impact engagement and viewership.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Tech Crunch

(via Social Media Today)

YouTube Takes Its Own Spin on Stories

  • YouTube will be beta’ing its own version of in-app stories called Reels. Unlike the stories feature on other apps like Facebook and Instagram, users will need to navigate to a creator’s channel and click on the “Reels” tab. Here, they will find all of the story-style content that the creator published. While the new feature will only be available to creators (influencers), at least for now, YouTube said that it hopes this new video format will foster engagement by letting creators share content on their channels without having to upload an entire new video. Additionally, unlike on other platforms, Reels won’t be short-lived, they’ll be live on creators’ channels long-term.
  • What it means for brands: Stories are a powerful way to post authentic content, whether it be from a conference or an event. Giving brands the ability to post Reels on YouTube could increase the volume of real-time content being shared on the platform by providing brands with an easy-to-use video option with less need for high quality production. This could be a way to humanize a brand’s voice on YouTube, giving them the option to post both edited, thought-out content and real-time Reels.

Additional Resources: Business Insider, TechCrunch

(via TechCrunch)

 

Lots of updates in the social media sphere over the past two weeks. Facebook introduced new poll features, allowing users and pages to use images and GIFs as response options in polls, as offering new ways for users to get more involved and engaged with content. Also coming from Facebook HQ: Instagram users will soon be able to follow hashtags a bit more closely, making it easier to find accounts that post content they are most interested in. Additionally, as previously shared, Twitter increased its character count for all users from 140 to 280; this recent update also included an increase in display name length from 20 characters to 50 characters. Lastly, Pinterest created a new way to shop via the app while in-store, by implementing its own version of a “QR” code – Pincodes. Have a read to learn more and find out what else you may have missed these past two weeks!

Facebook Adding New Polling Options, Including GIFs

  • Facebook is adding a new poll option. All profiles and pages are now able to use GIFs and images as response options for Facebook polls. This advanced poll feature makes Q&A style content more attractive and engaging by allowing users and pages to utilize visual elements in conjunction with interactive polls, which previously had not been possible. Facebook has been testing this new feature since September, but just now rolled it out to all users. Facebook polls are created by inputting a question and potential responses via the poll tab in the status update composer, and then publishing to the feed. Users can click on which answer choice they feel is correct or resonates most with them.
  • What it means for brands: Facebook polls are a great way for brands to engage with their followers and find out information from the audience. With the introduction of this new, more visually-compelling poll feature, users will hopefully be more enticed to participate in polls with creative imagery or funny GIFs, allowing pages/brands to gain more insight into user interests or behaviors. This update is hardly surprising following Instagram’s recent roll-out of a polling option within Stories and with Facebook constantly looking for new, image-based ways to stay current and become more marketer-friendly. Consider adding polls to your 2018 plans to learn a bit more about your audience, as this can help inform future content and strategy.

(via Social Media Today)

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Tech Crunch

Facebook Just Launched a Stand-Alone App for Events

  • Facebook is rebranding its ‘Events’ app. Now called ‘Local’, the app will aggregate local business information and events based on a user’s geo-location. Pulling from Facebook’s database of over 70 million existing business pages, ‘Local’ allows users to view recommended attractions within a user’s location. Additionally, once ‘Local’ is downloaded, it automatically syncs with the Facebook app and imports all events in a user’s area. With over 2 billion users on Facebook, the rebrand of their app may push Foursquare and Yelp out of the local listings/reviews market.
  • What this means for brands: With this rebrand putting an increased focus on local businesses, owners need to be more in-tune with their Facebook footprint than ever before. Once users make the jump from Yelp or Foursquare to Facebook ‘Local,’ up-to-date reviews and event listings are going to be key for local business owners to drive foot traffic and business. It’ll be interesting to see whether Facebook will launch ads within the app in the near future, adding “sponsored” or “promoted” events/reviews to the mix, allowing advertisers to pay for top placement in each location. More to come as the app starts to see traction among users.

(via Adweek)

Additional Resources: AdWeek, Wired, Business Insider

Following Individual Hashtags Is in the Works for Instagram

  • Instagram is testing out a feature that will allow users to follow hashtags, making it easier for users to find content that is relevant to them. This new update will allow users to follow certain topics or themes (such as #fashion) without needing to follow individual accounts. Particularly for users and brands interested in niche topics, this will be an exciting update, as content will be more readily searchable. The update is not yet available to all accounts, and, according to Instagram, it may still be quite some time before a broad roll-out.
  • What it means for brands: The competition for eyeballs on content will be higher than ever once this new feature rolls out to all users. Brands will have to make their content stand out not just among other accounts that users follow, but potentially among all content using the same hashtag. Doing a bit more research before posting content to ensure that the correct hashtags are being used will make a difference in the long-run. This may also trigger brands and influencers to rethink their approach to hashtags – requiring more hashtags to be used in a post for content to be seen by key audiences.

(via Digital Trends)

Additional Resources: Mashable, Digital Trends

Display Name Length Doubles from 20 to 50 Characters on Twitter

  • Twitter announced that users are now able to have a display name of up to 50 characters long, as opposed to the previous 20 characters; @usernames are not included in this update. Users and brands with lengthier names no longer need to use abbreviations to fit within the character limitations.
  • What it means for brands: This update allows business pages to further brand their Twitter handle by creating more attention-grabbing display names to help users find a profile. If a business has a longer name, they’re now able to include more of their name, allowing users to find them more easily. Maybe this change is foreshadowing an increase in @username count, too? Only time will tell!

