Category Archives: Food For Thought

Food For Thought

EXP: Bringing a Human Element to a Digital World

Written by: Chris Salicrup
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Working at a large agency with offices spanning the globe, I spend more time with voices on the phone and faceless emails than I do with the people around me. I recently had the opportunity to participate in an employee exchange program (EXP) where I was sent to work with my peers at another office location. The trip helped bridge the long distance gap and put faces to the long list of names of people I communicate with daily.

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Part of my role is to understand how morale and communication effects efficiency. The EXP is truly an innovative idea that helps solve for some of these issues as our company grows larger. The program gives our people an opportunity to network with team members in a uniquely effective way. Having the opportunity to work in another office gave me the opportunity to learn more about their group’s dynamic, which in turn helped improve the way I will communicate with them in the future. In return, the team feels like they have an ally at home base who is looking out for their interests, as well.

In my short four-day trip, I learned more about my co-workers in New York than I had after two years of working with them remotely. In addition to juicy gossip, I gained an understanding of their communication and leadership styles. Trying to learn a personality when you’ve only ever communicated by email is challenging. Without voice inflection, emails are constantly misinterpreted and unfounded animosity can flourish. Now with a face next to those names, I find myself working harder to better meet their needs. Thanks to this opportunity I have a more keen understanding of the ways that my teammates prefer to communicate. I know when it’s more beneficial to pick up the phone, and when they prefer to have a paper trail to keep up with longer discussions.

As companies continue to grow larger and spread out across the globe, more innovation around culture and morale will be crucial. With increasing difficulties in working environments, such as the open office floor plan, many companies will need to find a system to help their employees cope with their new situations. For us, the EXP is just a small step and a way to help triage more severe communication needs. In addition, we’re looking at ways to more effectively share documents across our multiple offices, and ways to reduce email by implementing chat platforms. We do all of this with the focus of always putting people first, believing that great work will follow. In order to do this, we create an environment where we encourage suggestions for improvements. Often the best solutions come from those who deal with the issues on a daily basis.

In an increasingly digital world, we have to keep an eye on the human element. For large global companies, it’s easy to turn into a machine, quell questions, and enforce redundant policies. It helps to take a step back from time to time to understand how policies affect the group as a whole, as well as how they impact each individual. Without having a face to vent those needs to, innovation is staunched and growth cannot occur. Never be afraid to answer the hard questions; the times when you can’t give a solid answer can help adjust the focus.

5 Ways Your B2B Marketing Strategy can Improve with Social Media

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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While no one can argue that social media is extremely important in any B2C strategy, when it comes to B2B marketing people aren’t always so sure. In a world where SEO and email typically reign supreme, social media can seem like an add-on or a lower priority component of the larger strategy.

Consider these statistics:

  • As of 2015, 65% of adults now use social media compared to 7% in 2005.
  • Facebook has nearly 1.4 billion users and generates 4.5 billion likes daily.
  • Twitter has over 284 million active users posting 500 million tweets per day.
  • 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising – just 10% trust brands today (Lithium).
  • 81% of consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts (Lithium).

However, social media is no longer an innovative, new way to drive awareness and sales for your brand.

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We Are Social

Essential to your organization’s survival in the competitive B2B landscape, it needs to be an integral part of any B2B marketing strategy. Social media helps B2B businesses showcase their credibility, acquire and retain customers, and build a strong reputation. “While tried-and-true B2B marketing techniques such as search engine optimization and email still bring plenty of prospects to the door, social media entices them to enter a dialogue, pick up some information of value and step into the sales funnel” (eMarketer).

Furthermore, social media can be even more impactful for a B2B company than for a B2C company. This is because B2B companies, as Convince and Convert explains, usually have “a smaller potential customer base, a higher average price point, and customer decision funnel that is more influenced by word of mouth and reputation.”

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eMarketer

Here are 5 tips for developing a social media strategy for B2B companies:

1. Understand your audience and engage with your customers on social media. Leverage social listening to understand the pain points for your customer – what are their needs and desires and how can your product/service help solve those problems? The main benefit of leveraging social media for B2B marketing is to build relationships with current and potential customers.

2. Use social media for content promotion. Share various forms of content such as videos, photos, or longer form content to showcase your products/services in a broader context and to drive the authentic voice of the brand.

