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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.

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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

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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)

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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.

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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. 

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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)

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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)

 

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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

 

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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.

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