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, The Verge, AdWeek

Change the Way You Shop with Pinterest’s New ‘Lens Your Look’ and ‘Pincodes’

  • Pinterest has expanded visual search on the platform, introducing a new set of search and discovery options that provide additional ways for users to search for products and pins. ‘Lens’ was introduced last year as a way for users to upload photos of items they wanted to search for. Pinterest pulls relevant pins for that user based on the items displayed in the photo. Now with ‘Lens’, users can use text to go along with their photo, allowing for more specific searches. Pinterest also introduced ‘Pincodes,’ which are the platform’s own version of QR codes that enable users to scan tagged items in-store to access the product information and deals, via businesses’ Pinterest boards. From here, users are able to shop straight from Pinterest, by clicking-through to the product website where they have the option to purchase searched products.
  • What does this mean for brands? A Pinterest-commissioned study found that 45% of active Pinners use Pinterest to look for inspiration while shopping. Enabling Pincodes in stores gives shoppers an easier way to look up trends and relevant items. It also helps businesses better track the effectiveness of their Pinterest efforts by connecting in-app engagement with purchase behavior. Brands can use both Pinterest updates to better serve their customers by providing them with an easier way to shop and find exactly what they are looking for. It will be interesting to see which stores will implement the Pincodes functionality! And of course, we’re waiting for Pinterest to add a ‘sponsored’ component allowing brands to promote Pins based on searches using these new tools…more to come!

(via Social Media Today)

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Ad Week

 

Tags:

Often customers’ first touchpoint with brands is Mobile.

According to eMarketer, we know that Mobile is consumers’ preferred engagement screen and the platform through which customers first engage with brands.  In fact, over 60% of all U.S. adults use their smartphone as part of their buying experience. For years, we’ve lived in a digital era where our Smartphones are the keepers of our most valuable information and the recipients of much of our attention. Yet marketers continue to spend a disproportionate amount on TV ad placement rather than curating a mobile-first touch, in spite of what the data is telling us.

The top three ways customers are introduced to new information are overwhelmingly mobile use-cases.  Of the 77% of U.S. adults who use a smartphone, they will:

  • Hear about companies through word-of-mouth and turn to the closest device to learn more – 89% use mobile search
  • Discover happenings through social news feeds – 76.7% use social networks on-the-go
  • Text, email or direct social message to notify a friend – 63.9% use messaging apps

Knowing that brands may only get one chance to make an impact on customers, it’s critical to design with the first touchpoints in mind. This is our recommended approach:

1. Understand where you are in your Mobile maturity:

  • Initiate a mobile-first roadmap by leveraging various content platforms based on your consumer, their context of use and the inherent constraints of device technology
  • Accelerate by evolving strategies based on consumer need and integrating them across the customer lifecycle
  • Innovate to keep up with the pace of change and maintain market leadership.

2. Determine and design for the key dimensions of a Mobile-first (and connected devices) strategy:

  • Consumer / B2B client
  • Context (use-case)
  • Constraints & Capabilities of device technology

3. Ensure that any idea or experience is thoughtfully delivered across device screens according to their relative strengths, including (but not limited to):

  • Phones – accessible anytime but limited to messaging
  • Smartphones – personal, utilitarian, social and reward contextual, and ideal for presenting snackable content
  • Tablets – immersive and enable a lean-back, entertaining experience
  • Desktops and laptops – fully functional and allow for engagement with long-form content

Lastly, when it comes to better understanding the Mobile opportunity, we know that:

  1. The Mobile use-case has been evolving at the pace of increasing device penetration, and technological innovation in connected device capabilities and form factors
  2. There is an emerging shift in addressable audience by media platform with more potential reach on interactive mobile screens than one-way TV screens – according to GfK MRI data, among those 18 and older, 95.1% have mobile phones, compared to 89.1% who had watched TV at least once in the past week
  3. Those brands executing content development strategies for social media channels are implicitly investing in optimizing for Mobile use-cases – 82% of social network users use a smartphone to access social networks in 2017, and, by 2020, 55% of the U.S. population will regularly access social networks on a smartphone, according to eMarketer

As we approach 2018, it is no secret that companies need to be thinking mobile-first and ensure that the audiences’ experiences are thoughtfully delivered across device screens. However, it is the approach that sets a company apart from the rest; because mobile is increasingly social and the customer is a key dimension in any business decision, social market research is critical to understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of the target audience.

Want to hear our thoughts on industry news? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter! Here are our insights from our favorite recent stories.

 

We are seeing major changes in advertising on social channels this week. As the investigation on political advertising on Twitter and Facebook continues, the platforms are taking action to increase ad transparency as early as next month. Pinterest is also modifying its advertising capabilities and rolled out search advertising to all brands through the self-serve tool. In other news, Instagram now let’s users go Live with a friend (interesting) and Snap Inc. is partnering with NBCUniversal to create scripted programming on the Snapchat platform in 2-4 one minute segments. Take a look below to see what you may have missed this week.

Twitter Adds Transparency Center

  • Twitter initiated a new ad transparency movement, announcing its “transparency center” last week. This is in light of the latest investigation on how the social platforms were leveraged to advertise during the 2016 election. The transparency center gives users insight into all advertising information, including campaign spend, details into the organization funding the campaign, and targeted demographics of all ads on the platform. Political ads will have to identify campaigns and Twitter will promote these ads with a different look and feel than other ads to differentiate them. Additionally, Twitter will be closely monitoring compliance of the new rules and cracking down on the penalties for brands that violate them. They have hired over 4,000 new employees that will oversee these rules.
  • What it means for brands: The new ads transparency greatly reduces brand advertising privacy. Users and competitors will gain insight into details of campaigns that were traditionally not public information. While we don’t see this having a great effect on overall paid promotional plans, this may affect pharmaceutical companies that advertise during medical meetings and unbranded campaign/disease awareness ads. We’ll be tracking this update closely to learn next steps.