3. Drive traffic to website. Ensure that your website is prominently highlighted on all of your social channels and within your posts. Utilize link tracking to see which content drives people to click through to the website.

4. Invest in social video to produce more leads. According to a report by Software Advice, “video is the most-used content type and the content that generated the most leads for surveyed B2B marketers in 2014.”

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Software Advice

5. Increase brand awareness with paid social. Allocating a percentage of the total budget to promoting social posts helps ensure that your content is visible to the right audiences. Social networks such as LinkedIn offer advanced targeting options for promoting your brand’s content, which ensures that you reach the most important and targeted audiences.

Social media is extremely valuable for top-of-funnel engagement and for generating strong leads for B2B companies. As we move into 2016, a social media component is going to be critical for every B2B marketing strategy.

Challenging Pharma and Medical Device Companies to Be Better on Social

Written by: Olga Kraineva
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Pharmaceutical and medical device companies and healthcare practitioners alike have been cautious to join social conversations due to fear of their legal and regulatory bodies and FDA regulations. Twitter, in particular, is worrisome due to the cap of 140 characters – how to disclose everything necessary for best use? Even Kim Kardashian was recently hand slapped for not fully disclosing both the positive and negative side effects of a morning sickness pill on Instagram.

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An easy place to start for many companies was live-tweeting around events, such as healthcare conferences, and simply echoing their press release information. As a heavy media-oriented, news-like channel, Twitter worked well for this, as that info is already approved by legal and regulatory. It also worked well when joining in on the social conversations that occurred at different conferences, simply by adding on the official conference hashtag at the end of their tweet.

However, just this summer, a group of scientists and HCPs have joined together to form the #MICEProject (Measuring the Influencer of Commercial Entities) in the Twitter backchannels of medical conferences. Their argument is while there are certain precautions taken at live conferences to separate third party entities (pharma and medical device companies) and “learners” (healthcare providers, other attendees) so that a learner, if they so desire, would never have to expose themselves to a third party. Currently, these restrictions do not exist on Twitter. Using PageRank, the study analyzed the influence of HCPs and third party entities at 13 different medical conferences from 2011-2013, suggesting that medical device and pharma companies exert around the same amount of influence as healthcare providers within the social space, something that is protected against happening at live conferences.

Their bottom line is that pharma and medical device companies should stop spreading biased information and instead focus on evidence-based medical knowledge – or curb their use of medical hashtag use overall. While it’s quite provocative to have full restrictions on companies’ hashtag use at medical conferences, the larger issue this brings up is using social strategically and not posting for the sake of posting.

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As part of the #MICEProject, Pharma Marketing News created an initial survey on third party medical conference hashtag use.

As an overall struggle many companies face, pharma and medical device companies need to move past one-way communication streams and sending information that is likened to an ad and instead engage in social conversations that add to the dialogue. Using event hashtags can be a great springboard to reach your target audiences, but make it conversations that matter to them – not just what is safe and approved by your L&R. At the present moment, as seen with the #MICEProject, we’re in a place of not applying best practices and angering our audiences – quite the opposite of the intended result.

Beacons in Retail: Will Eddystone be a Game Changer?

Written by: Eric Fransen
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In July, Google announced their answer to Apple’s iBeacons — Eddystone. It is an open source beacon that is not only accessible by both Android and iOS platforms, but can also operate without the need for an app by the sending of a URL. This kind of flexibility could open up a world of possibilities for interested retailers. Here are just a few ideas:

Real-Time Inventory
Departments, aisles, and product sections feature beacons that help users locate the product they’re looking for and alert them if it is in stock. If it is out of stock, users could be pushed to complete a transaction through the mobile app or e-commerce site to order for home delivery. App users could instantly connect to an expert through chat or messaging to ask product questions or get help with an order.

Real-Time Content Delivery
Product sections feature beacons that trigger access to exclusive product reviews, content from content creators, and lifehacks featuring the products. For example, a shopper in the Home and Bath section of a store may receive a video of interior design inspirations with complementary products that are curated by a popular YouTuber, or featured Pinterest boards from a Pinfluencer.

Real-Time Social Reviews and Tips
Shoppers can leave reviews, tips, and complementary product suggestions through an app experience that are tied to physical locations in stores. For example, a shopper may have had a better experience with a particular brand of cleaning materials — they could leave that preference in the form of a social sticky note for the next shopper to discover.