Additional Resources: Bloomberg, Twitter

(via Twitter)

Twitter Launches New Video Cards

  • Twitter is in progress of launching video cards which drive directly to a brand’s website. As a user navigates to a brand’s website the video will continue to play. Twitter hopes that combining the power of video while driving users to the site will increase conversions for brands. While testing this, Twitter says that the new cards achieved a 2X higher click-through rate than the industry benchmark for mobile video ads. Additionally, during testing they saw the number of users who abandon a site while it loads decrease because the ad continues to play as the site loads, keeping users’ attention.
  • What it means for brands: Video advertising is a powerful tool for brands, allowing them to bring a product or service to life and entertain its target audience. Including video cards that link to a website will not only make a more seamless experience for users, but also increase website views for brands. Having a video that continues to play as the website loads will ensure that users are engaged and not clicking out of the website while they wait.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Marketing Land

(via Social Media Today)

Facebook Increases Ad Transparency

  • Facebook’s biggest update this week, following in suit with Twitter, is to increase ad transparency. Facebook will be launching a “view ads” feature which gives all users insight into how brands are advertising on the platform. Typically, “dark” ads are only seen by people within an intended target audience. Now, users outside of a brand’s target audience will be able to view all promotional content published by a page. For politically driven pages, Facebook is implementing an “archived” section to give all Facebook users full transparency into a campaign, even after a campaign is complete. As an extension of this new feature, Facebook is testing two different feeds for users. One feed would be an explore feed, featuring posts from friends and family only. The second feed would be a “pages only” feed, where users can explore the posts of pages and brands they follow.
  • What it means for brands: Starting next month (in Canada, not US), brands will lose the ability serve content to (solely) specific target audiences. All paid advertising content will be viewable by users and competitors alike. Brands will be able to see each other’s ads, giving each brand insight into its competitors messaging and tactics- which is good and bad. While we don’t see this greatly affecting overall paid promotion strategies, where we do see this having a potential impact (for pharmaceutical companies) on paid promotions is surrounding medical meetings and unbranded disease education campaigns. We’ll be keeping our eye on this and share updates as they are released.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Marketing Land

(via Social Media Today)

Instagram Adds Go Live with a Friend Feature

  • Instagram is enhancing its Live stream experience by adding the option of going Live with a friend. The approach here is to make the Live tool more entertaining for users and less uncomfortable and intimidating for influencers or spokespeople.
  • What this means for brands: Having the option to go Live with a friend can be valuable for brands, as they can leverage this to answer audience questions or conduct interviews. This also eliminates potential coordination of having to all be in the same room – now influencers can go Live together from across the country. Going Live can be a great way to reach fans for celebrities or showcase a new product for brands, and as these live-stream capabilities continue to develop brands can expect to continue leveraging this capability for their audience.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Instagram

(via Instagram)

Snapchat Partners with NBCUniversal for Scripted Programming

  • Snapchat jumping on the live-TV bandwagon. The platform recently partnered with NBCUniversal to bring a daily Snapchat program called “Stay Tuned” to the platform, a scripted program covering the latest news in 2-4 minute segments. It makes sense that they are moving towards video programming in the app, as it is following the demands of users wanting to use their social apps to connect with friends but also for news and media consumption. This makes us think that Discover may not be gaining as much engagement as it used to and they need to find new ways to reach audiences with newsworthy information.
  • What it means for brands: Adding video news segments to Snapchat will expand advertising capabilities for brands in the coming months, possibly with more niche targeting and maybe even in-stream video ads like Snap story ads have now. Additionally, as Snapchat continues to ramp-up its user experience, this could attract more users and make it a more desired platform to advertise on. Younger audiences may start turning to Snapchat for all their news, which may cause competition with Facebook and Twitter.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Tech Crunch

(via Social Media Today)

Pinterest Launches Search Advertising

  • According to Pinterest, there are over 2 billion searches on the platform every month and 97% of those searches are unbranded. These results fueled their latest update, the launch of search solutions advertising on its self-serve advertising platform. For soft launch, these ads were only available with Pinterest Partners, but are now available via Pinterest Ads Manager for all brands. The search ads will work similar to those on Google. Brands can add keywords or key terms, and when a user enables a search that is relevant to the ad keywords, a promoted pin will show up in the search feed. Additionally, Pinterest expanded targeting capabilities for these ads with the new “Taste Graph.” This is an auto-targeting option that utilizes the advanced understanding of what people are looking for based on the pins they save, and supplements a brand’s keyword strategy by automatically targeting relevant searches.
  • What it means for brands: Giving brands the ability to promote their pins based on keyword searches is a great way to get the right ads in front of the right people. Additionally, leveraging Pinterest’s understanding of users via auto-targeting can expand a brand’s reach, but also ensure that the brand is reaching the right audience.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today

(via Social Media Today)

 

 

Tell us about your new company, Kaleido Insights? And what was the inspiration for the name?

Jeremiah: We’re a new boutique research and advisory firm, with four analyst partners. We’re focused on the buyers within large companies, who are often in marketing, innovation, product, strategy and beyond. My partners are Rebecca Lieb, who focuses on marketing, media, and content;also Jaimy Szymanksi who focuses on customer experience and digital transformation; and Jessica Groopman whose expertise is in autonomous technologies like IoT, Blockchain, and artificial intelligence. I focus on Corporate Innovation and new business models.

We’ve all seen an increase in the rate of emerging technologies, and it’s leaving business decision makers overwhelmed and confused as how to possibly keep up. Our brand, Kaleido (like Kaleidoscope) reflects how  so many different technologies, like the shards within a kaleidoscope, create a fragmented, chaotic environment for companies. We try to provide clarity through the ever shifting lens. The tripartite logo represents our unique methodology on how we analyze any technology: impacts on Humans, impacts on Businesses, and finally the impacts on the larger Ecosystem.

This is your third research firm – the last two being Forrester and Altimeter – how is Kaleido Insights different?

Jeremiah: Ah yes, great companies, great experience all who taught me a tremendous amount, I’m grateful for those experiences. Currently, Kaleido Insights is the only independent analyst firm focused on the buyer side. There’s larger analyst firms, but it’s easy to differentiate from them as a smaller, more nimble organization.

What are the focus areas of Kaleido Insights (would be good to hit hard on the analytics/data piece here)?

Jeremiah: Kaleido Insights’ coverage areas don’t focus on single point technologies, but rather on the ‘horizontal’ areas that remain core to any business—the areas that are constantly impacted by emerging technologies. Collectively, these form a foundation for any digital innovation strategy. Our 4 coverage areas include:

  • Customer Experience: Including deep analysis on consumer-facing programs, technologies, empowerment, and the organizational transformations required
  • Business Models & Monetization: Including the impacts of emerging technologies on monetization models, and the role of innovation programs
  • Marketing & Media: Including emerging practices in content and marketing strategy and execution and how to align hyperlocal, local, regional, corporate, and global teams for success
  • Automation: Including the ever-evolving role of devices, algorithms, and architectural innovations in product, service, and process automation, driven by IoT, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and beyond

You mentioned in your announcement that you will continue to run Crowd Companies as well. Will there be synergies/overlap between Crowd Companies and Kaleido Insights?

That’s correct, Crowd Companies, which I started around 4 years ago, will continue forward under my leadership, with a seasoned team in place. Crowd Companies is a peer-to-peer council for corporate innovation and digital leaders –it was important to segment an advisory services firm away from the council. This separation is common at other large Industry Analyst firms, too. It’s possible we’ll have overlapping clients but the business models are significantly different.

Who is your dream customer and in one sentence, why should they be working with you?

Jeremiah: Our dream customer is a business leader at a large complex company that needs help innovating their digital strategy. They want help in charting the path, researching the market, and then collaborating with our team on an actionable road map that they can execute, while we coach the team. We’re seeking those long-term relationships so we can aid them as they shift their businesses to adapt to the many technologies that are constantly emerging.

You recently ran the Spartan Beast World Championship. You mentioned in a Facebook post that it was one of the hardest things you’ve ever done in your life. How does that compare to starting a business?

Jeremiah: We all spend most of our adult lives focusing on our career (often even more effort that we focus on our fitness) so getting back into shape was a significant challenge. It took about 3 years to get into shape so I could finish the 17 mile race in Tahoe with 38 military-style obstacles, but I got it done. With that said, it wasn’t easy, while the professionals finished in just over 4 hours, my time was just over 9 hours. What’s the insight and how it applies to business? With ample research, training and dedication and you can accomplish your goals in all areas of your life. On a personal note, I strive to balance three things: family, fitness, and being a founder.

From ubiquitous technologies to data privacy to multi-platform convenience, Europeans are on the verge of redefining how consumers and brands interact

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming more and more accepted not only in our personal lives but for business as well. It seems like each day we are exposed to a different AI application and with it a new experience. AI is the enabler within a digital world that is changing the customer journey offering a smoother path toward purchase, an instantaneous set of data to strengthen knowledge, and a more seamless way of living life.

Here in Europe, there is a growing AI industry spread across a number of countries.  This solid infrastructure represents the next generation of business putting European companies at the forefront of this new technology and with it the challenge of navigating new pressures – both political and societal. Today, UK has the strongest AI ecosystem followed by German, France and Spain.

So where does this leave us from a communications and marketing standpoint?

First and foremost, the coming age of AI provides an early blueprint for how companies can convey their business mission, purpose, and efficacy. It begins with an analysis of the organisation’s influencer network. Meaning those constituents who are interested in your products and services, policies and beliefs, and who are shaping your story and carrying your messages. This ecosystem allows you to determine the vagaries of opinion across countries, boundaries, and regions.

Among the areas where AI is finding a home throughout Europe include: call centres, wearables, fitness, health and wellness, home security, HR recruiting, note-taking, banking, virtual assistants, payments, conferencing, search, lighting, energy management, warehousing, customer service, video games, robotics, etc. The benefits of AI revolve around a richer, more seamless customer experience tying people more closely to the brand in large and small ways such as product customisation, ordering ease, addressing issues promptly, faster turnaround, and more choice.

The promise of AI is the result of a digital world where technology places control in the hands of the marketplace.