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Humanizing and Amplifying Your Brand Voice Through Employee Advocacy

Written by: Jake Schneider
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One of this year’s breakout films is Ex Machina. At its core, the sci-fi thriller is the story of an inventor’s quest to create an authentic, seamless human experience and connection through something that isn’t human at all: an android.

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We have never had more global avenues to connect and be connected to than we do today, and we do it seamlessly and authentically through these platforms of personal expression as if it were second nature. For consumers, digital authenticity is an expectation; for brands, however, it remains a goal that only gently grazes the surface.

For a brand to reach a truly authentic and emotional connection with their customers, and become a part of their lives, they have to do something in this day and age that is very foreign. In order to humanize a brand, they must give a piece of themselves over to their humans, their employees.

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External employee advocacy and internal employee engagement are not mutually exclusive of each other and have become popular topics for our clients for great reasons. In today’s highly connected world, employees provide knowledge and expertise – as well as authentic relationships – in their social ecosystems, providing value to both their network as a trusted expert as well as a valuable ambassador for their employer.

What are some of these benefits? It really comes down to the goals of the brand and what problem they are trying to solve internally and externally.

External: Reach & Trust

For brands, trust in a recommendation from an employee has never been higher or more credible. In fact, in a recent study, consumers named “a person like yourself” 62% more likely to trust, “a regular employee” 52% more likely to trust, and “a technical expert” more likely to trust 66% compared to a “CEO” or brand at 43%.  It is easy to see why. Word of mouth, even in digital form, is still the most powerful form of marketing. We still crave human interaction and connection; it’s only how we interact and connect that has evolved.

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According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers still trust recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Additionally, consumers are still 71% more likely to purchase based on a referral from a connection and 78% of salespeople using a social selling strategy outperform their peers.

Despite those statistics, less than two-thirds have any sort of strategy for sales and marketing teams and even less have a structure that empowers employees to share.

The reason? Fear on both sides.

Control of identity, message, narrative, and brand protection has been a traditional part of brand marketing, but the more restrictions and controls brands feel they have over their message the more they feel they are mitigating risk but also depreciating authenticity and approachability. Enabling employees to share and join in brand efforts means opening brands up to some risk it also means opening  up to massive scale, impact, and authenticity.

An employee assumes a great amount of risk, as well. The greatest risk is their job, and therefore financial wellbeing. Employees fear sharing, or don’t feel empowered to share, for fear they might position the wrong information or fired for sharing their personal interests, views, and activities while identifying as an employee of their company.

As early as 2008, brands were asking employees to not post to LinkedIn (the world’s largest business network), Facebook, or Twitter. As early as 2011, we were still trying to convince brands to build Facebook pages because of the fear of negative comments. As early as last week, I had a conversation with a major brand requesting that employees not identify themselves as employees for fear that their personal actions might reflect poorly on the brand.

From a brand perspective, social collaboration is the idea that everything I do remains private with the exception of what I choose to share, so that the message is controlled. From a human perspective, everything I do, I share, with the exception of what I want to keep private.

Brands benefit by breaking down this disconnect and empowering their employees.

Brands that empower their employees can see a considerable shift in organic reach on Facebook. One of the greatest complaints over the past year is the massive drop-off in organic reach for Facebook Pages where it is generally 0-5%. Person-to-person sharing is much greater. When working in parallel with paid campaigns, the brand can weave a great creative story with human content, increasing the impact of the campaigns.

For Retailers – especially big box retailers. Employee advocacy can allow you to position regionalized content, making your brand feel more local. Because employees often identify as a target demographic with the brand they work for, an employee program allows you to impact more accurately and efficiently, as the employees’ connections within their network are of the same demographic.

For Tech Brands – recruitment and the cost of recruiting are always constant. More and more companies are giving new hire bonuses as an incentive, which is a great first step but few go beyond that incentive. Employees are the best extension of your brand culture, and the theory is top talent knows top talent. Incorporating recruiting into your marketing and enabling your employees to play an active role helps reduce time and costs in finding the right people for open positions.

Internally: Purpose & Loyalty 7.14.15E

Engaged employees are brilliant ambassadors for brands, because while they are beacons externally they are also improving the foundational culture internally.

Even more brilliant is that while employee engagement seems a no-brainer, less than 30% of employees say they are engaged in their workplaces, according to Gallup. The least engaged demographic: millennials. It is easy to see why when you consider the traditional philosophy of corporate sharing (everything is private, except what I allow to be open) vs. the personal view of sharing (everything I share is open, except what I wish to remain private).   Millennial engagement internally and externally with their network is a plus.