With that in mind, savvy organizations are incorporating new elements into marketing and communications programming to move their business and mindset to the future including gaining knowledge, input, and acceptance of AI.  Among the areas being addressed:

1. Bridging the Present With the Future

Rethinking the overall corporate narrative to paint a picture of what the future can look like

2. Discovering New areas that Improve Customer Experience

Identifying customer service connections where AI provides a high-quality experience

3. Balancing any Arguments That Might Impede Progress 

Providing well thought-out points of view (POV) supporting a more digital experience for customers and employees

4. Engaging in Real-Time Discussion and Debate to Build Confidence and Trust 

Creating interactive tools and apps to generate discussions and debate that leads to stronger policies and clearer decision-making  

One of the most important issues regarding AI, as well as all digital intelligence, has to do with security and privacy.  In April 2016, the European Parliament approved the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect in May 2018. The measure is meant to protect an individual’s personal data and information and therefore privacy. As AI becomes prominent security and privacy will rise in importance providing fertile ground for organizations to declare a competitive advantage if their policies protect consumers and employees.

The future in many respects is already here as AI is changing expectations in the marketplace and the workplace. For European brands, who acknowledge this technological revolution, Top of the Document a proactive communications and marketing effort focused on education, efficacy, and dialogue will not only accelerate these changes on macro level but will position them in a much stronger place for growth.

 

In this week’s Social Scoop, we’re taking a deep dive into the recent updates from Twitter Instagram, Snapchat, and of course, Facebook – because when would a week go by without a Facebook update? Twitter’s announcement of a possible 280-character limit has created buzz amongst all Twitter users, including brand handles. Instagram is taking note on how user’s comment and what they are saying, enabling a new safety policy that makes the platform a positive place for people to express themselves. Snapchat announced 14 new creative partners that will be working closely with brands to create a memorable story ad experience….and lastly, Facebook is working amping-up the Messenger app, yet again.

Twitter Tests Increasing Character Limit to 280 Characters

  • As most of you are already aware, Twitter announced that it is testing a 280-character limit for tweets. This update is in Beta testing for select users right now, but if testing is well perceived, they plan to expand the increased character limit to all accounts. With 140-characters, users are restricted in their story telling and information sharing, and often users leave out key aspects of a message to make their status fit within one tweet. Twitter is hoping that this motivates users to tweet more frequently and create thoughtful messages. The increased character limit will be available in every language except for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean because these languages use less characters in their text font than most other languages.
  • What it means for brands: While this is not immediately available to brands and users yet, if Twitter rolls out this update it could have the potential to drive more advertising and engagement on its platform. It is difficult to fit a clear message into 140-characters, which turns people away from using the platform. With this update, brands can leverage the higher character limit with powerful messages that catch the eye of their target audience. Twitter’s targeting capabilities are very detailed, with the ability to target followers of certain pages. The combination of detailed targeting and more robust messages could put Twitter at the top of the list for brands.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, New York Times, The Verge

(The Verge)

Instagram Continues Optimizing User Safety

  • Instagram is working diligently to decrease the amount of negative and abusive comments on the pictures of their now 800 million users. There have been 3 big updates in the last few months:
    • Recently, they enabled public account users to choose who can and cannot comment on their pictures
    • Back in June, they expanded their comment block capabilities, which allows users to opt out of receiving offensive comments on their posts. This idea is similar to Facebook’s spam filter, except instead of having to input keywords to block, Instagram will do the blocking for you through automated algorithms. The comment block capabilities are available in English, Arabic, French, German and Portuguese.
    • They added an anonymous reporting feature during live broadcasts that will allow viewers to flag any live comments (that come in from another user that they think may be harmful or alarming) directly to Instagram’s 24/7 support team who would give the individual the help that they need. Cheers to Instagram for working to create a positive platform for self-expression and kindness.
  • What it means for brands: Brand safety is a major concern and with the implementation of expanded comment block capabilities, brands can feel rest assured that any offensive or inappropriate comments will be automatically hidden. Additionally, the anonymous reporting feature could be especially useful for Pharmaceutical companies. If during a live broadcast a user commented something that needed to be handled but was out of the realm of the company and was not considered an adverse event, the ability to flag the comment to Instagram gives brands peace of mind that the viewer will receive the care that they need.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, TIME, Instagram

(via Social Media Today)

Snapchat Adds 14 New Creative Partners

  • Last January, Snapchat introduced a creative partner network which would assist in ad creation for advertisers. Recently, they have expanded their creative network by adding 14 new companies to the list. Originally, the partners offered support for designing interactive ads that would appear between stories. Now, Snapchat has added its new partners to enhance the ad experience for users after they swipe-up on an ad and show interest in the brand or product. The partnerships bring the following new capabilities to Snapchat: custom games, interactive videos, gyroscope-powered experiences, lead generation campaigns, and pre-loaded Instant Apps as destinations for Snapchat ads.
  • What it means for brands: With the addition of new design and technology partners to help brands advertise on Snapchat, brands can create a unique and memorable experience for users that swipe-up on an ad. There is really an opportunity for all, as long as platform is the right platform for your audience.

Additional Resources: Marketing Land, Snapchat, TechCrunch

(via TechCrunch)

Facebook Launches Click-to-Messenger Ads

  • According to Facebook, 18 million businesses exchange more than 2 billion messages with consumers each month. With this large number in mind, Facebook launched click-to-messenger ads to increase awareness of company messenger platforms as a means for consumers to communicate with brands. The ads will be clickable, and instead of driving to a landing page they will drive to the brands account on messenger. A survey conducted last year by Harris Poll found that 78% of adults were not aware that Facebook chatbots exist. Facebook hopes this new type of ad will bring more awareness to this method of communication between brands and consumers.
  • What it means for brands: Using click-to-messenger ads is a great way for brands to ensure quality and timely customer service and communication with consumers. Driving awareness to a company messenger bot can expedite customer service and increase overall customer satisfaction. The ad format is like other ads, with the option of single images or videos, carousels of multiple photos or videos or Facebook’s slideshow format that stitches together photos to play like a video. We all know that bots are the future of communication, and there’s no shocker Facebook is owning the lead in rolling out new innovations.