Employee advocacy programs add a feeling of purpose and deeper involvement outside of the day-to-day mandatory productivity that employees execute. That small participation involves and empowers employees and, more importantly, it engages them.

Engaged employees can impact all areas of the balance sheet. Statistics show that there was 2.5x more revenue for companies with engaged employees than competitors with low engagement levels.

From a corporate expense number, $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover, yet we’ve seen that highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the company they work for than their counterparts, reducing the cost of onboarding and ramp-up, as well as breaks in culture.

These are just a few reasons why to consider an employee advocacy program.

Employee advocacy programs are becoming more and more important for our clients and for the industry, in general. It is important to understand that this is not something that you just decide to do. The formation of a plan to humanize a brand through the empowered voice of its employees isn’t turnkey. Authenticity never is.

In my next post I will walk you through things to think about when considering enabling and engaging employees as advocates.

Jake Schneider is the Director of Digital Strategy for The Marketing Arm, overseeing both digital and social strategy and in particular leading TMA’s Employee Advocacy practice. You can find him on Twitter @jakeschneider.

A New Era of Binge-Watching

Written by: Olga Kraineva
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The act of binging is nothing new. TV marathons have been around for ages, but thanks to Netflix and Hulu at our fingertips we’re now indulging in entire seasons to the point of potential overconsumption.

Walt Disney Pictures / Via newyorkz.tumblr.com

Some media outlets are beginning to expose an emerging entertainment trend suggesting consumers are exhausted by the ability to binge-watch and would prefer to wait to see what happens next. They allude to the dawn of a new era, or perhaps a reversion to a past time when TV watching was an event people looked forward to: “the age of anticipation.” This is especially apparent for dramas with a lot of cliffhangers.

What consumers miss with binge-watching is a feeling of community, of water cooler moments where people can dissect what just happened and speculate together. Consumers are also unable to think about TV show storylines in an in-depth manner when they’re speeding through them. With the freedom to watch on your time at your pace comes a loss of togetherness. Some research even indicates that binge-watching can cause feelings of depression and loneliness.

While this may be a side effect, it cannot be denied that binging is addictive and has proliferated the market, especially among technology natives like millennials and Gen Zers. What’s interesting to note is consumers are using their ability to binge as a way to discover new shows and not merely catch up on their favorites. When you hear that a show is good from multiple sources, you’re intrigued to watch for yourself.

Networks and MSO’s are taking notes. Turner is working with Comcast to make all 15 of their original programs available via on demand. Steve Meyer, vice president of video strategy and analysis at Comcast Cable, said, “The numbers suggest that people are discovering programs several weeks after they first hit linear television but want to be able to start them from the first episode.”

In October 2014, PBS digitally released the entire “The Roosevelts” series and found “most viewers used the digital availability to play catch-up with the series and then joined the linear broadcast to be part of a broader community of fans.”

Lifetime recently released the first four episodes of their newest drama, “UnReal,” to stream on demand or to download for free on iTunes directly after the premiere. Meaning, fans of the first episode were able to binge-watch the next three episodes immediately. The network gambled on potentially lower numbers for episodes 2-4 in return for word-of-mouth and hopes to turn more viewers on to the show. And, it paid off. Episodes 5 and 6 had the greatest conversations since the premiere. While some viewers were upset they had to wait three weeks until episode 5, this allowed word about the series to spread and the show to gain momentum halfway through the season.

The bottom line: the growing desire to get back to the age of anticipation means binge-watching – while still relevant – is shifting in consumers’ end goal. Binge-watching is helping people discover more quality content. It’s the networks’ decision whether they want to choose digital and linear broadcast in parallel and potentially compromise live views.

Connected Health

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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If you had the opportunity to attend any of the recent major conferences, such as CES, Social Media Week, or SXSW, chances are you attended a session (or five) related to health. Health tracking devices, such as wearables, and technology are coming together to create a connected health phenomenon that is completely changing the way patients monitor their health and receive care.

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The Aging Population

One stat that keeps popping up at conferences and in articles: By 2050, seniors over 60 years of age will outnumber children below the age of 15 for the first time.

With the rise of the aging population, there is a growing need for personalized healthcare and the ability to both connect elderly patients with their doctors and share this information with their loved ones. CarePredict, for example, is a company that offers a wearable device and health monitoring tool for the elderly. It tracks a person’s sleep, movement, and location, and can send this information back to their family.

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Types of Connected Health Users

IBM explains how today’s health devices are most commonly categorized into two groups: the health-conscious and fitness-focused (the “Motivated Healthy”), and the chronically or terminally ill who require regular monitoring (the “Chronically Monitored”). However, in between these two groups lies another much larger group: the “Information Seekers.” This segment is “seeking some measure of control over a potentially serious health risk or a condition that is difficult to manage. They represent a willing – but currently underserved – market for health device makers.”

There is a huge opportunity to focus in on the largest population of people in the United States within the connected health sphere. These people like to take elements of their health into their own hands and leverage health tracking devices to help adopt healthy behaviors and avoid serious health risks and conditions.

What does this mean for brands/marketers?

  1. Aim to deliver full solutions to patient needs associated with a condition. The “Information Seekers” group is the profitable part of the market many are trying to target with their connected health solutions.
  2. Don’t forget about the “Chronically Monitored” segment of patients. With the rise of chronic medical conditions, there is a growing need for connected health solutions for people with chronic conditions who require constant drug therapy and monitoring.
  3. Understand where consumer behavior and technology meet in order to create valuable solutions for consumers. The best-connected health solutions are created in response to specific problems with the overall patient experience. The solution should be rooted in insights and tackle optimizing patient experiences and meeting their needs.
  4. Adapt and optimize offerings based on performance. Feedback loops are an essential part of connected health, so there need to be opportunities to adapt and change as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
  5. Ensure that the connected health solution provides value and measurable impact. Now that there is a wealth of data surrounding patients’ health, there is an opportunity to leverage that data to create programs that provide value for patients. This data can help us understand where patients are in their health journey in order to create relevant and contextual experiences as a preventative measure or post-diagnosis.

Nielsen’s Consumer 360: 3 Quotes and What They Mean for Today’s Marketers

Written by: Clare Dussman
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If there was an overall theme to all of my learnings at Consumer 360, it was digital maturity. It’s no longer about your next pilot or stats to prove the validity of the space; it’s about being smart and digitally savvy across all of your business units. If not, you may be vulnerable to someone who is.

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“Data is the new oil.” – Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba

Although not a new phrase, it’s worth taking note that one of the most powerful men in the Chinese technology world is openly stating that data will join the ranks as one of the most prominent trade goods. As a commodity, data needs to be judged for more than just its size, but also for quality and scarcity, whether that means the immensity of data in developed markets or the scarcity of data in developing economies.

“Leaders are all about purpose, never about me.” – Retired General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State

This quote is powerful, especially as you think of how companies lead. As consumers expect more and more corporate transparency, companies without a clear purpose will struggle to become passion brands. Some companies already do a great job of conveying their purpose, like Ritz Carlton’s “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Or maybe like Google you require a Ten Commandments-esque format that includes Google’s well-known phrase “You can make money without doing evil,” and company rally calls like “Great just isn’t good enough.” Powell claimed when a group is lead by a purpose and not by a single charismatic leader, everyone is empowered to make decisions and drive success.

“Millennials don’t need to feel the fruit.” – Conference Attendee

As we discussed the tension between mobile commerce and brick and mortar, we agreed that the differences in shopping behavior between the generations raised with digital and the generations raised without digital require a revision of conventional shopping experiences. Especially as we looked at rapid changes in grocery, we acknowledged that quick delivery and low tolerance for waiting has driven many millennials to digital alternatives of the grocery experience.

From Screen to Screen: Redefining Celebrity

Written by: Jordan Lee
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On an average day, there are roughly four billion YouTube video views. Additionally, YouTube is a social platform of choice for teens, with an 82 percent usage rate in the 14-17 age bracket. With this consumption, there are new stars rising.

YouTube stars have really taken off over the past few years, amassing millions of devout subscribers. Young people line up and wait for hours at conferences to meet their favorite YouTube stars. A plethora of management agencies that specialize in YouTube influencers are creating celebrity on their own terms with book deals, TV appearances, and more.

The newest development in this evolution is Grace Helbig and her new show on the E! Network. We’ve seen YouTube superstars appear on shows before, but this is the first time one has had their own namesake for a show. Just two episodes into watching and my husband walked in asking if I was watching YouTube videos on our Apple TV. I essentially was.