Additional Resources: Marketing Land, Facebook

(via Facebook)

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There have been some big updates to hit the social sphere over the last week. Facebook is planning to increase click-through-rates and conversions via its magazine-esque shoppable ads. Also, you may have missed it, but Instagram’s new full-screen story ad is making its debut. LinkedIn’s newest Audience Network Update may impact your targeting & Twitter is making changes to their admin capabilities by making it easier for multiple people to work on the same account…from a mobile phone! See below for updates & let us know your thoughts!

Facebook Updates its Shoppable Ads & Custom Audiences

  • Facebook is updating the shoppable collection ad format that was rolled out this past March. Shoppable collection ads drive product discovery and sales through a series of product images or videos, mimicking a catalog. The new update includes mobile-only, full-screen ads called “lifestyle templates.” With lifestyle templates, brands have more flexibility to include more robust information for consumers such as maps to brick and mortar stores or multiple product images and descriptions. These are being called a “digitalized magazine ad,” aimed to allow advertisers to bring their print creations to mobile. Additionally, Facebook will begin sharing metrics for brands on where their ads appeared via post-campaign placement reports. This is to ensure that brands are aware of what kind of third-party apps and websites their content is being displayed on through Facebook’s audience network. Lastly, Facebook has updated their engagement custom audience capabilities for brands. These updates include creating a custom audience for people who previously engaged with full-page canvas ad, as well as people who have engaged with the Instagram account linked to a brand’s business manager.
  • What it means for brands: A larger template for ads is highly beneficial for brands, as this means that they are paying the same price for more newsfeed real estate. Additionally, brands have the option to become more creative with their ads and display the product on a larger scale to drive users to the website. Providing brands with reports entailing ad placements after a campaign ends gives brands an idea of what kind of third-party sites that their content is appearing on.

Additional Resources: Social Media Today, Marketing Land, AdWeek

(via Marketing Land)

Instagram Brings Full-Screen Canvas Ads to its Platform

  • Instagram’s latest update is here – canvas ads for Instagram stories. Although Instagram story ad placements have been available to brands, implementing canvas ads into stories will create a new, full-screen ad experience for users. Also, brands can save organic story content for ad campaigns through Power Editor and Ads Manager. This will allow brands to create evergreen content on IG that can then be set up as an ad on Facebook. Lastly, to increase the reach of stories, Instagram has implemented a feature that will allow users to direct message someone else’s story to a friend. If brands/users wish to have this feature turned off for privacy reasons, that option is available as well.
  • What it means for brands: Canvas ads create a unique, full-page experience for consumers. With the canvas ad option, brands can create more robust, detailed story ads to further engage with consumers. Allowing brands to save story content to use at a later date in a Facebook ad could be highly beneficial for brands, as Instagram stories are candid and entertaining and more video content to leverage means more engagement across content. The new feature, which enables direct messaging an Instagram story from user to user, could exponentially increase the already 250 million users viewing stories daily.

Additional Resources: AdWeek, Marketing LandTechCrunch, Ad Exchanger

(via Ad Exchanger)

Twitter Introduces Account Sharing in Mobile App

  • Twitter has set up a new feature that will enable multiple admins to manage a brand’s Twitter account at one time, on-the-go, without sharing login information. The new account sharing feature that is being made available to mobile lets multiple employees and partner agencies to tweet, retweet, direct message, schedule tweets, and create lists all from a mobile phone. Previously, the only way brands have been able to do this for Twitter is through the tool Tweetdeck, which is only available on desktop. It looks like Twitter is one step close to on the go monitoring and management.
  • What it means for brands: 24/7, on-the-go access by multiple people at once means brands can be more timely and present than ever. If relevant content is posted at 11:00pm on a Saturday, an employee or partner agency can easily login to the Twitter account sharing app on their phone and do a quick retweet or post of their own, without having to worry about accessing their computer. Moreover, multiple people can be working on the same brand’s account at once on their mobile phone. For instance, it multiple people need to do community management on a page, they no longer have to login with their credentials via desktop: they can now do it right on their phone, via the Twitter app. Set this up for your brand It could get tricky though with so many admins working from the same platform, so make sure to assign roles upfront!

Additional Resources: Marketing Land, TechCrunch, Twitter

LinkedIn Introduces New Audience Network

  • LinkedIn has launched a new audience network that allows brands to target content to users on third-party websites and apps. The way it works is simple: LinkedIn can place targeted ads into the News Feeds of those who have recently logged into their LinkedIn profile on other websites and apps that they visit. Brands can also control the types of third-party websites and apps that their ads appear on to ensure brand safety.
  • What it means for brands: LinkedIn campaigns can now perform at a much higher reach by giving brands the option to have ads appear on other websites and apps. By increasing the potential reach of campaigns, brands can feel rest assured that their paid social spend is being used efficiently and reaching a vast audience.

Additional Resources: AdAge, LinkedIn

(via LinkedIn)

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This week on the Social Scoop, learn more about Facebook’s continued efforts to put brands first, Snapchat allowing brands to cherry pick the placement of their ads, and LinkedIn’s very exciting update involving video.