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Image via eoline.com

While these stars are exploring new formats, don’t expect them to change their voice. In an interview with USA Today Helbig explains how she is going to keep with the format of her web videos and wants everything to be transparent in the hopes that her young audience will follow her to TV.

Anyone with prior experience partnering and/or working with social influencers won’t find this transparency and dedication to voice to be a surprise. Their voice got them where they are, and fans expect consistency. Many of them are leading successful careers on their primary platform and those who wish to partner with social influencers and YouTube superstars should be prepared to let them take the reigns and share their expertise.

It’s important to consider what this means for television. Cable is already in a shaky place because of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. While the rise of online videos could be a threat, traditional channels have the opportunity to leverage them in a meaningful way in order to survive. E! has definitely taken a huge risk and everyone will be watching to see if it succeeds. The entertainment industry will need to rethink what celebrity partnerships look like, because these social influencers are steadily becoming the new personality powerhouses. Authenticity and transparency will become a mainstay as this shift happens.

10 Key Takeaways from F8 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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I attended the F8 Facebook Developer Conference 2015 last month, and below is a recap of the 10 key takeaways from the annual developer conference that outline the current and future state of plans of one of the world’s largest tech companies.

F8 2015 Top 10

Current State

The primary theme was that Facebook is a “people first” company. Facebook is now positioning its core offerings as a family of applications that are designed to align with how people are naturally using technology to engage and share.

F8 2015 Current State

It was quickly noticeable that each platform now plays a very specific role in the Facebook ecosystem. WhatsApp will continue to be a modest messaging platform, while Instagram will maintain a focus on simplicity and creative expression. Facebook Messenger is quickly being positioned as the primary mechanism for one-on-one communication, and direct connection to businesses and groups continues to be of great importance for 700 million people who want to collaborate around specific topics.

Meanwhile, the core Facebook experience is focused on further extending its video capabilities while setting the foundation for their future — to support more deeply immersive forms of content, such as virtual reality.

Enhanced Messaging

One of the larger announcements from the conference was the expansion of Messenger as a third-party development platform. This is an important move for Facebook, especially since WhatsApp confirmed during the conference that they will not be providing API’s anytime soon on their product road map.

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Third parties can now reach and engage over 600 million active users. With the Messenger Platform it is possible to drive discovery, engagement, and attribution through images, videos, GIFs, and sound clips.

Applications can either be stand-alone apps designed to enhance conversations, or it is possible for a brand application to create a workflow to share content through messenger and deep link into the messenger optimized experience in their native application.

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Facebook also announced the beta launch of businesses on Messenger, which is how Facebook envisions brands and consumers engaging directly through enhanced customer service. They hope that this will add value to the consumer through templates that can showcase product details and enhanced order details.

Embedded Video

Facebook users are viewing over 3 billion videos per day, and Facebook took another step toward challenging Google-owned YouTube for market share by launching a new embedded video capability.

The new feature supports view-count synchronization, full-bleed video, and includes social actions in video such as “like” and “share.” Also important to note is that the desktop version is Flash-based and mobile is HTML5.

F8 2015 Embedded Video

In recent Facebook briefings there have been discussions about Q3 introducing sequential storytelling into the fold. This is one area where the current embedded video option is lacking compared to YouTube. YouTube currently has the ability to create annotations, and now has “cards” to create connections between assets.

Importance of Advocacy

With all of the talk about Facebook and their other brands’ lack of organic reach, it was confirmed that for users, the News Feed is still what determines the content that is served. This confirmed that peer-to-peer sharing remains the most viable option for content-centric brands.

Another central theme was tied to the sharing of content and, with that, the importance of creating relevant and engaging content that inspires consumers to share. It is also important to create content that is tailored for the specific audience and to utilize the ideal application from the Facebook family delivery and discovery.

F8 2015 Importance of Advocacy

While most social brand personification strategies have taken a back seat now on Facebook’s primary platform due to the shift toward reach and frequency, leveraging consumer and employee advocates — as well as groups — are still viable means to distribute a message outside of paid advertising.

State of Plug-Ins

Social plug-ins have been a staple of the Facebook ecosystem for years. The Facebook social plug-ins team outlined their intentions to redefine the experience of many of the standard plug-ins in order to create a richer mobile experience.