Facebook’s 3 Key Updates This Week

  • Here’s what you need to know about the Facebook updates:
    • To improve ad performance for brands, Facebook has created a list of 17 types of organic posts that can no longer be promoted. You can view the full list here, but the list includes boosted posts that are least commonly used, so no need to panic.
    • Facebook also made some cosmetic changes to the newsfeed. These changes include circular profile photos, slightly larger photos attached to a link, shaded background in text to make it easier to read, and displaying comments in message bubbles. Did you notice?
    • Facebook’s last update for this week involves Facebook Live. When users go live on Instagram (a Facebook owned platform), the live stream automatically populates into their story. Now, the same will happen for Facebook. Users have the option to turn this feature off, but if they do not, their live stream will automatically go onto their story. This one is a big one, since brands that go live will hopefully garner a greater reach and gain the immediate attention for followers who log into Facebook mobile and may not realize from the News Feed that a page is live.
  • What it means for brands: Facebook wants to optimize the ad process for brands, and eliminating underperforming posts from being promoted will help brands be more efficient with their ad spend. Using Facebook Live can be a very powerful tool for brands, and adding the ability to have Facebook Live populate on a brand’s story will greatly increase the reach of the live stream. Additionally, it is always important to stay up to date when there are platform changes, should there be new spec sizes, or formatting updates that impact assets and approvals.

Additional Resources: Marketing Land, Marketing Land, Marketing Land, Tech Crunch, Facebook

(via TechCrunch)

Snapchat Adds Manual Ad Placement Controls for Brand Safety

  • Snapchat is continuing to evolve its advertising capabilities. Their most recent update allows brands to have more ad placement control. By default, ads run within all available ad inventory. This raises a concern for brands, as they want to ensure that their ads are appearing around brand-safe / relevant content. The new update will give brands three options for ad placement to have full control over where their ads are appearing on the platform.
  • What it means for brands: The first option for ad placement is to do content exclusions, where brands can choose up to seven categories that they do not want their ads to appear next to. This could be for brand-safety or contextual reasons. The second ad placement option is to choose to have ads to only show up next to curated content, which would be content from Our Stories, Publisher Stories, or Shows. The third option is non-curated content only, which could be less expensive ad placement buys. Giving brands ad placement options like these adds value to the platform as it continues to grow its advertising sector.

Additional Resources: Marketing Land

(via Marketing Land)

LinkedIn Rolls Out Native Video Uploading to Platform…But Not for Business

  • LinkedIn now allows native video uploading…although they have not made this available to company pages just yet. The platform predicts that this will come as video evolves. For now, it is available to personal pages only. There is a three second view time, which means that users are counted as a view if they watch the video for three or more seconds. Additionally, LinkedIn will provide insights on the type of people who viewed your profile, including the company that they work for or their job title. For privacy reasons, these characteristics cannot be tracked back to a specific profile- they will all be put into the same bucket, anonymously. For example, if John Smith, an analyst at Google, views a person’s video, the user who posted the video can see that an analyst from Google viewed their profile but will not know that it was John Smith.
  • What it means for brands: Video is a powerful advertising tool and traditionally gets a higher rate of engagement than plain images, across all social channels. When LinkedIn gives brands the ability to post videos on the platform, it will open the door for a lot of creative opportunities for advertisers. Additionally, the video viewing metrics will be valuable to brands as they can get insight into demographics of their viewers and look for trends among this information.

Additional Resources: Marketing Land, The Drum

(via Social Media Today)

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Following find an excerpt from Bob Pearson’s “Storytizing,” contributed by Natalie Malaszenko.

Natalie currently works on the digital marketing team at Office Depot. Natalie led Hewlett Packard’s first ever fully centralized Global Digital Organization when she was vice president of Global Digital Marketing. Previously worked as vice president of marketing for Omni Hotels and senior vice president of marketing at Overstock.com.

The evolution of how, when, why and where people shop online is simply fascinating. It has become a part of our everyday lives. At the touch of our fingers, we can order almost anything, anytime, anywhere, and we’ll have our purchase in hand within days, sometimes hours. However, even at the rate in which e-commerce evolves today, these four consistent pillars should serve as anchors to every solid e-commerce strategy:

  1. Keep it Simple — The experience for a consumer today, whether desktop or mobile, must be simple and quick enough that a consumer can arrive at their destination in fewer than five clicks, and preferably with just one. Keep the organization of your site simple, direct and minimal. No need to oversell with more — in most cases, less is more.
  2. Never Underestimate the Power of Influence — Word of mouth goes a long way. People simply trust the opinions of other people. Integrate commentary from other shoppers into the experience and provide it in a helpful way. On the flip side, make sure it’s easy to leave feedback on a product or your company.
  3. Content is King — Compelling copy is no longer enough. Images, product videos, product 360s, and videos of the product in context of where and how it’s used are now critical aids in closing online sales. Good, unique and relevant content also improves rankings across search engines. Content is definitely one investment worth growing significantly year-over-year. Plan to create, repurpose and aggregate original and third-party content to give your product more weight.
  4. Exceed Expectations: This is the hardest of the four because consumer expectations have never been higher. Look for moments to surprise and delight customers, so you’re one step ahead of what they hope for their retail and product experience. This is truly what sets great companies apart and creates loyalists in a fiercely competitive marketplace.
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For many initiatives, achieving high social engagement is a necessary step towards reaching an end goal. But in most cases, engagement alone doesn’t do enough to drive tangible results. No brand wants impressions for impressions’ sake—they want impressions that create an audience inspired to act.

The Millennial audience is one that is growing in importance as a powerful driver of the consumer economy, and while social media is native for them, most Millennials still report feeling overwhelmed by balancing their “double life”—that is both a social media presence and a real-world presence.

To harness the true actionable potential of the Millennial audience, it is crucial that communicators help Millennials bridge the gap between their lives on social media and their real lives; this bridge is content that inspires both engagement in the social realm and action in the realm of reality.

Luckily for social media marketers, Millennials are more willing than any other age demographic to base their actions upon content they consume in social channels.

A study conducted by Deloitte in 2015 found that 47 percent of Millennials say their shopping habits are influenced by social media, with 33 percent being influenced by social in health and wellness purchasing decisions. Survey respondents in other age demographics were only 19 percent likely to say that social media influences their buying actions.

This does not imply that Millennials are simply most willing to be passively led to action by branded social posts. Their adjusted action instead stems from content posted by their peers or trusted celebrities, such as product reviews. Social media content resonates with Millennials because it allows them to take informed action in the marketplace while still satisfying their innate craving for authenticity and social connection. These needs are no longer met by traditional corporate advertising.

Travel is also an area where Millennials find social media to be particularly actionable. A study by the Blitz Agency in Los Angeles found that 15 percent of Millennials say they use Facebook to decide where to travel, and 13 percent claim to base their travel actions on Instagram content. This ranks social media as the second strongest force driving Millennial action in the travel category, after word of mouth at 16 percent. This indicates that Millennials’ desire to feel like part of connected physical group is not purely metaphorical— they want an in-person connection.

Our very own Millennial employees here at W2O also noted that social content that features surprising facts and statistics also serves an extremely effective bridge between engagement on social media and real-world action. For example, shocking statistics that revealed a hidden truth about how destructive K- Cups are to the environment inspired one Account Associate stop using them to get her caffeine fix.

These examples demonstrate that content will spark action if it provides Millennials information about their peers’ actions or offers bold statistics. Both types of information serve as a compass, helping Millennials to guide their own actions to meet their innate desires for social belonging and authenticity.

And it makes sense that these factors would drive action. Perhaps the two halves of Millennials’ “double lives” are not as unique as previously thought. Historically, society has been most driven to action by leaders who create a sense of community and seem personally authentic. Why shouldn’t the same hold true in the social realm?

Engagement will come to those brands that make themselves relevant to their audience. But action on the part of Millennials will come to those brands that dare to cultivate online communities and strong, authentic brand voices on social media.

In a world where the internet is no longer optional, having a social media presence has become a requirement for individual users and companies alike. Technology and thorough research have given us the ability to target our content to precisely the right audience. The only remaining question is: what content should we be putting in front of these semi-captive social users to inspire engagement?

As Millennials have entered the workforce in increasing numbers, it may be possible to leverage their native knowledge of social media to create content that inspires not only a chuckle, but the virtual nod of assent that is a like, share, retweet or comment.

One factor that Millennials report as a deciding factor for engagement levels is whether the content fits into their online persona. Any online action is public, and thus reflects upon the user’s personal image. The increasingly common, carefully cultivated social media life means that for something to be worthy of sharing, it must fit into the user’s personal brand.

A recent ad for Vitamin Water featuring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul struggling through a workout was repeatedly mentioned as one that Millennials were more than happy to share, comment on or tag friends in. Lovers of the show, fans of Paul’s, or really anyone who has ever not truly been 100% enthusiastic about their time on the treadmill (aka everyone) could identify with this ad, and the 15 second bite-sized Facebook clip was perfectly share-ready.

Another ad that inspired engagement among Millennials was the 2017 Heineken ad entitled ‘Worlds Apart.’ Several pairs of strangers from opposite sides of the political aisle each build a bar together while getting to know each other, and are then shown a clip of their partner sharing their social and political opinions, taped prior to their shared experience. When given the option of leaving or talking it out over a beer, each chose to remain and engage in discussion. Regardless of where you may fall politically, this ad inspires engagement. After all, who wouldn’t want to be known for espousing a love of peace-keeping and beer?

What these two seemingly dissimilar ads have in common is the ability to incorporate peoples’ existing interests, like sharing a beer and television, and common enemies such as working out and political divisiveness, so that content is seamlessly integrated into the user’s existing online presence. While the respective products are not necessarily the immediate focus of either ad, both brands received major props for their enlightened involvement that garnered far more attention than placing the product front and center ever could.

Another facet to gaining engagement centers on which channel is utilized. Millennials overwhelmingly admit that they exhibit what are basically split personalities, not just between their social media and their life in the “real” world, but between different social media channels as well. Essentially, a person may have an Instagram personality that is slightly more wild than their semi-reserved Facebook persona, while their LinkedIn personality is so bland it can’t even sit with them.

As a result, the same content that gets unprecedented engagement on Twitter, where Millennials report feeling less inhibited in their social actions, may report next to no engagement in front of the same audience on Facebook, where family, friends and potential employers promote a greater level of self-censorship.

For this reason, content that is bolder, riskier, and potentially less PC (a risk companies should maybe not always be willing to take) may perform better on Twitter, such as Wendy’s replying with extreme sass to customer requests, while Facebook may be the place for the safer content that can be more appropriately shared.

Branding has become so entrenched in everyday life that its power cannot be overstated from a personal, professional or corporate standpoint. Everything we do online is now available for our entire network to see. While we’re all focused on our personal brands, when it comes to creating engaging social media, companies should think less about how the client can fit their corporate identity, and more about how they can be relevant to the client’s personal brand.