The first step will be to relaunch Facebook moderation tools to allow greater flexibility and an optimized experience for moderation that includes bulk actions and custom lists — and is being rewritten from scratch.

F8 2015 State of Plug Ins

The team also outlined they are testing a new form of comment mirroring that aggregates comments from external news articles to the Facebook page, and vice versa. This is a significant point to consider, as this will align different audiences and shift the potential engagement that happens on-page.

Instagram

The Instagram team reiterated their focus on being community-first, and maintained that simplicity matters above all else when it comes to their product roadmap and the overall experience of the application.

The team confirmed that the Instagram News feed is 100 percent deterministic, meaning that the content posted from your followers will appear in your feed. Based on this feedback, the idea of potentially adding features such as a “regram” button is not currently part of the plan, as the goal is to keep the experience as uncomplicated as possible.

F8 2015 Instagram

They reiterated that Instagram is not a distribution platform for brands. “Likes,” “follows,” and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of “regram” functionality. For brands, the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors, and create a relationship with passionate fans that showcases their view of the brand as the core asset in order to fuel your branded experiences.

Omnichannel

In recent years, Facebook has increased their focus on shopper and direct response capabilities. They stated that they view omnichannel as the future of commerce, and that they are positioning their cross-channel approach as the ideal for brands.

Facebook highlighted the size of their network, the persistence of logged-in identity, and their cross-platform approach as to why they should be considered as a holistic omnichannel offering.

F8 2015 Omnichannel

A key point of discussion was tied to cross-screen attribution without proxies. With their SDK and conversion pixel, they stated that they have the ability to capture accurate measurement tied to their real users.

Future State

The most intriguing aspect of F8 was the insight into the future of Facebook strategy as outlined by Mike Schroepfer, CTO, Facebook. In his keynote speech, he discussed the three core areas of focus for the near future: Planetary connectivity, natural interfaces, and immersive experiences.

F8 2015 Future State

In the near future, services that scale and planetary connectivity are key areas of focus for Facebook. One of the key initiatives is tied to the Aquila, their unmanned solar drone. The drone is designed to stay aloft for three months at a time, in order to deliver connectivity for remote regions.

Information overload was also an area of discussion for the future of Facebook. The goal is to build contextual systems that deal with information overload. One approach is the use of artificial intelligence built around the concept of convolutional neural nets that essentially create deeper associations between content elements at a faster rate than a simple algorithm.

The last of the three core pillars of the future state of Facebook is tied to the importance of creating and enabling the consumption of immersive content such as virtual reality. One of the crucial direct points was the fact that 3D spherical videos will be supported in the Facebook News Feed. This is setting up for the immersive virtual reality experiences that are to come.

Parse + IOT

Facebook’s Parse was also a primary area of focus. Facebook acquired Parse in 2013. Since then, they have been working to leverage the platform as a service that offers to provide additional rapid development services to mobile app developers, such as user management, push notifications, and analytics at scale.

F8 2015 Parse + IOT

Now with over 400,000 apps built on Parse, the Facebook team is extending Parse to connect Internet of Things experiences. Facebook wants to make it easier for developers to leverage data from connected devices into their applications.

Many other tech heavyweights are investing in IOT data solutions. Apple, Google, and recently IBM have all been vying to unlock the key to leveraging IOT data.

Facebook’s approach is to connect devices and software that share common elements in order to increase the probability of systems working together. This could then lead to Facebook becoming the data aggregator between devices, software, and data used to create unique experiences across devices.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality played a key role throughout F8 2015. Facebook referenced virtual reality as the next evolution of content experiences.

They showcased different applications from their teleportation stations that showcased what was happening in Menlo Park, as well as their more immersive Crescent Bay demos that showed off the full capability of the Oculus Rift.

F8 2015 Virtual Reality

Facebook also spent a portion of their presentation simply showcasing the physiology associated with virtual reality, and why the timing is now right for progression in the field: The cost of technology to create affordable consumer products is feasible, the experience is compelling, and there is broad industry participation as well as a long-term commitment to advancing the technology.

Facebook did a great job of balancing the short term vs. the future state, while ensuring that they are bringing their developer partners along the way. By shifting toward the family of apps strategy — as well as building toward connected devices and immersive experiences — Facebook is in a position to remain relevant well beyond whatever happens with the core Facebook platform.

 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360 and check out this post on iMedia Connection.